Lot 59
  • 59

Günther Förg

200,000 - 300,000 GBP
356,750 GBP
bidding is closed


  • Günther Förg
  • Untitled
  • signed, dated 87 and inscribed hellgrün grün on the reverse of each panel
  • acrylic on lead on wood, in 2 parts


Galerie Max Hetzler, Cologne

Private Collection, Germany

Acquired from the above by the present owner


London, Thomas Dane Gallery, Günther Förg: Paintings on Lead, November 2006 - January 2007, p. 17, no. 5, illustrated in colour 


Exh. Cat., Berlin, Galerie Max Hetzler, Günther Förg: Bilder / Paintings 1973-1990, February - March 2004, p. 47, illustrated in colour

Catalogue Note

Günther Förg’s Untitled belongs to the artist’s most celebrated body of work – the Lead Paintings – which call upon the aesthetics of colour field painting whilst establishing an altogether new architectural territory for the genre of abstraction. Having studied at the Academy of Fine Art in Munich from 1973-76 and having been inspired by the Suprematist ideals of Kazimir Malevich, Förg’s early artistic output was dominated by black monochromes that echoed the Russian master’s radical Black Square of 1915. These early experiments with the black monochrome were to have a significant impact on his later Lead Paintings; Förg’s particular use of acrylic with the addition of a translucent grey, offered a peculiar surface effect that gave birth to his career-defining preoccupation with material properties. Through a strident annunciation of unadulterated pigments and the unique coarseness of their interaction with unprimed lead, these extraordinary works re-negotiate the trajectory of Minimalist painting.

Förg’s process-based method uses chemical reactions, and innovative, unconventional metal grounds. Eschewing the traditional canvas support, Förg’s Lead Paintings are made by wrapping sheets of lead, sometimes in several layers, around a wooden frame or panel, before painting directly onto them with no treatment or preparatory ground. In the present work, Förg has meticulously covered the oxidised patina of the lead surface with bold colours, allowing the lead’s textural striations to seep through. Recounting his decision to use lead, Förg remarked: “I like very much the qualities of lead – the surface, the heaviness. Some of the paintings were completely painted, and you only experience the lead at the edges; this gives the painting a very heavy feeling – it gives the colour a different density and weight. In other works the materials would be explicitly visible as grounds. I like to react on things, with the normal canvas you have to kill the ground, give it something to react against. With the metals you already have something – its scratches, scrapes…” (Günther Förg in conversation with David Ryan, in: David Ryan, Talking Painting: Dialogue with Twelve Contemporary Abstract Painters, London 2002, p. 77).

In the present work, Förg’s bipartite compositional formula juxtaposes green and blue. With the dispersion of these elemental colours the artist evokes the formal purism of Piet Mondrian and De Stijl and the dispersion of colour into space familiar to Ellsworth Kelly and Barnett Newman. Yet our ability to discern the transcendental capacities at stake within examples by the latter mentioned artists is compromised by Förg’s rational insistence on raw materiality. Utilising the unique properties of a base chemical element, the surface becomes an enlivened plateau of intriguing texture through natural oxidation; an effect that is heightened by Förg’s monochrome brushstrokes. With comparable examples housed in the Museum of Modern Art, New York and the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, it is through the seminal Lead Paintings that Förg’s profound, and tragically curtailed, contribution to the on-going history of minimal abstract painting continues to be discerned.