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PROPERTY FROM A PRIVATE COLLECTION, USA

Ellsworth Kelly
BLACK PANEL WITH CURVE
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.
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.
1,600,0002,200,000
LOT SOLD. 1,990,000 GBP
JUMP TO LOT
34

PROPERTY FROM A PRIVATE COLLECTION, USA

Ellsworth Kelly
BLACK PANEL WITH CURVE
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.
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.
1,600,0002,200,000
LOT SOLD. 1,990,000 GBP
JUMP TO LOT

Details & Cataloguing

Contemporary Art Evening Auction

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London

Ellsworth Kelly
1923 - 2015
BLACK PANEL WITH CURVE
signed, titled, dated 1999 and numbered EK#890 on the overlap; signed, titled, dated 1999 and numbered EK#890 on the backing board
oil on canvas
178 by 170 cm. 70 1/8 by 67 in.
Read Condition Report Read Condition Report

Provenance

Matthew Marks Gallery, New York
Acquired from the above by the present owner in 2003

Exhibited

New York, Matthew Marks Gallery, Ellsworth Kelly: Recent Painting and Sculpture, May - June 2003, p. 39, no. 5, illustrated in colour

Catalogue Note

A masterful fusion of sculpture and painting, Ellsworth Kelly’s monumental Black Panel with Curve is a superb example of the artist’s iconic shaped canvas paintings. Drawing on works by modern masters such as Kasimir Malevich, Henri Matisse and Jean Arp, Kelly created a visual lexicon that has come to define his work. The perfection of the canvas’ surface combined with the precision and inflexibility of the edges leads the viewer to infer an almost industrial quality to the work, however the unconventional form and angular balance subverts this impression of regularity and mechanisation. A flat monochromatic shape, the present work articulates a single field of colour which in turn becomes form, defying the traditionally representational role of pigment. Unbound by the constraints posed by objective representation, Kelly’s work unifies figure and ground into one entity – a single shape wedded to a monochromatic field. As Gottfried Boehm noted: "The decisive point in Kelly's development was reached when he abandoned the traditional dynamic of painting's organization, when form emancipated itself from its customary support, the ground, so that it could from then on lead an independent existence in the visual world" (Gottfried Boehm, ‘In-Between Spaces’, in: Exh. Cat., Riehen/Basel, Fondation Beyeler, Ellsworth Kelly, 2002, p. 33).

Ostensibly recognisable in its geometric simplicity, Kelly’s shaped canvas does not in fact adhere to any standard forms. Neither circle nor square, Black Panel with Curve teeters on the brink of identification as a regular shape while evading categorisation altogether, combining sharp angles and hard lines with the elegant curve of its upper edge. Conflating painting, sculpture and relief, Kelly saw his shaped canvases as a vivid and graphically stimulating reference to his viewers’ immediate and unmediated visual experience of the physical world. However, all experience, whether physical or spiritual, is certainly mediated by the context in which it is presented, and thus becomes subjective. The experience thus cannot be entirely elevated above physical and terrestrial concerns. Indeed, when Kelly's geometric abstractions were first exhibited in 1959, they were already perceived as having “hard, crisp edges [that] commanded the eye to feel them as the hand would feel soft flesh” and were thus immediately associated with humanity and its corporeal presence (E. C. Goosen in: Exh. Cat., New York, The Museum of Modern Art, Sixteen Americans, 1959, p. 31). This apparent worldly basis is unsurprising, given the works are anchored in precise sources of naturally occurring abstraction: the light streaming through a mullioned window, the silhouette of a bird’s wing against the sky, the shape of a leaf folded over onto itself. These points of reference – so skilfully and austerely stripped down to their most fundamental components – ground Kelly’s art in a physical space, while simultaneously revealing a post-war preoccupation with alternate methods of representation and the viewer’s perception of the final product, and indeed prefiguring Andy Warhol’s manipulation of photographs of shadows to create his pivotal Shadow abstracts in the late 1970s. As Simon Schama has explained, Kelly’s works are born from “perceptual serendipity – in a shadow, a reflection, a partly obscured object or shape – from which he then shears away a visual fragment” (Simon Schama cited in: Rachel Cooke, ‘Ellsworth Kelly: ‘I want to live another 15 years’, The Guardian, November 8 2015, online).

By utilising such a blunt and sophisticated economy of means, the artist has addressed the nature of the painted canvas as a structured object, not a field of painterly gesture, with a singular impactful colour entirely shifting our perceptions of space. With his self-imposed minimal artistic vocabulary, Kelly has succeeded in experimenting with perception without diluting what he considered to be the fundamental factors of artistic representation – colour and form. In a 1964 interview with Henry Geldzahler, the artist stated: "I'm interested in the mass and color, the black and white – the edges happen because the forms get as quiet as they can be" (Ellsworth Kelly, cited in: Exh. Cat., New York, The Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, Ellsworth Kelly: A Retrospective, 1996, p. 11).

Kelly’s trajectory and evolution as an artist transcends the traditional ideas of categorisation. Throughout his career, he has been linked with a variety of twentieth-century art movements including Hard Edge painting, Op art and most often, Minimalism. Although his work certainly shares some of the same artistic tendencies as other examples of Minimalism, such as the reductive form and distilled colour seen here, Kelly’s process has always been an entirely introspective and contemplative one. This singular mentality has enabled him to continue to pursue and investigate many of the same aesthetic and thematic issues, which have captivated him since he first enrolled at the School of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston in 1946 upon returning from service in Europe during World War II. Following two years of study in Boston, Kelly decided to move to Paris where he was able to fully immerse himself in the work of many of the early innovators of twentieth-century Modernism such as Malevich, Piet Mondrian, and Jean Arp, whose work would play a pivotal role in the artist’s development. In addition to this pantheon of early Modernists, Kelly was able to more fully investigate the architectural details around him in a manner that is hard to understate. In France he was also exposed to Byzantine mosaics and Cycladic art – in looking at the art of the past he was able to perfect his own architectural organisation of forms. The immediacy and anonymity of this art would leave a lasting impression on the artist as he wrote to John Cage in the autumn of 1950: “I am not interested in painting as it has been accepted for so long – to hang on walls of houses as pictures. To hell with pictures… We must make our art like the Egyptians, the Chinese and the African and the Island primitives… It should meet the eye – direct” (Ibid.)

Black Panel with Curve succeeds in prompting the viewer to question the very nature of what painting is or can be. The culmination of a hugely important series of works whose influence extends from the contemporary sculpture of Richard Serra to iconic pieces by artists such as Robert Morris and Frank Stella, Kelly’s legacy is one of liberation: liberating painting from the limitations of a frame; liberating the picture plane; liberating the viewer by engaging him in a more participatory experience. Surrounded by action painters, colour-field painters, Minimalists and Pop artists, Kelly forged a visual vocabulary and oeuvre that was entirely his own. Defining space without dominating it, the present work creates its own reality, one that resounds with the extraordinary profundity of his practice.

Contemporary Art Evening Auction

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London