Lot 108
  • 108

GEORGE CONDO | The Prisoner

200,000 - 300,000 GBP
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  • George Condo
  • The Prisoner 
  • signed and dated 09 on the reverse
  • oil on linen 
  • 107 by 132 cm. 42 1/8 by 51 in.


Simon Lee Gallery, London
Acquired from the above by the present owner


Brussels, Xavier Hufkens, George Condo, May - July 2009


Colour: The colours in the catalogue illustration are fairly accurate, although the overall tonality is slightly deeper and richer in the original. Condition: This work is in very good condition. Extremely close inspection some very light and unobtrusive wear to the upper right hand corner and two short and unobtrusive rub marks, one to the center left of the extreme upper edge and one to the center of the extreme left hand edge. Further very close inspection reveals a few tiny media accretions towards the bottom left hand corner. There is no restoration apparent when examined under ultra-violet 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

Celebrated for his surrealist menagerie of archetypal figures, George Condo’s eminent style is characterised by an unprecedented visual lexicon that is both ghoulish and ghastly, and infused with a comedic sense of the macabre. Expressing a cynical attitude based on pure fantasy, his dream-like creations espouse a technical virtuosity, in turn assimilating the entire range of major modern artists’ creative output. The present work from 2009, belongs to Condo’s The Lost Civilisation series, in which paintings from the past are humorously transformed by the present to delineate a dystopian view of our modern society. Characters depicted include the banker, the alcoholic, Jean Luis the butler and in this instance, the prisoner. Departing from the aesthetic confines of figuration, Condo explores the myriad of portrayals that enunciate the inner psyche, seeking to depict a psychological state of mind. The artist comments, “I describe what I do as psychological cubism. Picasso painted a violin from four different perspectives at one moment. I do the same with psychological states. Four of them can occur simultaneously. Like glimpsing a bus with one passenger howling over a joke they're hearing down the phone, someone else asleep, someone else crying – I'll put them all in one face" (George Condo cited in: Stuart Jeffries, ‘George Condo: “I was delirious. Nearly Died”’, The Guardian, 10 February 2014, online). Articulating the dichotomy of abstraction and figuration, the topography of The Prisoner becomes a colourful pictorial landscape that leaves behind physical appearance in favour of revealing a profound insight into the subject’s consciousness. 

Impaled by three rods, two vertical and one horizontal, The Prisoner is held, perforated on an axis in perfect equilibrium. As the black bars bisect the sitter’s skull, the very same cords seemingly lower an alcoholic beverage and cigarette into the frame, akin to a puppeteer. Rather than further incarcerating the inmate, the spikes read as preliminary grid lines that allude to the process of production. Moreover the landscape in which The Prisoner resides, vibrantly luscious with rolling hills and corn fields, is reminiscent of titans of 19th Century art history such as van Gogh and Monet.

There is a long lineage of art historical predecessors that made the present work possible, for example, Picabia caricaturing the history of painting, Manet’s Le Déjeuner sur l’Herbe and de Chirico pastiching chromolithography in his late works. The openness of influence attests to the fact that Condo’s oeuvre has and continues to be wholly unique and ultimately unclassifiable, in which his art re-appropriates the potential contained in the works of the past.