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THE HISTORY OF NOW: THE COLLECTION OF DAVID TEIGER

Glenn Brown
SENILE YOUTH
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LOT SOLD. 1,215,000 GBP
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18

THE HISTORY OF NOW: THE COLLECTION OF DAVID TEIGER

Glenn Brown
SENILE YOUTH
Estimate
Irrevocable Bids
Lots with this symbol indicate that a party has provided Sotheby’s with an irrevocable bid on the lot that will be executed during the sale at a value that ensures that the lot will sell. The irrevocable bidder, who may bid in excess of the irrevocable bid, will be compensated based on the final hammer price in the event he or she is not the successful bidder or may receive a fixed fee in the event he or she is the successful bidder. If the irrevocable bidder is the successful bidder, the fixed fee (if applicable) for providing the irrevocable bid may be netted against the irrevocable bidder’s obligation to pay the full purchase price for the lot and the purchase price reported for the lot shall be net of such fixed fee. If the irrevocable bid is not secured until after the printing of the auction catalogue, a pre-lot announcement will be made indicating that there is an irrevocable bid on the lot. If the irrevocable bidder is advising anyone with respect to the lot, Sotheby’s requires the irrevocable bidder to disclose his or her financial interest in the lot. If an agent is advising you or bidding on your behalf with respect to a lot identified as being subject to an irrevocable bid, you should request that the agent disclose whether or not he or she has a financial interest in the lot.
UK: Greenford Park
Lots marked W will be sent to Greenford Park Fine Art Storage Facility immediately after the auction.
Artist's Resale Right
Purchase of lots marked with this symbol will be subject to the payment of the artist's resale right.
Double Dagger
Indicates that the lot is being sold whilst subject to Temporary Importation, and that VAT is due at the reduced rate
Guaranteed Property
Guaranteed Property. The seller of lots with this symbol has been guaranteed a minimum price from one auction or a series of auctions. If every lot in a catalogue is guaranteed, the Conditions of Sale will so state and this symbol will not be used for each lot.
700,000900,000
LOT SOLD. 1,215,000 GBP
JUMP TO LOT

Details & Cataloguing

Contemporary Art Evening Auction

|
London

Glenn Brown
B. 1966
SENILE YOUTH
signed, titled and dated 2007 on the reverse 
oil on panel
122 by 156 cm. 48 by 61 3/8 in.
Read Condition Report Read Condition Report

Provenance

Gagosian Gallery, New York (acquired from the artist)
Acquired from the above by David Teiger in 2007

Exhibited

New York, Gagosian Gallery, Glenn Brown, May - June 2007, n.p., illustrated in colour

Literature

Exh. Cat., London, Gagosian Gallery, Glenn Brown: Three Exhibitions, 2009, p. 93, illustrated in colour

Catalogue Note

“In all the arts there is a physical component which can no longer be considered or treated as it used to be, which cannot remain unaffected by our modern knowledge and power… We must expect great innovations to transform the entire technique of the arts, thereby affecting artistic invention itself and perhaps even bringing about an amazing change in our very notion of art.”

Paul Valéry, ‘The Conquest of Ubiquity’ (1928), Aesthetics, tr. Ralph Mannheim, New York 1964, p. 225.

Of all the countless artists who have engaged with the capacity of technology to affect artistic production since Paul Valéry’s famous 1928 essay, none have done so with the sensitivity, intelligence and innovation that characterise Glenn Brown’s work since the early 1990s. Rather than revelling in its glitches and shortcomings in the style of Wade Guyton or Wolfgang Tillmans, or fearing its damaging potential like Keith Haring or Joseph Beuys, Brown embraces the unique image-making capacity afforded to him by programs such as Photoshop. Starting with an image by a canonical artist Brown implements a metamorphosis of distortion and inversion. Colours are altered, formations cropped and stretched, compositions mirrored and flipped – the work is made to bend to the artist’s will. In so doing, Brown breathes new life into the works of often long-dead artists. In his words, “I am rather like Dr. Frankenstein, constructing paintings out of the residue or dead parts of other artist’s work” (Glenn Brown in conversation with Rochelle Steiner in: Exh. Cat., London, Serpentine Gallery, Glenn Brown, 2004, p. 95).

It is this process of invention that distinguishes Brown’s work from the American appropriation artists of the 1980s. The stitching together of works by multiple artists and the invention that follows the projection of the Photoshopped image onto the canvas, such as the addition of impasto brush marks where none had previously existed and the addition of bright highlights, together constitute forceful insertions of the artist’s hand into what would otherwise be an exercise in transposition (Michael Stubbs, ‘Glenn Brown: No Visible Means of Support’, in: Exh. Cat. Liverpool, Tate Liverpool, Glenn Brown, 2009, p. 103). Indeed, Brown himself has always been keen to dissociate himself from the movement, noting that the term “seems only to express a certain conceptual framework and obliterates any painterly or aesthetic understanding involved” (Glenn Brown cited in: Exh. Cat. New York, Gagosian Gallery, Glenn Brown: Three Exhibitions, 2009, p. 111). Although conceptually rigorous, there is a significant emphasis on technique and craft in Brown’s exacting practice, which sees the artist spend hours creating a precise, flattened simulacrum of an Expressionist ‘moment’ of inspiration.

Senile Youth epitomises the position of Brown’s work at the intersection of art and technology, appropriation and invention. Based on Jean-Honoré Fragonard’s painting Diana and Endymion (National Gallery, Washington D.C.) from the mid-Eighteenth Century, Brown presents us with a back-lit theatrical monstrosity that apes Fragonard’s painting; the peaches, pinks and blushing reds replaced by a deathly blue pallor punctuated by violent bursts of vermillion, smooth and limber flesh supplanted by veined and distended body parts. Indeed, even the underlying myth that Fragonard depicts, that of the beautiful Endymion put into an eternal slumber by Zeus so that the virginal Diana can descend nightly to plant an innocent kiss upon his cheek, is lampooned in Senile Youth, with the overtly sexual forms created by Brown in his studio undermining any notion of chastity. Further, the title of the work pokes fun at the Greek myth, that speaks of eternal youth through sleep, which Brown implies to be merely an outward appearance of youth which belies Endymion’s age-induced senility.

Just as importantly however is the position of Fragonard and the Rococo in general within modern art historical discourse. Unlike many of the masters with whom Glenn Brown battles, such as Rembrandt, Vincent van Gogh and Frank Auerbach, whose elevated position within the art historical canon by dint of their Expressionist brushstrokes Brown remains highly critical of, Fragonard has fallen out of favour. His compositions are saccharine; indeed, despite his brushstrokes, Fragonard could hardly be further from the prototypical Expressionist painter, whose every movement betrays the contents of his soul. The pictures are loaded with sentimentality opposed to reflecting the sentiment of the artist, who is simply a conduit for something eternal. In short, unlike his Dutch predecessor Rembrandt, Fragonard is defiantly not modern. However, this may be precisely the reason that his work appeals to Brown, who eschews fashion. Indeed, in his eyes even his technique flies in the face of the current vogue. In Brown’s words, “My desire to paint with dexterity is due to the fact that it is seen as bad taste. To use skill and craftsmanship is vulgar to the art establishment” (Ibid., p. 112).

Despite this dexterity, and despite our knowledge of the source material for the work, there is a degree of ambiguity and fluidity present in Senile Youth that denies us ease of interpretation. In the artist’s words, this formlessness can be “a subversive or degenerate tool. It implies that no single perception is correct… There is no perfect form, it is the slippage between forms that is important” (Glenn Brown in conversation with Laurence Sillars in: Exh. Cat. Tate Liverpool, op.cit., p. 144). The peculiar capacity of formlessness to effect this implication is pivotal. Brown’s art demands that the viewer acknowledge the liminal space that he creates. It is a space not only between forms but between media, between high minded art historical concept and bawdy sexual jokes. They are works that exist because of technology’s capacity to reproduce, and yet through Brown’s interventions deny it the pleasure of doing so. Relentlessly altering and updating Fragonard’s painting, Brown creates something entirely new. In his words, “Within a Fragonard painting… I feel as if the artist was less involved in getting an exact likeness and more intent on making an interesting picture… but by the time I have finished transforming and warping the image that person has disappeared almost completely - only a ghost remains” (Glenn Brown in conversation with Rochelle Steiner, in: op. cit., p. 99).

Contemporary Art Evening Auction

|
London