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Cy Twombly
UNTITLED (ROME)
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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.
2,000,0003,000,000
LOT SOLD. 3,950,000 USD
JUMP TO LOT
19
Cy Twombly
UNTITLED (ROME)
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.
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.
2,000,0003,000,000
LOT SOLD. 3,950,000 USD
JUMP TO LOT

Details & Cataloguing

Contemporary Art Evening Auction

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New York

Cy Twombly
1928-2011
UNTITLED (ROME)
signed, stamped with the artist's signature and numbered 2/6 on the underside
painted synthetic resin
26 3/8 by 13 1/8 by 10 1/4 in. 67 by 33.3 by 26 cm.
Conceived in 1959, this work was cast in 1985 and is number two from an edition of six.
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Provenance

Galerie Karsten Greve, Cologne
Acquired by the present owner from the above in 1998

Exhibited

London, Whitechapel Art Gallery, In Tandem: The Painter-Sculptor in the Twentieth Century, March - May 1986, p. 102, illustrated in color (ed. no. unknown)
Düsseldorf, Städtische Kunsthalle, SkulpturSein, December 1986 - February 1987, p. 57, no. 9, illustrated (ed. no. 1/6)
London, Anthony d'Offay Gallery, About Sculpture, January - March 1987, n.p., illustrated in color (ed. no. 3/6)
Zurich, Kunsthaus Zurich; Madrid, Palacio Velazquez and Palacio Cristal; London, Whitechapel Art Gallery; Düsseldorf, Städtische Kunsthalle; and Paris, Musée National d'Art Moderne, Centre Georges Pompidou, Cy Twombly: Paintings, Works on Paper, Sculpture, February 1987 - April 1988, p. 169, no. 112, illustrated in color (Zurich), p. 173, no. 112, illustrated in color (Madrid), n.p., no. 102, illustrated and p. 20 (text) (London and Düsseldorf), p. 189, no. 102, illustrated (Paris) (the present work) 
Zurich, Thomas Ammann Fine Art, Cy Twombly: Drawings and 8 Sculptures, 1990 (ed. no. unknown)
Paris, Galerie Karsten Greve, Cy Twombly: Paintings, Works on Paper, and Sculptures, May - October 1993 (ed. no. unknown)
New York, C&M Arts, Cy Twombly, September - November 1994, n.p., illustrated in color (ed. no. unknown) 
São Paulo, 23 Bienal Internacional São Paulo, October - December 1996, p. 98, illustrated in color (the present work)
London, Dulwich Picture Gallery, Twombly and Poussin: Arcadian Painters, June - September 2011, p. 139, no. 24, illustrated in color (ed. no. unknown)

Literature

Harald Szeeman, 'Cy Twombly, Bilder, Skulpturen und Zeichnungen,' Mitteilungsblatt der Zürcher Kunstgesellschaft, no. 1, January 1987, p. 9, illustrated (ed. no. unknown)
Irene Stoll-Kern, 'Linien, fast nichts als Linien,' Der Bund, February 28, 1987, illustrated (ed. no. unknown)
Eugen Bichterer, 'Hero und Leander unter Blumen,' Die Welt, March 18, 1987, illustrated (ed. no unknown)
Harald Szeeman, 'Cy Twombly: Die ganze Kraft steckt in der Linie,' art, no. 9, September 1995, p. 46, illustrated 
Nicola del Roscio, ed., Cy Twombly: Catalogue Raisonné of Sculpture, Vol. I, 1946-1997, Munich, 2001, p. 59, no. 20, illustrated in color 

Catalogue Note

In its exquisite attention to the formal laws of symmetry and geometric harmony, Untitled (Rome) stands at the very apogee of Cy Twombly’s sculptural achievements. Embodying a timeless elegance and talismanic mystique akin to that of lost relics from antiquity, the present work is an enduring testament to the profound engagement with mythic narratives of the past that runs throughout the contemporary master’s oeuvre, demonstrating the visual lyricism of Twombly at, simultaneously, his most minimal and his most inventive. Cast in 1985 from a wood sculpture conceived in 1959 (today in the collection of the Kunsthaus Zurich), another example from the edition is held in the collection of the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture garden. Further distinguishing the sculpture, the present example was featured in the seminal 1987-88 exhibition Cy Twombly: Paintings, Works on Paper, Sculpture, the first large-scale Twombly retrospective, which traveled to Zurich, Madrid, London, and Paris. Set on a high cuboid altar, the luminescent whiteness and exquisite simplicity of Untitled (Rome) evokes a reverential and serene stasis that is, at first glance, antithetical to the explosive gestural dynamism of the artist’s celebrated painterly oeuvre; yet in its remarkable fusion of line and material, the grounded forms marking space with somber grace, the present work achieves a captivating physical presence and immediacy that recalls his greatest masterpieces. Exuding both a Hellenic classicism and a modern candor, Untitled (Rome) profoundly embodies Edward Albee’s sentiment: "Among the US painters of the second half of the 20th century (and through to now) one stands out to me as painter who redefined sculpture (Robert Rauschenberg), and one emerges that rare artist equally important in both fields, equally exciting as painter and sculptor – Cy Twombly.” (Edward Albee, “Cy Twombly” in Exh. Cat., Munich, Alta Pinakothek, Cy Twombly: Sculptures 1992 – 2005, 2006, p. 9)

Both benefiting from and reflecting Twombly’s remarkable and deeply sensual mastery of material, Untitled (Rome) articulates the influence of classical antiquity upon the artist’s oeuvre with an arresting corporeality and compelling intimacy. The present work is one of an edition of six, cast in resin by the artist in 1985 from an earlier, assemblage-esque work of wood, cloth, nails, and house paint, precisely composed upon an ovoid base and supported by a high plinth. While Twombly’s absorption of found objects invites associations with the radical social sculpture of Joseph Beuys or the uncomplicated materials of Italian Arte Povera, Twombly’s found materials look to far more antiquated sources of inspiration than the everyday. On the unornamented altar of Untitled (Rome), the assembled ephemera of Twombly’s icon rest: eleven rods, bound by coarse linen into a row, their uniform verticality upset by a slight unevenness that provides a rhythmic energy to the form. The rectangular, archaic character of the sculpture is strikingly reminiscent of a pan pipe, or syrinx, the mythical instrument of the Greek diety Pan that was said to produce a sound so bewitchingly persuasive that it simulated speech. As Heiner Bastian describes, “In the myths of the Mediterranean world, in its epics and tragedies, and in the evocation of the imaginable physis of these myths, there lies an alluring animation which has now been alive in Cy Twombly’s works for decades…” (Heiner Bastian, ed., Cy Twombly: Catalogue Raisonné of the Paintings, Volume V, 1997-2007, Munich, 2009, pp. 33-34)  Indeed, the robust presence of myth in the present work, which mirrors an overall tendency in Twombly’s painting from this period, is indebted to the artist’s increasing fascination with the ancient history of the Mediterranean following his move to Italy in 1957.  Notably, the initial Untitled (Rome) dates to 1959, the same year that Twombly married an Italian painter, Luisa Tatiana Franchetti, and the two settled in Rome. There, surrounded by the rich cultural tapestry of classical antiquity embedded in the winding streets and crumbling citadels of the ancient city, Twombly’s abstract vernacular acquired a Hellenic classicism and mythic significance that is emphatically articulated in the present work. Strikingly, Twombly’s absorption of the past is not limited to his treatment of antiquity; Untitled (Rome) of 1959 is a smoother and more refined iteration of a coarser, fetish-like panpipe sculpture from 1953, given by Twombly to his friend, Robert Rauschenberg, and now held in the collection of the Rauschenberg Foundation. In his second return to the form in 1985, to cast in resin the edition of six from which the present work originates, Twombly recalls the archaeological antecedent of the Roman sculptors, who produced exquisite copies of original, or vanished, Greek statues. Enduringly fascinated with the residual influence of past within present, Twombly’s sculptures, which not only have the roughened patina and totemic gravity of archeological relics but actively revisit the sculptural tropes of antiquity, firmly attest to Rosalind Krauss’s thesis, “Without doubt, modern sculpture was born from classical archaeology.”(Rosalind Krauss, “Objet (Petit) a,” in Exh. Cat., Columbus, Wexner Center for the Arts, Part Object, Part Sculpture, 2005, p. 85) Echoing this sentiment, Nicholas Cullinan reflects, “To encounter the past is to put into question the present. This sense of awe and perplexity at overlaid tenses and times and encountering places only previously known in the imagination…offered for Twombly a palimpsest of past, present and future; layered, intertwined and interpenetrating each other like archaeological strata.” (Nicholas Cullinan in Exh. Cat., London, Tate Modern, Cy Twombly: Cycles and Seasons, 2008, p. 74)

Enshrouding the sculpture in uniform opacity, the sublime whiteness of Untitled (Rome) brings together the disparate elements of the sculpture’s form into a single, unified whole. Indeed, this achromatic similitude is a trait shared by the vast majority of the artist’s sculptural oeuvre as, since 1948, Twombly has unswervingly veiled his sculpture in white paint or encased them in plaster. Remarking upon this formal choice, Twombly notes, “White paint is my marble. I have thought of adding colors, like Picasso did in his Glass of Absinthe, but I didn’t succeed.” (Cy Twombly cited in Franz Meyer, “Die Spuren subjektiver Existenz. Ausstellung Cy Twombly im Kunsthaus Zürich,” Neue Züricher Zeitung, March 1987, p. 65) While the seemingly informal, even casual application of the white paint encases the sculpture in the fragmentary patina of archaeological relics recently retrieved from the ground, it simultaneously baths the everyday ephemera  of the sculpture in a classicizing reverence.  Asked to comment on Twombly’s sculptural oeuvre, sculptor Richard Serra commented, “I like them because they are white... The light streams in, and what I was really taken with was the fragility of the sculptures and the fact that they reflected the light that way, like old plaster castaways.” (Richard Serra, cited in “The Cy Twombly Gallery at The Menil Collection: A Conversation.” Res. Anthropology and Aesthetics 28, autumn 1995, pp. 181-83) The opaque veneer of Untitled (Rome) brings the specific execution of line and form in the sculpture into sharp relief, emphasizing the harmonic balance of verticality and horizontality in the uppermost section of the sculpture. Describing the present work, Katharina Schmidt reflects, “The three-fold horizontal articulation of the overall sculpture, which is repeated in the ‘flute,’ the extremely carefully balanced proportions, and the luminescent white paint, underline the unity of the figure and its setting combine to give the work its classic beauty.” (Exh. Cat., Kunstmuseum Basel, Cy Twombly: Die Skulptur, 2000, p. 49)  Indeed, in its exquisite blend of unassuming simplicity and timeless grandeur, modern form and classical influence, Untitled (Rome) attests to Twombly’s own assessment, when asked to address his sculptural oeuvre: “Actually…There’s a certain perfection in most of them.” (Kate Nesin, Cy Twombly’s Things, New Haven, 2014, p. 5)

Contemporary Art Evening Auction

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New York