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Cecily Brown
THE CIRCUS ANIMALS' DESERTION
Estimate
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Lots with this symbol indicate that a party has provided Sotheby’s with an irrevocable bid on the lot that will be executed during the sale at a value that ensures that the lot will sell. The irrevocable bidder, who may bid in excess of the irrevocable bid, will be compensated based on the final hammer price in the event he or she is not the successful bidder or may receive a fixed fee in the event he or she is the successful bidder. If the irrevocable bidder is the successful bidder, the fixed fee (if applicable) for providing the irrevocable bid may be netted against the irrevocable bidder’s obligation to pay the full purchase price for the lot and the purchase price reported for the lot shall be net of such fixed fee. If the irrevocable bid is not secured until after the printing of the auction catalogue, a pre-lot announcement will be made indicating that there is an irrevocable bid on the lot. If the irrevocable bidder is advising anyone with respect to the lot, Sotheby’s requires the irrevocable bidder to disclose his or her financial interest in the lot. If an agent is advising you or bidding on your behalf with respect to a lot identified as being subject to an irrevocable bid, you should request that the agent disclose whether or not he or she has a financial interest in the lot.
UK: Greenford Park
Lots marked W will be sent to Greenford Park Fine Art Storage Facility immediately after the auction.
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Guaranteed Property. The seller of lots with this symbol has been guaranteed a minimum price from one auction or a series of auctions. If every lot in a catalogue is guaranteed, the Conditions of Sale will so state and this symbol will not be used for each lot.
800,0001,200,000
LOT SOLD. 1,118,750 GBP
JUMP TO LOT
7
Cecily Brown
THE CIRCUS ANIMALS' DESERTION
Estimate
Irrevocable Bids
Lots with this symbol indicate that a party has provided Sotheby’s with an irrevocable bid on the lot that will be executed during the sale at a value that ensures that the lot will sell. The irrevocable bidder, who may bid in excess of the irrevocable bid, will be compensated based on the final hammer price in the event he or she is not the successful bidder or may receive a fixed fee in the event he or she is the successful bidder. If the irrevocable bidder is the successful bidder, the fixed fee (if applicable) for providing the irrevocable bid may be netted against the irrevocable bidder’s obligation to pay the full purchase price for the lot and the purchase price reported for the lot shall be net of such fixed fee. If the irrevocable bid is not secured until after the printing of the auction catalogue, a pre-lot announcement will be made indicating that there is an irrevocable bid on the lot. If the irrevocable bidder is advising anyone with respect to the lot, Sotheby’s requires the irrevocable bidder to disclose his or her financial interest in the lot. If an agent is advising you or bidding on your behalf with respect to a lot identified as being subject to an irrevocable bid, you should request that the agent disclose whether or not he or she has a financial interest in the lot.
UK: Greenford Park
Lots marked W will be sent to Greenford Park Fine Art Storage Facility immediately after the auction.
Artist's Resale Right
Purchase of lots marked with this symbol will be subject to the payment of the artist's resale right.
Double Dagger
Indicates that the lot is being sold whilst subject to Temporary Importation, and that VAT is due at the reduced rate
Guaranteed Property
Guaranteed Property. The seller of lots with this symbol has been guaranteed a minimum price from one auction or a series of auctions. If every lot in a catalogue is guaranteed, the Conditions of Sale will so state and this symbol will not be used for each lot.
800,0001,200,000
LOT SOLD. 1,118,750 GBP
JUMP TO LOT

Details & Cataloguing

Contemporary Art Evening Auction

|
London

Cecily Brown
B. 1969
THE CIRCUS ANIMALS' DESERTION
signed and dated 2014-15 on the reverse
oil on canvas
104 by 302 cm. 41 by 118 7/8 in.
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Provenance

Contemporary Fine Arts, Berlin

Private Collection, Asia

Acquired from the above by the present owner

Exhibited

Berlin, Contemporary Fine Arts, Cecily Brown: The Sleep Around and the Lost and Found, August - September 2015, pp. 24-25, illustrated in colour

Catalogue Note

Cecily Brown is concerned with the translation of sensation in paint. This is not the melodrama of sensationalism, but instead the physical sensation of bodily presence and the fleeting ocular experience of seeing itself. In the manner of Francis Bacon (an acknowledged influence) as expounded by French philosopher Giles Deleuze, Brown privileges the ‘figural’ over the figurative. Suspended somewhere between abstraction and figuration, her painted forms flow in and out of bodily recognition and intangible allusion. Influenced by a wide range of visual cues comprising everything from porn magazines, newspaper cuttings, and popular music through to Peter Paul Rubens, Edgar Degas, Willem de Kooning and Francis Bacon, her work revels in the extravagant potential of paint as flesh. Created between 2014 and 2015, The Circus Animals’ Desertion possesses the swift corporeal frisson of her more sexually explicit earlier work, and yet outwardly appears to embark on a more extreme abstract territory. Nonetheless, executed in a panoramic format and cinematic scale, this painting maintains the electrifying charge of fluid corporeal movement that utterly typifies Brown’s Dionysian enterprise.

The present work takes its title from one of the final poems written by William Butler Yeats. Published in 1939 in his final volume, Last Poems, Yeats’ ‘The Circus Animals’ Desertion’ is a lamentation on ageing and the act of contemplation itself. Written in five stanzas, this deeply reflective last work takes a look back on Yeats’ Romantic beginnings and ends with a stark confrontation of the here and now. As made explicit in the last stanza:

Those masterful images because complete
Grew in pure mind but out of what began?
A mound of refuse or the sweepings of a street,
Old kettles, old bottles, old rags, that raving slut
Who keeps the till. Now that my ladder’s gone
I must lie down where all the ladders start
In the foul rag and bone shop of the heart.

Approaching the end of his fifty-year literary career, Yeats’ perceived lack of inspiration is laid bare by the poem’s self-conscious inability to transcend the base commonality of everyday life. His use of the titular ‘circus animals’ acts as an analogy for his own waning powers of imagination; where in his youth these circus animals used to perform freely and dazzle, Yeats has become a spectator to their absence, able only to repeat, recycle, or critique the celebrated themes of his earlier work. In searching for a new form of creativity through a self-referential analysis of the poet's back-catalogue – which Yeats describes as ‘the foul rag and bone shop of the heart’ – this poem is widely considered a masterpiece of proto post-modernist literature.

By borrowing the title from this famous poem, Brown’s painting responds to the unadorned mound of ‘old rags’, ‘refuse’, and ‘sweepings of a street’ that Yeats’ poetic imagination cannot overcome. In referring to this, Brown seems to be making a comment on her own cyclical creative practice, in which new paintings are made as much in response to previous work as they are to a new idea or source of inspiration. As art historian Jan Tumlir has explained, Brown’s formal trajectory “is marked by a continual return and recapitulation as much as by an overarching progression” (Jan Tumlir cited in: Suzanne Cotter, ‘Seeing Double’ in: Exh. Cat., Oxford, Modern Art Oxford, Cecily Brown: Paintings, 2005, p. 41).

Rendered in typically sensuous pink, red and black, a panoramic sweep of fleshy brushwork and scattered forms is punctuated by rifts of blue, green, and yellow. Background and foreground coalesce, sandwiched between layers of serpentine and rhythmic staccato brushstrokes. In its varied colour scheme, this work invokes the Bacchanalian landscape particular to the Poussin-inspired works of the early 2000s, while the swiftness of implied movement echoes the fliting rabbit-like forms used as provocative human surrogates in works from the mid-1990s. However, it is the deliberate turning away from explicit reference in this painting that places it in dialogue with pieces such as Funny Cry Happy (2002); in 2005 Brown cited this work as the only truly abstract painting she had ever made (Cecily Brown cited in: Caoimhín Mac Giolla Léith, ‘Painting Sensation’ in: ibid., p. 54). In searching The Circus Animals’ Desertion for identifiable figurative allusions, the viewer is utterly thwarted. And yet, while this abstract schema is kaleidoscopically rich and compositionally dense, Brown maintains the fluidity of intangible bodily experience and presence that runs like a red thread throughout her production. Indeed, such is the fluency of Brown’s painterly ability that figurative visual anchors are not required for the work to maintain its figural essence. For what she is doing is not looking to represent, but instead make viscerally explicit the physical sensation of painting itself.

Contemporary Art Evening Auction

|
London