Lot 111
  • 111

LAURA OWENS | Untitled

100,000 - 150,000 GBP
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  • Laura Owens
  • Untitled
  • signed, titled and dated 2004 on the overlap
  • oil, acrylic and collage on linen
  • 113.3 by 87.9 cm. 44 5/8 by 34 5/8 in.


Gavin Brown's Enterprise, New York
Acquired from the above by the present owner in 2004


New York, Gavin Brown's Enterprise, Laura Owens, March - April 2004
Tokyo, Shiseido Gallery, Laura Owens, February - March 2005, pp. 21, 33 and 36, illustrated in colour
Zurich, Kunsthalle Zürich; London, Camden Arts Centre; Münster, Ausstellungshalle Zeitgenössische Kunst Münster; and Maastricht, Bonnefantenmuseum, Laura Owens, June 2006 - August 2007, p. 113, no. 146, illustrated in colour


Exh. Cat., New York, Whitney Museum of American Art (and travelling), Laura Owens, November 2017 - March 2019, p. 390, illustrated in colour (in installation at Gavin Brown's Enterprise)


Colour: The colours in the catalogue illustration are fairly accurate although the overall tonality is slightly deeper in the original. Condition: This work is in very good condition. All collaged elements are stable and there are a few loose threads in places, which is in keeping with the artist’s choice of media. No restoration is apparent when examined under ultraviolet light.
"In response to your inquiry, we are pleased to provide you with a general report of the condition of the property described above. Since we are not professional conservators or restorers, we urge you to consult with a restorer or conservator of your choice who will be better able to provide a detailed, professional report. Prospective buyers should inspect each lot to satisfy themselves as to condition and must understand that any statement made by Sotheby's is merely a subjective, qualified opinion. Prospective buyers should also refer to any Important Notices regarding this sale, which are printed in the Sale Catalogue.

Catalogue Note

Los Angeles based artist Laura Owens became known during the late 1990s for her strikingly individualistic paintings in which references to modes of seeing and making, television and popular culture, the autobiographical and the art historical, collide in kitsch pastel shades and candy colours. Having graduated from CalArts in 1994, Owens swiftly achieved gallery representation and critical recognition; in 1996 significant examples of her work were added to three of the most prestigious museum collections in New York – the Guggenheim, the Metropolitan Museum, and the Whitney Museum of American Art – and in 2003, at the age of only 33, she was granted a mid-career retrospective at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Los Angeles. In November 2017 a major retrospective of Owens’ career opened to great acclaim at the Whitney, and today her status as one of the most important artistic voices of the Twenty-First Century is truly set in stone.   Just before her Los Angeles retrospective, Owens was invited to hold a residency at the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum in Boston. In the works created during and after her time at the museum, which houses a collection known for its decadent, controversial juxtaposition between ornamental and fine arts – Owens used imagery and motifs from all manner of textile, patterning, landscape painting and animal depictions. The now well-known use of living beings, especially animals, in her work was initially a means to bring together the space and the story of the work, similar to the way Stewart Gardner had curated her collection. This whimsical iconography and appropriated imagery is particularly evident in the rich symbolism of Untitled. Botanical references, such as the flowers and tree, have been part of Owens' oeuvre since her show at the Royal Botanical Gardens in Edinburgh in 2000. The plants referenced botanical teachings drawings, combined with a style similar to that of Japanese landscape paintings, thus alluding to the traditional arts. With this, Owens steps away from the abstraction many of her contemporaries favour, moving back to figurative art. As a highly self-conscious artist, Owens often cites her own paintings and reuses imagery – much like the squirrel in Untitled. Simultaneously, the saturated colours and easy but confident brushwork results in paintings like an illustration from a children’s book: easy to understand and instantly engaging. By leaving a large part of the canvas untouched, Owens encourages exploration and interpretation by the viewer in order to understand the whole. The raw canvas is similar to the series of works Owens created for her exhibition with Chris Ofili and Peter Doig in 2002 at the Santa Monica Museum of Art. The reminiscence of scenes from books comes from a need to tell stories, as Owens has said that she has an intrinsic urge to tell stories but cannot put them into words, making her paintings an expression of these stories or scenes.

With the best qualities of children’s books, Owens works are not naïve or simplistic, but are rather created out of curiosity and wonder from an imagination that knows no limits. Untitled is a sublime example of Owens' wit and comedic beauty, combining her well known use of design iconography, decorative elements and cartoons.