Lot 117
  • 117

Rosemarie Trockel

150,000 - 200,000 GBP
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  • Rosemarie Trockel
  • Ohne Titel
  • signed with the artist’s initials and dated 87 on the reverse
  • knitted wool on canvas
  • 151.1 by 90.2 cm. 59 1/2 by 35 1/2 in.


Barbara Gladstone Gallery, New York
Acquired from the above by the present owner


Houston, Sarah Campbell Blaffer Gallery; Calgary, Illingworth Kerr Gallery; Lincoln, Sheldon Memorial Art Gallery; Los Angeles, UCLA at the Armand Hammer Museum of Art and Cultural Center; Sacramento, Crocker Art Museum; Madison, Madison Art Center; Coral Gables, The Lowe Art Museum; Minneapolis, Fredrick R. Weisman Museum, Critiques of Pure Abstraction, January 1995 - June 1997, p. 63, illustrated in colour


Exh. Cat., Cologne, Gesellschaft für Moderne Kunst am Museum Ludwig, Rosemarie Trockel: Post-Menopause, 2006, p.161, no. RT1474, illustrated


Colour: The colours in the catalogue illustration are fairly accurate although deeper and more vibrant in the original. Condition: This work is in very good condition. Visible only upon extremely close inspection are a few unobtrusive pulled threads in isolated places, which is in keeping with the artist's choice of medium.
"In response to your inquiry, we are pleased to provide you with a general report of the condition of the property described above. Since we are not professional conservators or restorers, we urge you to consult with a restorer or conservator of your choice who will be better able to provide a detailed, professional report. Prospective buyers should inspect each lot to satisfy themselves as to condition and must understand that any statement made by Sotheby's is merely a subjective, qualified opinion. Prospective buyers should also refer to any Important Notices regarding this sale, which are printed in the Sale Catalogue.

Catalogue Note

The Germany of the early 1980s did not provide fertile ground for a woman who had decided to become an artist. The artists who served as the cornerstones of the creative community, many of whom, including Georg Baselitz and Anselm Kiefer, remain aggressively masculine in their output, buttressed the lingering image of the creative as a tortured male soul. Rosemarie Trockel’s wool pictures, of which Ohne Titel is a superb and remarkably early example, provide an equally aggressive repudiation of this status quo. As Trockel herself explained, her medium constitutes a series of “signifiers of femininity, culturally inferior materials and skills”, however, the works themselves do much to undermine this outdated assumption of virtuous domesticity, not least because, rather than being hand-woven, the works are fabricated by a machine (Rosemarie Trockel cited in: Exh. Cat., Kunsthaus Bregenz, Rosemarie Trockel, p. 172).

The connotations of this decision are manifold. It subverts the craft of the great German painters while simultaneously invoking the industrial manufacturing processes of the American Minimalists, such as Carl Andre and Donald Judd. The parallels between her work and theirs are striking, and yet do we consider the heroic masculine brutalism of the Minimalists in the same way that we do Trockel’s knitted pictures? We probably should. Both Judd and Trockel were thrust into an artistic milieu dominated by a narrative of the artist-celebrity-genius; in America this meant Jackson Pollock and Mark Rothko, in Germany, Baselitz, Sigmar Polke and Gerhard Richter. In response, both Judd and Trockel conceived of a form of art that demanded an entirely different value metric to the work of their elders. Industrial precision subverts individual genius, the line between artwork and object is blurred, and meaning is no longer intrinsic but rather emerges from the work’s dialogue with the viewer.

Indeed, Ohne Titel is ostensibly a utilitarian object, pedestalised and placed on a wall. Its dimensions approximate the size of a piece of fabric bought from a wholesaler, and its pattern is reminiscent of one used for clothing. Indeed, it is a fairly masculine pattern. The colour sequence is aggressive, with jet black and iron-grey diamonds marching uniformly along a blood red field. However, there is no utility to be derived here. Knitted objects are begun with the final entity in mind – you cannot buy a panel of wool and make a jumper – and even if you could, the object has been framed and mounted. Any signifiers of domesticity have been removed – the panel is an object without function.

As Silvia Eiblmayr explains, Trockel executed these works “in order, on the one hand, to undermine the gesture of genius in painting and, on the other, to subvert the complex of production of body images and logo identities by the fashion industry” (Silvia Eiblmayr cited in: Exh. Cat., Cologne, Museum Ludwig, Rosemarie Trockel: Post-Menopause, 2005, p.16). Deeply elegant in its aesthetic and rigorous in its conceptual basis, Ohne Titel stands as a testament to the immense power of Rosemarie Trockel pioneering opus. It is a strident cry against the misogyny of the artistic establishment, and the emergence of a new generation of artists grounded in concept rather than prescribed individual genius.