Lot 3
  • 3

Isa Genzken

150,000 - 200,000 GBP
bidding is closed


  • Isa Genzken
  • Doppelraum
  • concrete and steel
  • 261.5 by 83 by 47cm.; 103 by 32 5/8 by 18 1/2 in.
  • Executed in 1990.


Galleria Mario Pieroni, Rome

Acquired from the above by the present owner in the 1990s


Chicago, The Renaissance Society Gallery; Frankfurt, Portikus; Brussels, Palais des Beaux-Arts; and Munich, Städtische Galerie im Lenbachhaus, Isa Genzken, Everybody Needs at Least One Window, 1992-93, n.p., illustrated (installation view); and p. 102, no. 150, illustrated 

Catalogue Note

“Fragility can be a very beautiful thing, more beautiful than something that is obviously made to last forever.”

Isa Genzken quoted in: Michael Krajewski in conversation with Isa Genzken, Parkett 69, 2003, p. 96.

Consisting of a sequentially poured slab of concrete elevated to eye level on a stainless steel pedestal, Doppelraum is a momentous embodiment of the poignant and profoundly humanistic aesthetic and philosophical contrasts at the heart of Isa Genzken's work.

One of the finest examples in the celebrated series of concrete sculptures executed in the second half of the 1980s, the present work featured in the landmark mid-career retrospective, Everybody Needs At Least One Window (Jeder braucht mindestens ein Fenster), that was first received with unprecedented critical and public acclaim at the Renaissance Society, Chicago, in 1992 and subsequently travelled to Brussels, Munich, and Frankfurt. Signalling a radical departure from the Minimalist-inspired techno-scientific rationality characteristic of the earlier Ellipsoids and Hyperboloids (computer-designed wooden elongated sculptures traditionally placed on the floor) the concrete works mark the apogee of Genzken's signature visual vocabulary, a lyrical ode to the transient yet compelling manifestation of beauty in the ruinous and tragically flawed historical trajectory of the Twentieth Century.

Alluding, at once, to the facades of exposed concrete buildings – the dominant stylistic trait in the architectural fabric of postwar Europe – and the fissured and derelict state of the Berlin Wall, whose remains had, by 1990, rapidly been removed, sold off, or even further fragmented, Doppelraum brings to mind the Neo-Classical romance of ruins: yawning structures pointing to a bygone splendour that has surrendered to the wrecks of time and nature. Far from a nostalgic elegy to antiquity however, in Genzken's work the ruins stand, as noted by Dieter Schwarz, for “abandoned positions of modernity”, that prompt not only flashes of passive and raptured contemplation, but collective gestures of remembrance (Dieter Schwarz quoted in: Alex Farquharson, Diedrich Diederichsen, and Sabine Breitwieser, Isa Genzken, New York 2006, p. 54). Indeed, when arranged in a single room, these works conjure up newsreel images of the devastation of Berlin, Cologne, and Hamburg wrought by aerial bombings during World War II, as well as the ubiquitous prefabricated slab structures that, from the 1960s onwards, were to become the prevailing urban sight throughout the German Democratic Republic.

Oscillating between construction and destruction, new beginnings and imminent decline, with its labyrinthine interior niches and crevices partially lit from above, Doppelraum compellingly rehearses the duality of beauty and decay underlying Genzken's artistic production. Subtly nuanced grey gradations – dove, ash, lead, pewter – streaked with wooden grooves, speckled with patchy sediment and indented with air pockets, exploit the unevenness and naturalness of concrete.

Neither nostalgic nor utopian, and poignantly suspended between sheer bleakness and melancholia, the present work is an unmistakable testament to the inherent beauty and utmost complexity of Genzken's oeuvre.