142
142
Sean Scully
PASSENGER RED WHITE
Estimate
Irrevocable Bids
Lots with this symbol indicate that a party has provided Sotheby’s with an irrevocable bid on the lot that will be executed during the sale at a value that ensures that the lot will sell. The irrevocable bidder, who may bid in excess of the irrevocable bid, will be compensated based on the final hammer price in the event he or she is not the successful bidder or may receive a fixed fee in the event he or she is the successful bidder. If the irrevocable bidder is the successful bidder, the fixed fee (if applicable) for providing the irrevocable bid may be netted against the irrevocable bidder’s obligation to pay the full purchase price for the lot and the purchase price reported for the lot shall be net of such fixed fee. If the irrevocable bid is not secured until after the printing of the auction catalogue, a pre-lot announcement will be made indicating that there is an irrevocable bid on the lot. If the irrevocable bidder is advising anyone with respect to the lot, Sotheby’s requires the irrevocable bidder to disclose his or her financial interest in the lot. If an agent is advising you or bidding on your behalf with respect to a lot identified as being subject to an irrevocable bid, you should request that the agent disclose whether or not he or she has a financial interest in the lot.
UK: Greenford Park
Lots marked W will be sent to Greenford Park Fine Art Storage Facility immediately after the auction.
Artist's Resale Right
Purchase of lots marked with this symbol will be subject to the payment of the artist's resale right.
Double Dagger
Indicates that the lot is being sold whilst subject to Temporary Importation, and that VAT is due at the reduced rate
Guaranteed Property
Guaranteed Property. The seller of lots with this symbol has been guaranteed a minimum price from one auction or a series of auctions. If every lot in a catalogue is guaranteed, the Conditions of Sale will so state and this symbol will not be used for each lot.
450,000650,000
LOT SOLD. 586,000 GBP
JUMP TO LOT
142
Sean Scully
PASSENGER RED WHITE
Estimate
Irrevocable Bids
Lots with this symbol indicate that a party has provided Sotheby’s with an irrevocable bid on the lot that will be executed during the sale at a value that ensures that the lot will sell. The irrevocable bidder, who may bid in excess of the irrevocable bid, will be compensated based on the final hammer price in the event he or she is not the successful bidder or may receive a fixed fee in the event he or she is the successful bidder. If the irrevocable bidder is the successful bidder, the fixed fee (if applicable) for providing the irrevocable bid may be netted against the irrevocable bidder’s obligation to pay the full purchase price for the lot and the purchase price reported for the lot shall be net of such fixed fee. If the irrevocable bid is not secured until after the printing of the auction catalogue, a pre-lot announcement will be made indicating that there is an irrevocable bid on the lot. If the irrevocable bidder is advising anyone with respect to the lot, Sotheby’s requires the irrevocable bidder to disclose his or her financial interest in the lot. If an agent is advising you or bidding on your behalf with respect to a lot identified as being subject to an irrevocable bid, you should request that the agent disclose whether or not he or she has a financial interest in the lot.
UK: Greenford Park
Lots marked W will be sent to Greenford Park Fine Art Storage Facility immediately after the auction.
Artist's Resale Right
Purchase of lots marked with this symbol will be subject to the payment of the artist's resale right.
Double Dagger
Indicates that the lot is being sold whilst subject to Temporary Importation, and that VAT is due at the reduced rate
Guaranteed Property
Guaranteed Property. The seller of lots with this symbol has been guaranteed a minimum price from one auction or a series of auctions. If every lot in a catalogue is guaranteed, the Conditions of Sale will so state and this symbol will not be used for each lot.
450,000650,000
LOT SOLD. 586,000 GBP
JUMP TO LOT

Details & Cataloguing

Contemporary Art Day Auction

|
London

Sean Scully
B. 1945
PASSENGER RED WHITE
signed, titled and dated 1997 on the reverse
oil on two adjoined canvases
152.4 by 142.2 cm. 60 by 56 in.
Read Condition Report Read Condition Report

Provenance

Mary Boone Gallery, New York
Acquired from the above by the present owner in 1997

Catalogue Note

Seamlessly blending architectural gravitas and chromatic vibration, Passenger Red White captures the essence of the unparalleled synthesis of crude brushwork and  intellectual proportioning, spatial severity and fiery compositional force that infuse Sean Scully’s pictorial oeuvre. Manifesting a complete adherence to the principal tenets of abstraction, Passenger Red White is a pivotal example of Scully’s eminent Passenger series. To create his mesmeric, fragmented compositions, Scully uses a five inch brush to traverse each section with multiple layers of glutinous varnish-thickened oil paint, emphasising the presence of the artist’s hand. Indeed, the lavish strata in Passenger Red White create a seductive and homogenous surface. Presenting an elegant and enveloping structure, the lighter blocks of soft cream have a fleeting, ethereal presence whilst the inky pools of black anchor the work and create void-like absences.

Executed in 1997, the present work was produced just one year prior to the advent of Scully’s renowned Wall of Light Series. As such, Passenger Red White can be seen as a pivotal precursor to this prominent body of work. It was a formative trip that Scully made to Mexico in the early 1980s that would come to shape his entire artistic output. There, the artist became preoccupied by the monumental stacked stones of the ancient Mayan walls at Yucatan and the way in which the bright light danced off them, bringing them to life. In 1998, following additional trips to Mexico and after absorbing fully the aesthetic implications of his earlier studies, Scully began to create his Wall of Light series of paintings, watercolours, pastels, and aquatints. Recalling the extent this influence had on his art, Scully remarked, "I can’t exactly explain it, but seeing the Mexican ruins, the stacking of the stones, and the way light hit those facades, had something to do with it, maybe everything to do with it” (Sean Scully quoted in: Exh. Cat., New York, Metropolitan Museum of Art, Sean Scully: Wall of Light, 2005, p. 24).

The present work’s most striking feature is the complexity of its formal organisation, comprised of two distinct sections. A painting within a painting; the central portion is a separate canvas which is subsumed perfectly by the surrounding support. The canvas is transformed by dynamic and iridescent bands of golden light that emanate in a checker board formation. Suspended in time and space, a candy striped entity rests within a masterful pictorial field. The red and white composition refers to that which is temporary and ephemeral, perhaps a foreign object voyaging in a state of constant flux. The flexible structure tends towards firmness, repeating the paradox by which the static quality is off set by the sensation of movement. Motionless yet transitory, there is a dynamic interchange of opposing forces at play.

Within his succulently coloured paintings, the key hue, which is so magisterially depicted in the present work, is black, the only colour that the artist ever uses in its pure state. This fascination with black stems from the artist’s admiration of the rich black tones in the paintings of seventeenth-century Spanish artists such as Velázquez and Goya and is represented here in three masonry-like slabs. Scully also acknowledges the influence of Modern masters on his work stating that: “if you have Matisse, Mondrian, Rothko, then you’ve got my work” (Sean Scully quoted in: David Carrier, Sean Scully, London 2004, p. 61). More than any artist of his generation, Scully combines the formal traditions of European painting – the brooding tones of Manet and the spectacular colours and brushwork of Matisse – with a distinctly American abstract tradition, epitomised in particular by Rothko. With certain perplexity, one realises that Scully’s work recapitulates an entire century of painting.

Perfectly encapsulating Scully’s iconic aesthetic language, the compositional economy of Passenger Red White is strikingly powerful, with a single set of forms and sumptuous hues working in binaries to create a simply stunning architecture. With a mandate to put the rational operations of painting, guided primarily by the intellect and the challenge of the purely optical, but simultaneously to avoid any deviation from the purist canons of a highly restricted formal repertoire, Passenger Red White is of Scully’s most celebrated artistic endeavours to date.

Contemporary Art Day Auction

|
London