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PROPERTY FROM A PRIVATE DISTINGUISHED COLLECTION

Roy Lichtenstein
VICKI! I -- I THOUGHT I HEARD YOUR VOICE
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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.
5,000,0007,000,000
LOT SOLD. 5,811,550 GBP
JUMP TO LOT
41

PROPERTY FROM A PRIVATE DISTINGUISHED COLLECTION

Roy Lichtenstein
VICKI! I -- I THOUGHT I HEARD YOUR VOICE
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.
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.
5,000,0007,000,000
LOT SOLD. 5,811,550 GBP
JUMP TO LOT

Details & Cataloguing

Contemporary Art Evening Auction

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London

Roy Lichtenstein
1923 - 1997
VICKI! I -- I THOUGHT I HEARD YOUR VOICE
signed, dated 1964 and numbered 4/8 on the reverse
porcelain enamel on steel
106.7 by 106.7 cm. 42 by 42 in.
This work is number 4 from an edition of 8, plus 2 artist's proofs.
Read Condition Report Read Condition Report

Provenance

Private Collection
Gunter Sachs, Switzerland (acquired from the above in 1969)
The Estate of Gunter Sachs, Switzerland (by descent from the above)
Private Collection, Europe 
Sotheby's, New York, 11 November 2015, Lot 21 (consigned by the above) 
Acquired from the above by the present owner 

Exhibited

Basel, Galerie Beyeler, Roy Lichtenstein, June - September 1973, no. 5, illustrated in colour (edition no. unknown)
Hamburg, Museum für Kunst und Gewerbe, Gunter Sachs - Große: von Kunst, Kult und Charisma, August - September 2003 (the present work)
Leipzig, Museum der Bildenden Künste, Gunter Sachs: Die Kunst ist Weiblich, March - June 2008, p. 56, illustrated in colour (the present work)
New York, Gagosian Gallery, Lichtenstein: Girls, May - June 2008, p. 59, illustrated in colour (edition no. unknown)
Moscow, Museum Tsaritsyno, Gunter Sachs, March - June 2009 (the present work)
Munich, Museum Villa Stuck; and Schweinfurt, Kunsthalle Schweinfurt, Die Sammlung Gunter Sachs, October 2012 - March 2014, no. 89, illustrated in colour (the present work)

Literature

Robert Rosenblum, 'Pop and Non-Pop: An Essay in Distinction', Canadian Art 23, January 1966, No. 1, p. 53, illustrated (edition no. unknown)
Alberto Boatto and Giordano Falzoni, 'Lichtenstein', Fantazaria, Vol. 1, No. 2, July/August 1966, p. 75, illustrated (edition no. unknown) 
Exh. Cat., Hanover, Kestner-Gesellschaft Hannover, Roy Lichtenstein, April - May 1968, p. 86, illustrated (edition no. unknown)
Phyllis Tuchman, 'American Art in Germany: The History of Phenomenon', Artforum, Vol. 9, No. 3, November 1970, p. 63, illustrated (edition no. unknown)
Diane Waldman, Roy Lichtenstein, New York 1971, p. 113, illustrated (edition no. unknown)
Yusuke Nakahara, 'Man-Made Nature', Art Now, Vol. 5, 1971, p. 119, illustrated (edition no. unknown)
Michael Lobel, Image Duplicator: Roy Lichtenstein and the Emergence of Pop Art, New Haven and London 2002, p. 134, illustrated in color and pp. 132, 133, 136, 138, 139, 154 and 156 (text) (edition no. unknown)
Exh. Cat., Cologne, Kunsthaus Bregenz, Roy Lichtenstein: Classic of the New, 2005, p. 103, illustrated in color (edition no. unknown)

Catalogue Note

“I was very excited about, and interested in, the highly emotional content yet detached, impersonal handling of love, hate, war, etc., in those cartoon images.”

Roy Lichtenstein in conversation with John Coplans in: Roy Lichtenstein, New York, 1972, p. 52

 “This is how men dream and how they speak of their dreams. Love, glory, victory, force, comfort, art, travel, objects – such are the dreams that are unfolded in the papers and these dreams speak.”

Otto Hahn, ‘Roy Lichtenstein’ in: John Coplans, Ed., Roy Lichtenstein, New York, 1972, p. 143

 

Executed in 1964 at the height of Roy Lichtenstein’s career, Vicki! I -- I Thought I Heard Your Voice!  is a quintessential evocation of the artist’s celebrated Pop vernacular that comes from the artist’s body of Girls paintings. Rendered in porcelain enamel on steel, the painting exemplifies Lichtenstein’s bold, punchy palette and seductive subject matter which draws its content from cartoon comic strips. Depicting, as in the present work, out-of-context moments of high drama on a magnified scale, Lichtenstein fabricates compelling narratives, at once alluring and elusive, that elevate the status of comic strips from popular culture to high art. In the present work, Lichtenstein has portrayed the archetypal blonde heroine: her large, almond-shaped eyes, framed by thick, lustrous lashes, gaze out towards the viewer; her red lips form a perfect pout. She is flanked between the edges of a doorway and the contours of a man who, with his face turned from the viewer, blocks her exit with his raised left hand. Conveying sensational emotion, Lichtenstein’s protagonist Vicki possesses an extraordinary magnetism with her radiant blonde locks, sumptuous red lips, and enigmatic facial expression. The work is punctuated by the artist’s signature exclamatory speech bubble, which, hovering above the two characters, seems to emerge from the male speaker and serves to heighten the grand theatre of the spectacle. Conjuring emotion through both text and riveting body language, Lichtenstein’s painting is imbued with an extraordinary efficacy.

In Vicki! I -- I Thought I Heard Your Voice!, the viewer is granted visual access to the woman, however we are denied a full view by the intermediary of the male speaker. Thus, the viewer becomes locked in a tantalising interplay that teeters between attraction and the tension of irrevocable distance. The imagery of the present work was appropriated from two readymade frames from a comic strip that Lichtenstein composited and moulded to his will, making a number of crucial adjustments to alter not only the composition, but also to transform fundamentally the character of his portrait and the emotional import of the image. Indeed, a close comparison to these source images reveals the remarkable significance of Lichtenstein’s subtle yet critical editing process. Not only does Lichtenstein’s heroine convey a sense of pathos as she furrows her eyebrows toward the male visitor at her door, but her painted lips are parted as if she is about to respond to the man’s exclamation: she is suspended forever in mid-thought, leaving the viewer free to interpret the next frame to his or her desire. With her open mouth and large, mournful eyes, she entrances the male – who comes to represent the viewer-come-voyeur – with her beguiling temptation. Intriguing and mysterious, she demands our attention and seduces our gaze, ultimately becoming the consummate muse of both artist and viewer. Physically trapped by the anonymous man holding the doorway, she comes to personify the societal objectification of women through the confining male gaze. As Diane Waldman notes, "In isolating the female figure from her original context, Lichtenstein further magnifies society's codification of women as ornaments, positioned for the male gaze only" (Diane Waldman in: Exh. Cat., New York, Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum (and travelling), Roy Lichtenstein, 1993, p. 117).

Lichtenstein's Girls stand as undisputed icons of post-war American art. Few other works, either by Lichtenstein himself or his contemporaries, subvert the heroic ideals of modern abstract painting so directly and successfully. In boldly challenging what constitutes ‘high’ art versus ‘low’ culture, and in questioning the distinction between fine art destined for museums as opposed to commercial advertising and media imagery that pervades our daily lives, Lichtenstein's Girls continue to fuel one of the most contentious and theoretical dialogues in contemporary art today. The alluring fantasy of the blonde heroine of the American 1950s and ’60s fuelled entire industries and drove billions of sales. Alfred Hitchcock populated his classic movie thrillers with a cast of divine blonde actresses – Grace Kelly, Eva Marie Saint, and Kim Novak – who played the part of the gorgeous, sassy protagonist who would invariably be swept off their feet and rescued by Cary Grant or James Stewart. It was a role which would later be poignantly parodied for its restrictive typecasting in Cindy Sherman’s satirical body of Untitled Film Stills (1977-80). Regarding the Girls series, Lichtenstein’s wife Dorothy once stated: "I think that he was portraying his idea of the dream girl" (Dorothy Lichtenstein in conversation with Jeff Koons in: Exh. Cat., New York, Gagosian Gallery, Lichtenstein: Girls, 2008, p. 15). For the viewer, the compelling attraction of Vicki! I -- I Thought I Heard Your Voice! certainly also belongs to the world of fanciful reverie. Informed by the intoxicating dreams and desires of cinematic fantasy and comic book fiction, Vicki’s character incites in its viewer a potent and emotive reaction. The composition’s sharp, simplified forms, as much as its flattened and foreshortened perspectival space, simultaneously recall modes of consumer advertising, and strengthen formal principles and pictorial conventions native to early Modernism. Moreover, Lichtenstein's eponymous Ben-Day dots are meticulously executed, instilling the work with a kinetic dynamism that in turn invests a powerful sense of tension in the gestural motion of the man’s hand on the door-frame, perfectly encircling the woman’s tilted head.

Lichtenstein instinctively understood the phenomenal potential of popular imagery and, more than any artist of his generation, realigned the cipher of that imagery to unveil verities behind the ever-proliferating pictorial panorama of culture in 1960s America. With his enamel on steel paintings, Lichtenstein harnessed the undercurrent of mass reproduction central to his comic book works by utilising their very modes of mechanical production. By so doing, he revolutionised how we perceive the world around us and how, in turn, the world has subsequently been presented back unto itself. Rendering the present work on an enamel plate, Lichtenstein was inspired by the industrial signage of New York City, adding a further layer of complexity to the readymade nature of his image. As explained by Waldman: “With enamel, Lichtenstein accomplished two objectives: he reinforced the look of mechanical perfection that paint could only simulate but not duplicate and it provided the perfect opportunity to make an ephemeral form concrete” (Diane Waldman, Roy Lichtenstein, New York 1971, p. 23). Where his great art historical counterpart Andy Warhol had directly appropriated quotidian images to force issues of perception through the simple act of re-presentation, Lichtenstein's genius lay in a more subtle yet equally radical transformation. Having mastered the primary modus of industrial pictographic transmission, by almost covert means he enlisted this mass-media vocabulary to present alternate perspectives onto ideal realities. Through this methodology, he shone a brilliant light on the artifice of our image-saturated society, and yet, in the same moment, brought his paintings closer to a veritable authenticity, in which the terms of their manufacture are laid entirely bare to the viewer. Scintillating  and seductive, Vicki! I -- I Thought I Heard Your Voice! encapsulates Lichtenstein’s pioneering pictorial syntax.   

Contemporary Art Evening Auction

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London