Lot 118
  • 118

JOHN WESLEY | Showboat

150,000 - 200,000 GBP
286,000 GBP
bidding is closed


  • John Wesley
  • Showboat
  • acrylic on canvas
  • 91.4 by 163.8 cm. 36 by 64 1/2 in.
  • Executed in 2000.


Fredericks Freiser Gallery, New York
Acquired from the above by David Teiger in 2000


New York, MOMA PS1, John Wesley: Paintings 1961 - 2000, September 2000 - January 2001, pp. 34, 134 and 138, illustrated

Catalogue Note

John Wesley’s iconic work on canvas, Showboat, brilliantly exemplifies the artist’s relentlessly flattened forms, shallow perspective and bold colours in a style true to the American Pop Art movement of the Post-War period. The L.A. born, New York-based artist’s masterful expression of human emotion and fear is rendered here through a close-up view of two female figures, and the proximity of their faces to the viewer makes the portrait both profoundly intimate and psychologically ambiguous: Wesley’s image is ultimately “brought forth by obscure forces that are nevertheless always floating in the field of desire” (Germano Celant, ‘Sensual Appraisal’, in Exh. Cat., Venice, Fondazione Prada, John Wesley, 2009, p. XLII). At the precipice between abstraction and figuration, the artist’s paintings convey an intriguing sense of pictorial sophistication greatly indebted to the works of artist such as Roy Lichtenstein, James Rosenquist and Tom Wesselmann, particularly in their visual representations of the female body and psyche. Art historian Kerstin Mey asserts, “Painted cut-out-like female figures by John Wesley, Tom Wesselmann’s American Nudes or Mel Ramos and James Rosenquist’s eroticised imageries, which objectify women in a pronounced manner, enlarging their sexual ‘selling points’, all functioned in a similar way. These ‘period’ pictures of eroticised, clichéd femininity, often unashamedly candid and exploitative, evolve from a sanitised and sterile hedonism of consumption that marked in particular the American version of 1960s and 1970s Pop Art…” (Kerstin Mey, Art and Obscenity, London 2007, p. 28). Thus Wesley not only recycles but also powerfully reconstructs earlier ideas about femininity, sexuality and gender, as though the clichés of popular culture in the sixties had been “dipped in the pool of the artist’s unconscious and come out soaked with private meanings, associations and feelings” (Ken Johnson cited in: Randy Kennedy, ‘Pop and Rococo Meet and Greet’, The New York Times, 8 June 2009, online). Wesley has created an oeuvre as expressive as it is spectacular, of which Showboat plays a transformative part.