Lot 9
  • 9

Rudolf Stingel

1,800,000 - 2,500,000 USD
bidding is closed


  • Rudolf Stingel
  • Untitled (Bolego) 
  • signed and dated 2006 on the reverse
  • oil on canvas
  • 15 by 20 1/2 in. 38.1 by 52.1 cm.


Paula Cooper Gallery, New York
Acquired by the present owner from the above in 2006


Chicago, Museum of Contemporary Art, Rudolf Stingel, January - May 2007, p. 227, illustrated in color 


Cay Sophie Rabinowitz, "Portrait of the Artist as a Self-Portrait," Parkett 77, 2006, p. 108, illustrated in color (as Untitled (Birthday))
Francesco Bonami, Ed., Rudolf Stingel, Ostfildern, 2007, pp. 46, 52, and 53, illustrated in color (in installation at the Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago, 2007)
Exh. Cat., Los Angeles, The Museum of Contemporary Art, The Painting Factory: Abstraction after Warhol, 2012, p. 40, illustrated in color

Catalogue Note

Rudolf Stingel’s Untitled (Bolego) from 2006 is an exceptional example from one of the artist’s most iconic series of self-portraits in which Stingel challenges the traditional genres and constraints of painting and photography. As both an arena for profound self-reflection and an exercise through which Stingel negotiates the relationships between painting and photography, Untitled (Bolego) oscillates between the weighty art historical tradition of portraiture and the more contemporary photorealism, the figurative and the abstract, the celebratory and the melancholic. Like modern masters of self-portraiture before him such as Francis Bacon and Gerhard Richter, Rudolf Stingel looked to photographs as source material in executing this body of paintings, a technique that confronts the inherent failure of both mediums to represent reality. Here, Stingel creates a simulacrum that pulls in and out of abstraction and representation and forces the viewer to grapple with the nature and responsibility of both photography and painting. Testament to the significance of the present work, other examples from this suite of self-portraits reside in esteemed private and public collections, including the Museum of Contemporary Art in Chicago, Crystal Bridges Museum in Bentonville, and the Whitney Museum of American Art in New York. In this intimately-scaled portrait, Stingel demonstrates his dexterity as an artist by challenging the very medium of painting through painting itself. Deftly painted in muted shades of white, gray, and black, Untitled (Bolego) depicts Stingel during a critical moment in his career in 2005, when he began to incorporate portraiture into his lexicon as a way to address the emerging ruminations that accompanied his fiftieth birthday. From a quick glance, Stingel’s countenance reads as a photograph; it is only when the viewer approaches the work that the coherent whole dissolves into a rich network of individual staccato brushstrokes. This autobiographical work features the artist on his birthday, surrounded by the accoutrements of celebration: a cake lit with flickering candles, a martini loosely held in his right hand, and a cigarette smoldering in his left. Despite the festive props, Stingel projects an air of melancholy; his rugged face appears drawn in the ephemeral light of the glowing embers, the furrow of wrinkles on his forehead thrown into sharp relief, as he gazes unfocusedly downward. His left hand caresses his brow, a gesture perhaps of exhaustion or anxiety. The existentialist dread depicted here places Stingel in the company of a long line of artists who engaged the subject of self-portraiture as a means of facing their own mortality, including Albrecht Dürer, Vincent van Gogh, Edward Munch, and Andy Warhol. Of the birthday cake, Francesco Bonami writes: “The early silver paintings and the recent self-portraits are the two poles of the bipolar nature of the artist and the bipolar nature of painting, torn between the limitless sublime and the suffocating boundaries of the mundane…There is in Stingel’s birthday cake a distinct feeling of a falling empire or the atmosphere of Samuel Beckett’s Krapp’s Last Tape, 1959, with even the edge of Harold Pinter’s recent interpretation of the play, the final act. There is in this simple cheesy image of a man celebrating himself, probably alone, the weight of art history, the weight of generations of painters asking the same question and never finding the right answer, the responsibility to be in charge of Painting, maybe for the last time, maybe and more tragically, forever.” (Francesco Bonami, Exh. Cat., Chicago, Museum of Contemporary Art and travelling, Rudolf Stingel, 2007, p. 20)

Stingel destabilizes the authenticity inherent to the tradition of self-portraiture, detaching this raw and emotional image from its original photographic source material. The present work is based upon a a photograph taken by the artist’s friend, Roland Bolego, who orchestrated a series of carefully captured photographs of the artist. Repeated and reworked meticulously in oil paint, the painting removes the viewer one step further away from Bolego's original picture. In its reappropriated state, Untitled (Bolego) – named after Stingel’s friend – beautifully epitomizes the postmodern discourse of self-consciousness and philosophical tensions between pictures and pictures of pictures inherent to the very best works of this generation.