Lot 14
  • 14

ERIC FISCHL | The Tire Store

270,000 - 350,000 GBP
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  • Eric Fischl
  • The Tire Store
  • signed, titled and dated 1989 on the reverse
  • oil on linen
  • 277 by 191.1 cm. 109 by 75 1/4 in.


Mary Boone Gallery, New York (acquired directly from the artist)
Acquired from the above by the present owner in 1999


New York, Mary Boone Gallery, Eric Fischl, November - December 1990, p. 9, illustrated in colour Munich, Staatsgalerie Moderner Kunst, Sieben amerikanische Maler, April - June 1991, p. 53, no. 16, illustrated in colour

New York, Brooklyn Museum of Art, A Family Album: Brooklyn Collects, March - July 2001

Wolfsburg, Kunstmuseum Wolfsburg, Eric Fischl: Paintings and Drawings 1979-2001, September 2003 - January 2004, p. 41, illustrated in colour


Michael Kimmelman, ‘Eric Fischl Mixes India’s Exotic and Mundane Sides’, The New York Times, 23 November 1990, p. 4, illustrated G. Roger Denson, ‘Eric Fischl’, Flash Art, March 1991, p. 132, illustrated in colour

Holland Cotter, ‘Postmodern Tourist’, Art in America, April 1991, p. 156, illustrated in colour

Pilar Viladas, ‘Posh Spice’, The New York Times, 29 October 2000, p. 82, illustrated in colour

Arthur C. Danto, Robert Enright and Steve Martin, Eric Fischl: 1970-2007, New York 2008, p. 199, illustrated in colour


Colour: The colour in the catalogue illustration is fairly accurate, although the overall tonality is warmer and richer with stronger red undertones in the original. Condition: Please refer to the department for a professional 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

Rendered in ferric hues and a naturalistic style that is at odds with the uncanny nature of the scene, Eric Fischl’s The Tire Store is a monumental work by one of the most talented contributors to the revival of figurative painting in 1980s New York. Known as a chronicler of the voyeuristic alienation of contemporary middle-class life in America, Fischl embarked in 1989 upon his India series after spending time there that same year. Refusing to exoticise, Fischl created works inspired by his impression of the country – these are works replete with mystery that harbour tantalising, partly-exposed narratives that the viewer is left to unfurl themselves. In The Tire Store, two men appear stand in the forecourt of what we assume to be the titular store; they are rendered in a light that suggests either early morning or late afternoon as their bodies cast deep, dark shadows across the auburn foreground. At centre right, a young man looks leftwards, while another man, dressed in white with his weight predominantly on one foot, echoing the classical contrapposto, stares out mutely towards the viewer. The visual punctum of the image derives from this man’s right hand, which holds a chain that leads to a monkey captured mid-movement on one foot. The viewer’s delayed awareness of this figure imparts one of the most distinctive qualities of dreams: the realisation of something obvious, and yet hitherto overlooked. As described by New York Times columnist Michael Kimmelman in 1990: “What might have been nothing more than a scene of two young men standing in a tire store acquires strangeness by the presence of a monkey (or it is a statue of a monkey?) on a leash. Mr. Fischl seems to have struggled to find familiar ground in India, only to be confronted time and again with the inexplicable, and to have concluded that, for an outsider, India remains a place of bizarre juxtapositions and odd transitions” (Michael Kimmelman, ‘Eric Fischl Mixes India’s Exotic and Mundane Sides’, The New York Times, 23 November 1990, p. 4). The absence of any explanation of the monkey’s presence, or indeed of the relationship between the two characters, consolidates the picture’s status as a dream: we find ourselves, as viewers, privy to something we simply do not know how to explain. Well documented and widely exhibited – at Mary Boone Gallery, New York in 1990; the Brooklyn Museum of Art in 2001; and the Kunstmuseum, Wolfsburg in 2003 – this painting is a standout example of the artist’s melding of traditional figuration with an uncanny glimpse into the strangeness of contemporary life.

Born in New York in 1948, Fischl graduated from the California Institute of Arts – also attended by his friend and peer David Salle – in 1972. Teaching at Nova Scotia College of Art and Design in Halifax from 1974-78, Fischl’s first solo exhibition took place at the Dalhousie Gallery in Nova Scotia in 1975 and was curated by Bruce W. Ferguson. It was in 1980s New York, however, where Fischl moved in 1978, that the artist acquired his reputation for producing large-scale scenes of middle-class suburban life into which the viewer, in spite of themselves, is transported as an unseen voyeur. The pictures thus possess a thrilling, illicit nature; as though we are witness to something ordinarily off limits. The powerful undercurrent of sexuality that pervades much of Fischl’s painting serves as an extended metaphor for the sinister machinations behind much of the American dream. While Fischl’s work has debts – undoubtedly to filmmakers David Lynch, Alfred Hitchcock and Edward Hopper – his is a remarkably original strain of figurative art. Indeed, Fischl’s descriptions of his own suburban childhood recall the famous cherry trees of Lynch’s: “The dysfunction behind freshly painted doors across perfectly manicured lawns mocked my feelings of chaos beneath… Would everything be OK? Was I safe? I looked hard for clues… I paid close attention to body language – to gesture. Tensions held in the body are disclosed through shifting weight, turning, twisting. I see a lot and I try to capture it in paint” (Eric Fischl in conversation with Amy Abrams, ‘The View from Sag Harbor: Q+A with Eric Fischl’, Art in America, 2012, online).