Details & Cataloguing

Contemporary Art Day Auction


Jean Dubuffet
1901 - 1985
signed with the artist's initials and dated 83
acrylic on paper laid down on canvas
67.8 by 100.4 cm. 26 5/8 by 39 1/2 in.
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Mrs Isalmina Dubuffet, Paris (by descent from the artist)
Ernst Beyeler, Paris (acquired from the above in 1987)
Christie's, London, 22 June 2011, Lot 339
Acquired from the above by the present owner


Basel, Galerie Beyeler, Jean Dubuffet, October 2009 - January 2010, n.p., no. 7, illustrated


Max Loreau, Catalogue des Travaux de Jean Dubuffet, fasc. XXXVI: Mires, Paris 1988, p. 38, no. 82, illustrated

Catalogue Note

A dazzling variant of the Mires series, Jean Dubuffet’s penultimate body of work, Mire G 78 (Kowloon) is vibrant and engaging: quintessentially late Dubuffet. Executed within twelve months between February 1983 and February 1984, the Mires mark Dubuffet’s last great pictorial achievement, the rigorous departure from figurative representation. Encapsulating the artist’s key proposition, the pursuit of art not as a tool to categorise reality but as an opportunity to widen our perception of it, the series became Dubuffet’s celebrated contribution to the 1984 Venice Biennale.

What may strike the viewer as a move into abstraction, indeed heralds the very opposite. Ridding the surface from cognitive anchors, Dubuffet confronts us with a pictorial plane that aspires to convey not nothing but the entire possibilities of visual reality as such. The frenetic gestural brushwork, which anticipates the magnificent grandeur and chromatic potency that Cy Twombly would assemble decades later in his legendary Bacchus series, is the only remnant from the primitive iconography of Dubuffet’s previous practice dominated by landscapes and humanoid figures. The exuberant intermezzo of blue and red lines on the tantalising yellow ground unleashes a dynamic exuberance similar to that radiating from Jackson Pollock's Drip Paintings. The subtitle of the present work, Kowloon, refers to the bustling and densely populated urban district in Hong Kong. The scribbles and bold gestures on the picture plane suggest the chaos of the streets, the stridency of noise and the swarm of bodies and energy. The primarily yellow nature of this series also captures the similarity between the colour and the aesthetics of Chinese street signs. At the very end of an iconic oeuvre that revolutionised art by assimilating the raw visual language of outsiders, it is through this gesturally superior imagery that Dubuffet realises his foremost aspiration, to arrive at a painting that defies needs for recognition and association: “A work of art is only of interest, in my opinion, when it is an immediate and direct projection of what is happening in the depths of a person’s being. I feel that our classical art is derivative… It is my belief that only in this Art Brut can we find the natural and normal processes of artistic creation in their pure and elementary state” (Jean Dubuffet cited in: Jean Dubuffet and Hubert Damisch, Prospectus et tous écrits suivants, Volume 2, Paris 1967, pp. 203-04).

Contemporary Art Day Auction