Details & Cataloguing

Contemporary Art Day Auction


Günther Förg
1952 - 2013
signed, dated 92 and numbered 17/92 on the reverse
acrylic on lead, laid down on panel
150 by 110 cm. 59 by 43 1/4 in.
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This work is recorded in the archive of Günther Förg as No. WVF.92.B.0005. We thank Mr. Michael Neff from the Estate of Günther Förg for the information he has kindly provided on this work.


Galerie Vera Munro, Hamburg
Acquired from the above by the present owner

Catalogue Note

Mesmerisingly beautiful yet rigorously conceptual, Untitled belongs to Günther Förg’s iconic series of Lead Paintings. Right from the beginnings as an artist in Munich in the 1970s Förg presented his work using a large number of different forms of expression, which brought him to lead in the early 1980s. Instead of using traditional canvas, which naturally absorbs paint, Foerg used hard aluminium and lead panels to which he applied acrylic paint. He created a minimalist series, to which Untitled belongs, which have an interesting contrast between the harsh surface texture and the smooth monochrome coat of colour. The fact that many works from the series are held in important public collections such as the Museum of Modern Art, New York, is a testament to the calibre and art historical importance of these works. Masterfully investigating on the power and essence of colour, as well as our capacities of perception and understanding, the present work is the ultimate paradigm of Förg’s most intriguing artistic endeavours.

A refined degree of surface splendour emanates through an exhilaratingly varied topography in the present work. Symptomatic of Förg’s distinguished practice, the present work celebrates lead in all its unprimed glory. Recounting his decision to use lead, Förg remarked: “I like 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” (Günther Förg in conversation with David Ryan, in: David Ryan, Talking Painting: Dialogue with Twelve Contemporary Abstract Painters, London 2002, p. 77).

A crimson line powerfully scores the length of the canvas, decisively bisecting the composition, which is held in complete grey. Both colours are reminiscent of the artist’s early work and are constantly repeated within Förg’s oeuvre, indeed, grey was used by many of his contemporaries such as Gerhard Richter. Multiple influences are discerning in Förg’s artistic production; from the geometry of Piet Mondrian and Robert Ryman to the materiality of Frank Stella and Richard Serra. Förg’s affiliation with colour and composition closely references the revolutionary work of Abstract Expressionists Mark Rothko and Barnett Newman; those who produced large canvases with a metaphysical and spiritual quality. Contrastingly, in transcending the parameters of painting and sculpture, Förg divorces himself from the auratic and the sublime, manufacturing an entire series devoid of painterly finesse. The swift, fluent paintings of Günther Förg are manifestations of a pure concept, which employ very particular strategies. They are neither concerned with method nor with the committed, single-minded defence of style. This attitude gives the paintings a delightful lightness which, in the context of the history of abstract art, makes them curiously controversial.

The artist works with quick, hasty brushstrokes and works against any gestural imitation. “The objective is not so much to merely apply a coat of paint but rather to avoid an artistic handwriting in the sense of artistic mannerism”, says Förg (Günther Förg cited in: Exh. Cat. Berlin, Galerie Max Hetzler, Günther Förg, 2004, p. 52). The lead painting’s beauty lies within their surfaces, whose velvety materiality always seem more than two-dimensional.

Contemporary Art Day Auction