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Details & Cataloguing

Contemporary Art Day Auction

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Albert Oehlen
B. 1954
UNTITLED
signed and dated 89
acrylic, ink, resin and colour drypoint on paper laid down on canvas
200 by 125.5 cm. 78 3/4 by 49 3/8 in.
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Provenance

Galerie Bleich-Rossi, Graz
Acquired from the above by the present owner in 1989

Exhibited

Graz, Galerie Bleich-Rossi, Albert Oehlen, April - May 1989
Prague, Galerie Hlavního Mesta, Nikdo nepomuze nikomu - Das Gute muss gut sein. Kippenberger/Krebber/Oehlen/Schlick, October - November 1992, p. 18, illustrated in colour

Catalogue Note

Presenting a roaring stag dressed formally in a shirt and suit, Untitled depicts one of the key subjects of Albert Oehlen’s artistic output from the 1980s. Often referred to as a self-portrait, the present work relates to Oehlen the group surrounding him including Martin Kippenberger and Werner Büttner, who were rebelling against the establishment during the 1980s. But instead of wearing torn jeans and scruffy beards, they deliberately dressed in well-tailored suits with ties. Thus, the present work’s motif has often been related to the idea of the rebellious and frenetic artist who is nonetheless tied to the existing bourgeois system of pre-conceived norms and rules.

Oehlen’s oeuvre is suffused with the idea and research into the history of painting. Constantly reinventing his artistic approach and experimenting with different techniques, the German artist has redefined the traditional parameters of a medium that has long been declared obsolete. In the present work, Oehlen offers a commentary on painting and the history of Modern and Expressionist art via its subject matter. The screaming stag is in itself quintessentially expressive and reminiscent of Edvard Munch’s The Scream or Francis Bacon’s tortured figures trapped in cages and boxed. Similar to Oehlen’s precursors, the stag is confined to a corset of conventions, an impression that is further accentuated by the work’s imposing scale.

Emphasising the importance of the present work, a painting from the same series as Untitled served as part of Oehlen’s celebrated staging of Richard Wagner’s opera Tannhäuser in Bremen in 1987. Tannhäuser, who encounters love in the realm of Venusberg perceives himself as an outsider in conflict with societal conventions that negate any form of lust, sensuality, and sexuality. Similarly, the stag in Oehlen’s painting stands as the naturalistic and irrational counterpart to the human, cast in a suit to follow the guidelines that society has imposed upon him. Echoing these feelings of constriction, in Untitled the animal is transformed into a large composite being torn by the limitations of society and screaming to be freed from the chains of external restrictions.

Contemporary Art Day Auction

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London