Lot 152
  • 152

GÜNTHER UECKER | Bewegtes Feld

500,000 - 700,000 GBP
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  • Günther Uecker
  • Bewegtes Feld
  • signed and dated 64 on the reverse
  • nails on canvas laid on wood
  • 87 by 87 cm. 34 3/8 by 34 3/8 in.


Ad Libitum Gallery, Belgium
Acquired from the above by the present owner in 1964


Colour: The colour in the catalogue illustration is fairly accurate although it fails to fully convey the sculptural quality in the original. Condtion: Please refer to the Contemporary Art Department for a detailed condition report.
"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

Created in 1964, Bewegtes Feld is a prime example of Günther Uecker’s archetypal nail reliefs. United under the aegis of ZERO and comprising fellow artists Otto Peine and Heinz Mack, this German-born movement strove to pare artistic creation back to the most primal and elemental facets of visual perception: light, shadow, and movement. For Uecker, who began incorporating these mass-produced, industrial items into his work around 1957, nails were the perfect means to express the concerns of ZERO, and, to this day, they remain his favoured medium. To Uecker: “[The nail is] the ideal object with which to model light and shadow – to make time visible[…] It protrudes as a tactile feeler from the flat surface, much like a sundial” (Günther Uecker cited in: Alexander Tolnay, Ed., Günther Uecker Twenty Chapters, Ostfildern-Ruit 2006, p. 72). In the present work a jutting landscape comprising countless positioned and angled nails is transformed by a dramatic chiaroscuro, an effect dependent upon the subject’s viewpoint and the direction and strength of the surrounding light source. With an almost ritualistic repetition, Uecker hammered in nails at slanting angles and various depths to create an engaging duality of linear structure and organic form. In the wake of World War II, many artists were striving for an artistic expression that would satisfy their need for a new beginning, a base ‘zero’, free from the gestural brushwork and pictorial sentimentality of the Tachisme and Art Informel movements that proliferated during the 1950s. This was nowhere achieved as pertinently as in the ZERO group. As succinctly summarised by Otto Piene: “Zero is the incommensurable zone in which the old state turns into the new” (Otto Piene, ‘Die Entstehung der Gruppe 'Zero', The Times Literary Supplement, 3 September 1964, n.p.). Herein, the group’s name aptly referenced the countdown for a rocket launch and advocated a radical new beginning for modern art. Another artist who is considered the trailblazer of this new form of artistic expression and who worked closely with the ZERO group’s ‘inner core’ was Lucio Fontana. Fontana’s drastic slashing and puncturing of the canvas offered a philosophical glimpse into the infinite void beyond and radically changed the discourse of painting. A generation older, Fontana is heralded as a forefather and mentor to Italy’s Azimuth, as well as Germany’s ZERO artists.

A white washed relief suffused by a vivid interplay of light and dark, Bewegtes Feld reflects the primary concerns of the ZERO movement. Pure colour and light was seen as the essence of cosmic power and became synonymous with the spiritual liberation of the individual. As outlined by Uecker: “My objects are spatial realities, zones of light. I use mechanical means in order to overcome the subjective gesture, to objectify it, and to create the situation of freedom” (Günther Uecker, cited in: Alexander Tolnay, op cit. 2006, p. 54). Untitled endures as a model of subtle elegance and dynamism, a lyrical work that is at once static, where the artist encourages the viewer to walk around and experience the piece. Each of the nails is fixed into the board with physical force and exertion, yet together they appear dynamic with their ambulatory patterns creating an effect that forever refuses to abate. From every angle the viewer discovers a new mix of patterns, motions and shadows. It is this optical effect that invites the viewer's eye to roam across the surface of the work, seeking new relationships between volume and shadow. This classic Uecker work truly shows this celebrated German artist at his height - as a master of optical manipulation, light and shadow, and frozen movement

A lyrical coalition of the primary principles of Uecker’s idiosyncratic oeuvre, Bewegtes Feld affords a revolutionary departure from the conventional concepts of pictorial space. It is a poetic embodiment of the meditative powers of art, whose spiritual enterprise finds a subtly differing ontological response in every viewer.

This work is registered in the Uecker Archiv under the number GU.64.103 for the consideration of works to be included into the forthcoming Uecker Catalogue Raisonné.