Lot 1087
  • 1087


16,500,000 - 22,000,000 HKD
19,920,000 HKD
bidding is closed


  • Rudolf Stingel
  • Untitled
  • oil and enamel on canvas
  • 300 by 242 cm; 118⅛ by 95¼ in.
signed and dated 2012 on the reverse


Massimo de Carlo Gallery, Milan
Acquired by the present owner from the above

Catalogue Note

Abstracting Opulence
Rudolf Stingel

Mr. Stingel is among the great anti-painting painters of our age, a descendent of Warhol but much more involved with painting’s conventions and processes, which he alternately spurns, embraces, parodies or exaggerates. His art asks what are paintings, who makes them, and how? – Roberta Smith

Articulated in shimmering silvery relief, evincing an ethereal spectral trace of an elegant Orientalist rug, Untitled is a regal and deeply alluring example of Rudolf Stingel’s iconic and highly coveted series of silver carpet paintings. Executed in 2012, the year just prior to Stingel’s critically lauded 2013 retrospective at the Palazzo Grassi in Venice, the present work was created at the mature heights of the esteemed artist’s career. Elegiac and incandescently luminous, the monumental piece does not shy away from paradox. It is precise in its execution yet inexact in its rendering; it represents something banal, the repetition of a carpet found on a prosaic piece of carpet, but does so in brilliant silver; it celebrates both superfluous ornamentation and a strict sense of geometrically guided repletion built through industrialized processes. Deftly balancing the complex relationship between the intricate craftsmanship of the Art Nouveau and the readymade repeatability of a stencil, Untitled situates subliminally between decadence and restraint, referring on the one hand to the decorative styles of the Italian Baroque and French Rococo and to his overarching concerns regarding the fusion of pictorial and architectural space and the industrialization of ornamentation and beauty.

Stingel has long been fascinated by the conceptual and painterly potential of carpet. It first appeared in his oeuvre in the form of a bright orange rug installed on the floor in his show at the Daniel Newburg Gallery, New York, in 1991, and on the wall in the 1993 Venice Biennale as part of the Aperto ’93 exhibit. Since then this conceptual engagement has developed into all-consuming installations in the Vanderbilt Hall of Grand Central Station in 2004 and the Neue Nationalgalerie in Berlin in 2010, for which he blanketed the entire floor of these locations in highly patterned carpet. In alignment with Stingel’s approach to painting (works are frequently walked upon without hesitation), these installations encouraged the viewer to touch and trample over their surfaces, thus initiating an element of destructive participation that bears the footprint of time’s passage. Most recently, Stingel’s highly acclaimed 2013 retrospective in Venice imparted the very apogee of this intriguing dialogue, consuming the floor, wall, and ceiling of the palazzo’s grand rooms with an image of a threadbare Persian rug printed onto an enormous roll of carpet. The effect was psychologically intense yet meditative, the all-consuming faded red of the carpet engendering a womb-like space that simultaneously closed in on and yet dwarfed the viewer, even initiating a regressive state in the number of visitors who chose to sprawl across the floor in the quieter areas of the show.

At the core of Stingel’s acclaimed carpet installations are his carpet paintings on canvas, which themselves anchor the artist’s rigorous engagement with the artifice of glamour on a more intimate scale. Ever since the rise of the Serenissima and the influence of foreign embassies in Venice, the Orientialist rug has amassed a rich history across the story of Western art; from being featured as a backdrop in early Renaissance panels through to Vermeer and Matisse, the carpet has recurred as a painterly device to both define and destabilize notions of space and structure within the image. Stingel harnesses this canonical art historical trope and pushes the limit even further: not only has he incorporated textile into his painterly method and made carpet the subject of his paintings, he has also invited carpet itself into the painterly realm. Created via his signature technique of applying paint through a fine and detailed stencil, Untitled extends Stingel’s pioneering industrialized process first codified by his canonical Instructions (1989) by providing an imprint or trace of a predetermined referent, namely the decorative art found in his native Tyrol and Vienna.

The resulting works give the impression of embroidery and depth, seducing viewers with ornate surfaces created through readymade opulence. Crucially, Stingel conceptually outsources authorship via a Warholian DIY approach to a visual mode that also evokes the extravagance of Rococo, Baroque, and Belle Époque designs, which were once harnessed to create luxurious damask wallpapers, carpets, and iron window guards with cut velvet floral forms. With the advent of the Industrial Revolution in the Nineteenth Century and the development of sophisticated production technologies, what was once the product of multiple skilled artisans working arduously for months became a day’s work for a single machine. Stripped of the saturated color and pattern intrinsic to Oriental rugs, these paintings are ghostlike renditions that invoke the realm of memory and nostalgia. As redolent within the golden skeins and threadbare grandeur of the present work, Stingel presents Orientalist magnificence that is tatty, worn, and old; stained and scratched, this delicate image bore the brunt of the artist’s aggressive working process. The trace of human presence, both the artist’s own and those captured on the surface of the original rug itself, is marked in the phantom mirage of a former opulence.