Lot 173
  • 173

JOHN CHAMBERLAIN | Pollo Primavera

400,000 - 600,000 GBP
Log in to view results
bidding is closed


  • John Chamberlain
  • Pollo Primavera
  • painted and chromium-plated steel
  • 114.5 by 142.5 by 94 cm. 45 by 56 by 37 in.
  • Executed in 1982.


David Budd, New York (acquired directly from the artist)
Christie's, New York, 5 October 1990, Lot 74
Private Collection
Margo Leavin Gallery, Los Angeles
Acquired from the above by the present owner 


New York, Xavier Fourcade, Inc., John Chamberlain: New Sculpture, February - March 1984
Beirut, Aïshti Foundation, Good dreams, Bad dreams: American mythologies, October 2016 - September 2017, p. 102, illustrated in colour


Julie Sylvester, John Chamberlain: A Catalogue Raisonné of the Sculpture 1954-1985, New York 1986, no. 697, pp. 190/91, illustrated in colour


Colour: The colours in the catalogue illustration are fairly accurate, although the whites tend slightly more towards cream in the original. Condition This work is in very good condition. All surface irregularities, scuffs, scratches, spots of oxidation and nicks are in keeping with the artist's working process and use of found materials. No restoration is apparent when examined 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

The definition of sculpture for me is stance and attitude. All sculpture takes a stance. If it dances on one foot, or, even if it dances while sitting down, it has light-on-its-feet stance." John Chamberlain (Exh. Cat., New York, L&M Arts, Inc., John Chamberlain: Early Years, 2009, p. 73  

Fashioned entirely out of found and repurposed automobile parts, Pollo Primavera displays the genius of Chamberlain’s unique mode of artistic creation. Throughout his career the artist actively mined the latent symbolism of his chosen material - the mass-produced car parts that he relished for their formal potential also unmistakably connoted visions of progress, modernity and the American dream. Pollo Primavera’s volumetric presence achieves an expressive power that balances the heroic with the intimate, arresting contradictions between expansion and contraction in the multiplicity of its surface. 

The juxtaposition of curves and hard edges, solid metal facets and negative space, black and white, and worn surface coalesce in a single dynamic gestalt. These concavities and crevices reveal the very signature of Chamberlain’s artistic process, indicative of the creative ingenuity behind this innovative approach to mark making. Chamberlain’s manipulation of an industrial and non-traditional material into an active and kinetic force characterizes the very best of the artist’s output, including the present work. The artist himself explained how “I wasn’t interested in the car parts per se, I was interested in either the color or the shape or the amount. I didn’t want engine parts, I didn’t want wheels, upholstery, glass, oil, tires, rubber, lining, what somebody’d left in the car when they dumped it, dashboards, steering wheels, shafts, rear ends, muffler systems, transmissions, fly wheels, none of that. Just the sheet metal. It already had a coat of paint on it, and some of it was formed. You choose the material at a time when that’s the material you want to use, and then you develop your processes so that when you put things together it gives you a sense of satisfaction. It never occurred to me that sculptures shouldn’t be colored” (John Chamberlain cited in: Julie Sylvester, John Chamberlain: A Catalogue Raisonné of the Sculpture 1954-1985, New York 1986, p. 15).

It was in 1958 that Chamberlain first took the radical step of appropriating abandoned car parts. Finding an old Ford truck in the garage of a house his family was renting, the sculptor crushed the fenders with his own car then welded the remains together, forming a totally original creation. Inspired by the New York School and specifically, the free-form style of the Abstract Expressionists, Chamberlain introduced automobile metal and color and challenged prevailing ideas of sculpture as a solid mass. Indeed, the influence of contemporaries such as Willem de Kooning is palpable in the sensuous and rippled folds of the metal sheets in Pollo Primavera and the brilliant combination of inky charcoal and off-white is reminiscent of Franz Kline.

The abstract arrangement of Pollo Primavera identifies it with the very best of the artist’s free-standing sculpture. Across its rippled folds and through its elegant blend of black and white the present work perfectly synthesises Chamberlain’s visionary approach to art making, one that revolutionised sculpture for decades to come.