Lot 41
  • 41

ROSEMARIE TROCKEL | O.T. (Death’s Heads)

400,000 - 600,000 GBP
Log in to view results
bidding is closed


  • Rosemarie Trockel
  • O.T. (Death’s Heads)
  • numbered artist's proof 1 on the stretcher
  • knitted wool
  • 200 by 150 cm. 78 3/4 by 59 in.
  • Executed in 1990, this work is number 1 of 3 artist’s proofs, aside from an edition of 5.


Monika Sprüth Galerie, Cologne Skarstedt Gallery, New York

The Sender Collection, New York (acquired from the above in 2005)

Sotheby’s, London, Ahead of the Curve: The Sender Collection, 30 June 2014, Lot 2

Acquired from the above by the present owner


Chicago, Donald Young Gallery, - . - = + aber menschlich bin ich nie darüber hinweg gekommen, April 1989 (edition no. unknown) Bonn, Bonner Kunstverein, Zehn Jahre Kunstfonds, April - June 1991, another example exhibited, p. 89, illustrated in colour (another example exhibited, edition no. unknown)

Boston, The Institute of Contemporary Art; Berkeley, University Art Museum; Chicago, Museum of Contemporary Art; Toronto, The Power Plant; and Madrid, Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofia, Rosemarie Trockel, April 1991 - May 1992 (another example exhibited, edition no. unknown)

Le Havre, Musée des Beaux Arts André Malraux; Rouen, Usine-Fromage École d'Architecture; and Evreux, Musée de L'Ancien Évêché, Les Iconodules: La question de l'image, October - December 1992, n.p., no. 67, illustrated in colour (edition no. unknown)

Munich, Sammlung Goetz, Rosemarie Trockel, May - October 2002p. 14 (installation view), illustrated in colour, and p. 99, illustrated in colour (another example exhibited, edition no. unknown)

Miami, The Rubell Collection, To Have and To Hold, December 2014 - May 2015 (another example exhibited, edition no. unknown)


Exh. Cat. (and catalogue raisonné), Cologne, Museum Ludwig, Rosemarie Trockel: Post-Menopause, October 2005 - February 2006, p. 170 (edition no. unknown)


Colour: The colour in the catalogue illustration is fairly accurate, although the overall tonality is slightly brighter in the original. Condition: This work is in very good condition.
"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

Symbolically loaded with the rich emblem of the skull stitched across the work’s chequered surface, O.T. (Death’s Heads) is a compelling example of Rosemarie Trockel’s critically acclaimed Strickbilder or ‘knitted pictures’. It conjures up powerful art historical identities from the talismans of tribal Aztec art, to contemplative vanitas and, perhaps most notably for Trockel, Andy Warhol’s duplicating, vivaciously coloured skulls. One of the most successful female artists of her time, Trockel made a name for herself in a male-dominated artistic environment, emerging on the German art scene in the early 1980s when artists such as Polke, Richter, Baselitz and Kiefer were drawing increasing international acclaim. Her unique feminist sensibility and multi-faceted interrogatory practice, which eviscerates artistic hierarchies, genre categorisations and associated gender classifications, propelled Trockel to international stardom. An iconographically rare paradigm of Trockel’s acclaimed Strickbilder, O.T. (Death's Heads) is from an edition of five: one of which is housed in the Rubell Family Collection while another resides with the Goetz Collection. The repeating single motif of the skull in O.T. (Death’s Heads) playfully draws upon both the aesthetic and subversive nature of Pop art. As critic Elisabeth Sussman elaborates, “Trockel’s knit works are parodies, a gentle form of aggression for turning the Constructivist notion of art into life and life into art, into a Warholian debunking of contemporary art practice” (Elisabeth Sussman, ‘The Body’s Inventory – the Exotic and Mundane in Rosemarie Trockel’s Art’ in: Exh. Cat., Boston, Institute of Contemporary Art (and travelling), Rosemarie Trockel, 1991, p. 33). By repeating the skull as a potent symbol of death the artist both magnifies and desensitises our awareness of mortality. Similarly, this motif at once represents both everybody and nobody: devoid of the vital coordinates of facial individuality the skull possesses an uncompromising universality. That Trockel studied religion before turning to art, the rare appearance of skulls in Trockel’s oeuvre, like those piquantly figured in O.T. (Death’s Heads), is all the more poignant: in this work the artist looks subjectively back while looking objectively forward.

Defying expectations surrounding the character of work female artists of her generation were expected to produce, Trockel created her first wool-painting in 1984. Thinking back to this moment she explained: “In the 70s there were a lot of questionable women’s exhibitions, mostly on the theme of house and home. I tried to take wool, which was viewed as a woman’s material, out of this context and rework it in a neutral process of production” (Rosemarie Trockel in conversation with Isabelle Graw in: Artforum, March 2003, online). In a subversive material transfiguration, Trockel redefined the conventional use of wool for knitting, a pastime traditionally aligned with female craft. Stretching tactile, thick woollen works onto frames like conventional canvases, Trockel dared to align this ‘lesser’ practice with the revered process of high-art painting. Designed on a computer, these machine-generated ‘knitted paintings’ combine the seemingly disparate domains of craft, fine art, and industrial production. Thus, to quote Sidra Stich, “they are works that evoke the feminine but refute the usual ‘female’ detachment from ‘male’ modes of creativity and productivity” (Sidra Stich in: Exh. Cat., Boston, Institute of Contemporary Art (and travelling), op. cit., p. 12). Heralding the value of her process without suggesting a hierarchical supremacy, Trockel promotes the coexistence of contradictory artistic pursuits whilst highlighting the historical subordination of women.