Details & Cataloguing

Contemporary Art Evening Auction


Günther Förg
1952 - 2013
signed, dated 89 and numbered 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 and 6 respectively on the reverse
acrylic on lead on wood, in six parts
each: 60.2 by 60.2 cm. 23 3/4 by 23 3/4 in.
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This work is recorded in the archive of Günther Förg as No. WVF.89.B.0450. We thank Mr. Michael Neff from the Estate of Günther Förg for the information he has kindly provided on this work.


Galerie Michael Janssen, Cologne
Private Collection, Cologne
Acquired from the above by the present owner


London, Ben Brown Fine Arts, Aspects of German Art (Part Two): Max Beckmann, Günther Förg, Heinz Mack, Albert Oehlen, Sigmar Polke, Gerhard Richter, Günther Uecker, November 2017 - January 2018, p. 15, illustrated in colour

Catalogue Note

Executed in 1989 and belonging to Günther Förg’s series of Lead Paintings – works that were created throughout the late 1980s and early 1990s – the present work displays a regiment of six chromatic panels aligned in formation; identical wooden structures wrapped in sheets of unprimed lead and painted with pure unadulterated pigment. Where oxidisation meets acrylic, the natural colour of the metallic strata becomes integral to the composition. Creating a wholly homogeneous surface, the coarse materiality is juxtaposed with an array of luscious painterly gestures. Despite the immensity of the lead and its unyielding, impermeable quality, Förg achieved a transcendent weightlessness that is profoundly hypnotic. Recounting his decision to use lead, Förg remarked: “I like very much the qualities of lead – the surface, the heaviness. Some of the paintings were completely painted, and you only experience the lead at the edges; this gives the painting a very heavy feeling – it gives the colour a different density and weight. In other works the materials would be explicitly visible as grounds. I like to react on things, with the normal canvas you have to kill the ground, give it something to react against. With the metals you already have something – its scratches, scrapes…” (Günther Förg in conversation with David Ryan, in: David Ryan, Talking Painting: Dialogue with Twelve Contemporary Abstract Painters, London 2002, p. 77).

Parallel bands of crimson dominate each composition, simultaneously unifying and punctuating quadrangles of black, charcoal grey, navy and off-white. Displaying an inherently formalist preoccupation with construction and seriality, Förg’s creative output is entrenched in the history of Modernism. The jet-black field recalls Suprematist El Lissitzky, while the void of white indicates an allegiance to Robert Ryman. Förg’s affiliation with colour and composition further builds upon the revolutionary legacy of Abstract Expressionist giants, Mark Rothko and Barnett Newman. However, while his predecessors produced immense canvases with a metaphysical and spiritual quality, Förg manufactured a body of work devoid of painterly finesse, neither auratic nor sublime. Much like the Minimalist and anti-spiritual sculptures of Donald Judd, Sol LeWitt and Carl Andre, Förg’s panels form a cohesive aesthetic whole and invoke a phenomenological contemplation of the work, the surrounding gallery space, and one’s own viewing experience. However, beyond austere objectivity, Förg’s Lead Paintings suggest an adversity to the sleek and mass produced aesthetic of the 1960s that is perhaps more aligned with the contemporaneous rejuvenation of expressive painting. Although privileging a hand-wrought materiality that chimes with the concerns of his German contemporaries, the Neue Wilden, Förg was nevertheless a staunch abstractionist. In his work, Förg combined a Modernist-inspired devotion to formalism with a materially imposing means of investigating the limitations of painting and sculpture.

Untitled testifies to the emphatic nature of Förg’s artistry and exemplifies his stylistic ingenuity. With comparable examples housed in The Museum of Modern Art, New York and the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, the seminal Lead Paintings are today lauded as extending the history of minimal abstraction in the later Twentieth Century.

Contemporary Art Evening Auction