Lot 169
  • 169


70,000 - 100,000 GBP
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  • Günther Förg
  • Ohne Titel
  • each: signed, dated 88 and lettered H on the reverse
  • spackle and acrylic on wood panel, in artist's frame, in four parts
  • each: 70 by 55 cm. 27 1/2 by 21 5/8 in.


Galerie Max Hetzler, Berlin
Acquired from the above by the present owner in 1989


Colour: The colours in the catalogue illustration are fairly accurate, although the overall tonality is slightly lighter and brighter in the original. Condition: This work is in very good condition. Close inspection reveals a fine pattern of drying craquelure, which has been stabilised, and some spots of associated lifting and losses to the areas of thick impasto. Some of these minor specks of loss have been re-adhered. No restoration is apparent under ultra violet light.
"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

Executed in 1988, Ohne Titel and Veronese Green exemplify Günther Förg’s unyielding quest to construct his own artistic realm, independent from the legacies of Abstract Expressionism and Minimalism. From humble beginnings, Förg rose through the ranks of the art world, creating series of paintings, photographs, installations and sculptures to convey a unique vision that is deeply connected to the urban landscape of late industrial society. Förg was employed as a house painter when he began to make art in 1973. For his first work, Ohne Titel, the artist rubbed anthracite paint onto a black ground with a sponge; the painting could be read as a refutation of the domineering impact of the New-York School on abstract art. In contrast to the monumental canvases favoured by American Abstract Expressionists, Förg preferred to paint on panels of wood and lead, thereby emphasising the materiality of the artwork’s medium. Drawing inspiration from Frank Stella and Blinky Palermo, Förg posited painting as one form of expression among many, rather than the window into spirituality promised by Mark Rothko's and Barnett Newman’s colour fields. In his envisioning of painting’s continued development after Abstract Expressionism, Förg has much in common with Gerhard Richter, who sought to eliminate the artist’s hand through his use of the squeegee. The two present works, early in the artist's career, share a muted palette and introspective atmosphere with Richter’s Grey Paintings from the same period.

Despite Förg’s desire to avoid artistic handwriting in his paintings, his oeuvre is undeniably an autobiography of his experiences in urban Germany. As writer Cees Nooteboom explains: “Artists are flâneurs, even if they do not write. They are responsible for the preservation of memory, they are the observers of disappearance, they are the first to herald disaster, they do not miss even the smallest detail, they belong to the city and the city could not be imagined without them. They are the city’s eyes, recorders, chroniclers, judges and archives. It is in the flâneur that the city can seek and find its self awareness” (Cees Nooteboom cited in: Exh. Cat., Hannover, Kunstverein Hanover, Günther Förg, 1995, p. 123). Förg’s painting series bear resemblance to the wall panels of architecture and structures inhabiting the city: some under construction and yet to be painted, others weathered and awaiting deinstallation. Recalling his early days as a housepainter, the vertical white streaks in Ohne Titel bear are reminiscent of incomplete paint jobs on construction sites, left to be finished at some undisclosed point in the future.

The seriality of Förg’s painting evokes the experience of living in a world of factory-line mass production and enforced uniformity, where everyone lived and worked in near-identical cube-like apartments. These blocks, their balconies lined up along a building’s façade like squares on a Minimalist painting, are captured in Förg’s soulful black-and-white photographs. Together, his photography, sculpture and painting form a miniature cityscape, serving as a flâneur’s memento to this bygone era.

We thank Mr. Michael Neff from the Estate of Günther Förg for the information he has kindly provided on this work.