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Details & Cataloguing

Contemporary Art Evening Auction

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London

Franz West
1947 - 2012
UNTITLED
papier-mâché, acrylic, lacquer, gauze and steel on wooden base
overall: 132 by 87.6 by 50.8 cm. 52 by 34 1/2 by 20 in.
Executed in 2010.
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Provenance

Almine Rech Gallery, Brussels

Acquired from the above by the present owner in 2010

Exhibited

Brussels, Almine Rech Gallery, Franz West: Double Squint, March - May 2010

Catalogue Note

Anthropomorphic and constructed from a diverse range of materials including papier mâché, acrylic laquer, gauze, and steel, Untitled is representative of Franz West’s highly unconventional and experimental sculptural practice. Phantasmagorical yet corporeal in form, the present work possesses an expressive colour palette of primary colour juxtaposed against passages of white monochrome. It sits within a greater corpus of works that West initiated in the mid-1990s; works that moreover touch upon the ergonomic bent of his Adaptives from the 1970s. Throughout his career, West has continuously explored colour and form through relentless material experimentation; his works privilege openness, individuality, and fluidity over rigorousness, formality, and tradition. Playful and witty at once, the present work unites sculpture, painting, and installation art, and belongs to a distinct body of work created just a year before the artist was awarded the Golden Lion (a lifetime achievement award) at the Venice Biennale.

Reflecting on the visual and conceptual possibilities of West’s open-ended approach to sculpture, Robert Fleck writes: “[the artist] places the ambiguity of perception at the centre of his sculptural works. They can be many things at once, from a reworked object to a deformed head, a sexual metaphor... This conscious, improvised game using the indistinctness of optical impressions made by the objects leads to the many different layers of content, of ontological and existential associations, which lend West's sculptures their strength and excitement" (Robert Fleck, Franz West, London 1999, p. 44). This ambiguity and attempt to challenge the traditional binary of the artwork as object and the viewer as passive observer can be traced throughout West’s diverse oeuvre: from his performance work during the 1960s, his Adaptives of the 1970s (works that were intended to be worn and played with), through to the furniture of the 1980s, and anthropomorphic forms of the 1990s, his work has continually reflected the viewer's presence and embraced active, physical engagement. West challenges us to step out of our role as observer and to identify and relate to the artwork itself; an intention encouraged by amorphous and multi-layered forms that demand physical and visual exploration.

Coming of age at the height of Viennese Actionism – an avant-garde movement influenced by the tendencies of performance art in America and the emergence of Fluxus in Europe – West always described his art-making as a reaction against the overly grand, ritualistic, and sometimes violent gestures of the group. While an emphasis on the body and its involvement certainly resonates with West’s oeuvre, the social project at the heart of Joseph Beuys' practice is perhaps a closer comparison. Steeped within his conviction that every human being possesses innate creativity and the ability to create works of art, Beuys believed in the potential of art to influence society. Similarly, West’s oeuvre is geared towards a social implication of the viewer in challenging them to overcome traditional modes of looking at art; however, unlike Beuys whose existential postulating was steeped in intensity and sobre ambition, West deployed a playful touch that invites the viewer into the accessible and fantastical world of his sculpture. Curator Eva Badura-Triska aptly reflects on this point: "It would… be more correct to count West's attitude among those that existed throughout the Twentieth Century alongside or in opposition to heroic modernism, not sharing but breaking up the latter's linear mode of connecting and often utopian concepts of progress" (Eva Badura-Triska cited in: Peter Keicher, Ed., Wo ist mein Achter?, Cologne 2013, p. 11). De-monumentalising the historically heroic tradition of sculpture, these works playfully demand participation; it is through this relationship that West has ultimately redefined the mimetic relationship between viewer and object.

Contemporary Art Evening Auction

|
London