Lot 182
  • 182

Robert Longo

450,000 - 650,000 GBP
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  • Robert Longo
  • Untitled (Tiger Head, No. 8)
  • signed and dated 2012
  • charcoal on paper
  • image: 233.7 by 177.8cm.; 92 by 70in.
  • framed: 236.5 by 180.7cm.; 93 1/8 by 71 1/8 in.


Metro Pictures, New York
Acquired from the above by the present owner in 2012


Colour: The colours in the catalogue illustration are fairly accurate, although the overall tonality is slightly warmer in the original. Condition: This work is in very good condition. Visible only upon very close inspection, the lower right corner of the frame is slightly loose.
"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

As a child in the late 1950s and 1960s, Robert Longo was fascinated by magazines such as Time, Life and Newsweek which would later influence his choice of black and white as the main pictorial style for his drawings. Images on the front covers of these publications - glamorous shots of Marylin Monroe or a smiling politician - were always in colour, whilst pictures of war, poverty, natural disasters or nuclear tests were black and white. This would lead Longo to associate black and white with the truth, and would later inform his entire narrative oeuvre. Although a trained sculptor, Longo quickly favoured the intimate medium that is drawing and elevated it to an epic scale. His drawings are always based on photographs, whether these are pictures he shoots himself - such as the source images for his crucially important Men in the Cities series (1979-1983), for which he threw objects at his models in order to capture movements akin to those of a person being shot in the back - or images found in the media. He then sketches his subjects on large sheets of paper mounted to aluminium with charcoal powder and sticks, before carefully chiseling out highlights with an eraser. The resulting photo-realistic works of extraordinary draughstmanship have an almost sculptural quality, with their subjects appearing to be carved out of a deep velvety darkness through the artist’s mastery of chiaroscuro. Dominating the picture plane, the monumental tiger’s head in the present work dwarfs the viewer with its majestic stillness. Holding our gaze, the regal creature’s intense stare seems to cancel out any outside noise and makes time stand still. Part of Longo’s Mysteries series, which began in 2009, Untitled (Tiger Head) is a seminal example of the artist’s sublime, all-American, brutally masculine charcoal drawings. Populated with images that are triumphant yet prophetically sinister, Longo’s universe fascinates and intimidates. Many of his chosen subjects - waves about to break, atomic mushroom clouds rising towards the heavens, flags waving in the wind, yuppies caught in mid-fall, sharks going in for the kill or black and white reproductions of Abstract Expressionist masterpieces by Rothko or de Kooning - were coined “frozen moments” by the artist and “moments of climax” by postmodernist critic Hal Foster, but are also equally importantly, universal signifiers of virility and power “that mark the boiling point of the U.S. cultural imperium”. (Walter Robinson, “Robert Longo”, Man of the World, November 2012, n.p.) Any peak, or climactic point, implies an inevitable downfall. At once powerful and endangered, the tiger perfectly exemplifies the artist’s concern with Man-made natural disasters, the consequence of our patriarchal imperialism and interference with Nature.