Distinguished by his remarkable generosity, unfailing politeness and meticulous eye, David Teiger was one of the great patrons and collectors. Driven by a desire for inspiration and buttressed by meticulous research, Teiger built a collection that perfectly captures the zeitgeist of the art world from the 1990s through the 2000s. Defining excellence in a wide variety of collecting categories, Teiger insistently pursued the very best. He surrounded himself with artists and dealers, but most importantly museum curators, and would take advice from all quarters, relentlessly searching for the best works available, but ultimately with confidence in his own judgement.
The criteria by which Teiger collected were remarkably consistent, and were summed up in a quote he gave to The New York Times in 1998, when he first began acquiring Contemporary artworks. He said: “I’m looking to be inspired, motivated, titillated by art. I want to be surrounded by objects that give me positive energy… Of course I want first rate pieces. I look for authenticity, integrity, original natural surface and a strong sense of colour and texture. But the most important thing is that I react in my gut” (David Teiger, cited in: The New York Times, October 30, 1998). Years later the terminology changed but the requirements remained the same; for all his meticulous research and careful consideration of every purchase, Teiger still required that an item “have heat”, an intrinsic quality that would combine with other criteria such as “best of type”, “great craft” and “powerful presence” to qualify a work for admission to Teiger’s collection.
Amassed over the course of twenty years, the David Teiger Collection is wide ranging in its scope, comprising a spectacular array of contemporary artworks, from paintings and works on paper to photographs and prints, and one of the greatest collections of American Folk Art in private hands. Famously exacting, each purchase would necessitate an extraordinary depth of research, often including multiple studio visits. As he remarked in an interview with his friend Alanna Heiss, the then director of MoMA PS1, in 2005, “you can never get enough information”, while friends and those who worked with him spoke of his relentless pursuit of perfection.
The result of this exacting approach was that Teiger developed a remarkably discerning and prescient eye, leading him to patronise a number of hugely influential contemporary artists at the start of their careers, including Mark Grotjahn, Kai Althoff, Chris Ofili and Glenn Brown. This patronage would have been hugely important to them, not only financially, but in terms of the confidence it would have given them to know that their work was going to a very astute collector. As Alanna Heiss put it to Teiger himself, “you are very respected and loved by artists… [they] love to know that they are in your collection”.
This is not to say however that Teiger’s collecting was confined to identifying artistic frontrunners. He was a great believer in the potential rediscovery of an artist. The depth and quality of his collection works by John Wesley for instance, an artist who started his career alongside Tom Wesselmann and James Rosenquist without ever receiving the same degree of acclaim that his peers enjoyed, speaks to Teiger's belief in the underlying quality of the artist, despite his comparative critical and commercial anonymity.
Another definitive aspect of Teiger’s life was the enormous generosity towards institutions. Museums were privileged to know that they could always ask to borrow pieces from the collection, and donations were consistently made to acquisition funds and curatorial initiatives, most notably to the Museum of Modern Art in New York, where Teiger was an honorary trustee, but also the Guggenheim, Hammer, Tate, MOCA LA and Whitney, among others.
This preoccupation with artistic institutions was in large part owing to the immense respect that Teiger had for curators, to whom he attributed the power to narrate and determine the story of an artist or movement. He saw it as his duty to ensure that they had all the tools necessary to realise their aims. For instance, he was a key supporter of MoMA's ambitious survey exhibition in 2002, Drawing Now: Eight Propositions, which stalled at a pivotal moment following the attacks on New York in September 2001. Funding had dried up and the exhibition was on the rocks until Teiger stepped in and provided funding not only for the exhibition but for an accompanying catalogue, which was the first drawing catalogue produced by the museum to go into multiple printings. Duly, this is now a principle objective of the Teiger Foundation, which will be the recipient of all funds generated by the sale of the collection, is to continue Teiger’s initiatives in this direction.
Presented in this catalogue is the first sale of works from this legendary collection. Divided into an evening and a morning session, this tightly curated grouping presents a sequence of works that define European and American art of the last twenty-five years. Masterpieces by Chris Ofili, Peter Doig, Jenny Saville, Takashi Murakami and Glenn Brown are combined with superlative examples from Mark Grotjahn, John Currin and Elizabeth Peyton’s respective oeuvres. Alongside these artists are some of the frontrunners that Teiger collected ahead of the market, such as Kai Althoff, John Wesley and Daniel Richter. Taken as a whole, this is a collection that encapsulates the History of Now, and serves as a testament to the immense foresight and bravery of David Teiger’s vision. Defined not only by their art historical importance but their bold use of colour and extraordinary power, the group of works presented here constitute the best of type, and epitomise what Gary Garrels so accurately describes as Teiger’s connoisseurship of the new.
THREE IMPORTANT WORKS ON PAPER BY ELIZABETH PEYTON
Touted as one of the most influential artists in the field of contemporary figurative painting, Elizabeth Peyton is celebrated for reanimating and democratising 19th Century traditions of portraiture by intimately depicting present-day figures with her signature romanticised realism. Working at a time when figurative painting had been declared dead, Peyton is praised for reinvigorating portraiture in a contemporary form, simultaneously portraying her subjects with an air close to veneration whilst at the same time imbuing them with a familiarity that resonates with a strong romantic devotion. In her work, Peyton beautifully interweaves abstraction and figuration, and consequently diminishes the traditional distance of portraiture, seeking instead to enhance the inner vulnerabilities of her sitters through lush and expressive brushwork as well as in her intimate works on paper.
Delicate and meticulous, the following three works on paper further attest to the artist’s unparalleled dexterity. Prime examples of Peyton’s unique approach to portraiture, Elliott (Lot 113), Marc with a Broken Finger (Lot 112) and Julian (lot 114) are depictions of Julian Casablancas of The Strokes, singer and guitarist Elliott Smith and a former lover. Choosing her subjects seems to be a quasi-romantic act for Peyton: usually selecting artists and musicians, Peyton immortalises people to whom she is close or to whom she feels a certain unspoken affinity. While Peyton’s figures retain their specificity - of a certain cultural moment, a certain social cache, and individual personality—they are also rendered through a transforming and universalising hand. Through her paintings, Peyton’s subjects are made more luminous, more beautiful, and more dispassionate than they could ever be in reality. Imbued with a childlike adoration, tinged with a touch of nostalgia, Peyton’s painted men form a zeitgeist of their own, both marking out the moment, and transcending its vicissitudes. Whilst Marc and Elliott seem to sit in quiet introspection, Julian has been captured mid-concert, the bright reds and oranges acting as stage lights. The artist has explained her fascination with the very act of capturing her sitters’ ‘essence’, describing how “There are different moments that I’m interested in. But I think it is such an amazing moment when people realise what they are and what they can be, and they start putting themselves out into the world. I think you can see it in people when it’s happening” (Elizabeth Peyton in conversation with Jarvis Cocker, ‘Elizabeth Peyton’, in: Interview Magazine, November 2008, online).
By endowing her subjects with androgynous qualities, Peyton shuns the archaic gender system of machoism and toughness, and chooses instead to draw out the feminine beauty and tenderness of her sitters. This is further enhanced by her use of a non-perspectival space, framing her subjects in an angled and photographic perspective, thereby rendering them in highly dramatic and reflective poses. In the process, she distances her sitters from the pressure of masculine virility, instead viewing them with a compassionate affection that awakens their vulnerability.
Armed with a unique and colourful palette, Peyton’s approach to beauty balances illusion and reality with a psychological intimacy that unearths the inner qualities of her protagonists. As she immerses the viewer into her pictorial code, Peyton skilfully invents a multisensorial aesthetic that combines the classicism of the Romantic era with contemporary innovation, making her one of the most captivating artists of her generation.
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