Lot 155
  • 155

ANTONI TÀPIES | Dots Between Brackets

120,000 - 180,000 GBP
bidding is closed


  • Antoni Tàpies
  • Dots Between Brackets
  • marble dust and cement on canvas laid down on board
  • 117 by 73 cm. 46 by 28 3/4 in.
  • Executed in 1960.


Martha Jackson Gallery, New York
Private Collection, Breganzona
Norman Granz, New York
Artefina, Milan
Private Collection, Switzerland (acquired from the above circa 1985)
Sotheby's, London, 9 February 2006, Lot 48
Private Collection, France
Galerie Lelong, Paris
Acquired from the above by the present owner


New York, Martha Jackson Gallery; Washington, D.C., Gres Gallery; and Toronto, Moos Gallery, Tàpies, 1961, n.p., (text)
New York, The Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, Antoni Tàpies, March - April 1962, n.p., (text)
Caracas, Museo de Bellas Artes; Phoenix, Phoenix Art Center; and Pasadena, Pasadena Art Museum, Antoni Tàpies, 1962-1963


Blai Bonet, Tàpies, Barcelona 1964, p. 96, illustrated
Anna Agustí, Tàpies, The Complete Works Volume 1: 1943-1960, Barcelona 1988, p. 438, no. 835, illustrated


Colour: The colours in the catalogue illustration are fairly accurate, although the overall tonality is slightly cooler in the original. Condition: This work is in good condition. Close inspection reveals some fine cracks in places which are in keeping with artist's working process and choice of medium. Extremely close inspection reveals some tiny specks of loss in isolated places along all four extreme edges. Inspection under ultra violet light reveals a pattern of retouching following an impact crack towards the centre of the composition. There is also some further restoration between the brackets and in isolated places towards the upper edge.
"In response to your inquiry, we are pleased to provide you with a general report of the condition of the property described above. Since we are not professional conservators or restorers, we urge you to consult with a restorer or conservator of your choice who will be better able to provide a detailed, professional report. Prospective buyers should inspect each lot to satisfy themselves as to condition and must understand that any statement made by Sotheby's is merely a subjective, qualified opinion. Prospective buyers should also refer to any Important Notices regarding this sale, which are printed in the Sale Catalogue.

Catalogue Note

Elegant and nuanced, Dots Between Brackets is an exquisite example of Antoni Tàpies’ mature work. Executed in 1960, the present work is a true testament to the artist’s virtuosity in the use of the simplest materials, such as marble dust and cement, elevating them to the realm of artistic objects. The artist had begun to experiment with these unconventional materials in the early 50s, in a move that marked a clear but natural progression from a symbolic and surrealist phase to taking an interest in the marks he was making on the picture plane and progressively focusing on the materials themselves. Tàpies’ was finally able to liberate himself from the image in order to explore matter and texture and create the extraordinary language that is now so synonymous with his oeuvre. Dots Between Brackets perfectly encapsulates the artist’s dexterity and brilliance; a seemingly simple grey surface invites the viewer to contemplate each detail, every crevice and soft tonal variation; it is the perfect summation of simplicity, Shortly after the present work was executed it was prestigiously selected to be exhibited at the artist’s first retrospective in America at the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum in New York. The show, comprised of 66 works from the 40s, 50s and 60s catapulted Tàpies’ to international recognition and critical acclaim, establishing him as one of the most interesting artists of his generation. In the exhibition catalogue, Lawrence Alloway described how “Tàpies’ works do not so much represent objects as resemble areas, places like city walls, the earth’s crust, raked sand gardens in Zen Buddhist temples, archeological sites. Thus the literalness of the medium, more characteristic of sculpture than of strictly defined painting, which takes Matter Painting toward relief sculpture, is at the heart of Tapies’ imagery” (Lawrence Alloway, Exh. Cat., New York, The Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, Antoni Tàpies, March – April 1962, n.p.), which indeed is a fitting description for Dots Between Brackets. Early in his career the artist had taken an interest in Zen philosophy, the principles of which allowed him to appreciate and use his materials in new, revolutionary ways throughout his life.

Furthermore Dots Between Brackets is a compelling example of Antoni Tàpies’ interest in language and its use in art. A quiet man by nature, one of the artist’s most vivid memories was that of a teacher shouting “You do not know how to speak” at him when he was only 13 years old (Roland Penrose, Tàpies, London 1978, p. 16). The insult, however, led the artist to wonder if there was indeed a better way to express himself other than the spoken word, and this was the moment when Tàpies’ turned to art and embraced it as his platform. In the present work a parentheses sits at the bottom of the composition. Between the brackets three incisions mark a pause, allowing the viewer to examine the work. The rough surface reveals delicate gradations in the grey, each rift and fissure elegantly filling the space between the marks left on the surface by the artist’s hand. As aptly described by James Russell, his work seems "to have been not so much painted as excavated from an idiosyncratic compound of mud, sand, earth, dried blood and powdered minerals" (James Russell, cited in William Grimes, ‘Antoni Tàpies, Spanish Abstract Painter, Dies at 88,’ The New York Times, 6 February 2012).