Lot 20
  • 20

DONALD JUDD | Untitled

700,000 - 1,000,000 GBP
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  • Donald Judd
  • Untitled
  • stamped 84-44 Lippincott, Inc. on the back
  • aluminium and red plexiglass 
  • 25.3 by 177.7 by 25.3 cm. 10 by 70 by 10 in.
  • Executed in 1984.


Margo Leavin Gallery, Los Angeles
Private Collection, Los Angeles
Peter Freeman Inc., New York
Anthony Meier Fine Arts, San Francisco (acquired from the above in May 2012)
Private Collection, USA Acquired from the above by the present owner in 2015


Los Angeles, Margo Leavin Gallery, Painted Wall Sculptures, October - November 1984
San Francisco, Anthony Meier Fine Arts, Aspects of Color, September - November 2002
San Francisco, Anthony Meier Fine Arts, SCALE… scale, June - August 2007


Colour: The colours in the catalogue illustration are fairly accurate. Condition: This work is in very good condition. There is evidence of handling to the bottom edge and inner vertical panels. There is a spot of minor discoloration that overlaps the top left outer corner, and a minor abrasion towards the top back edge of the left outer aluminium plate. Further inspection reveals a thin curvilinear abrasion to the lower centre of the left outer aluminium panel, and a black pinhead sized speck to the front aluminium face, towards the top left. There are some small abrasions on the inner surface of the right vertical aluminium panel, which are slightly red in colour. The plexiglass is in good condition. Very close inspection reveals a light hairline scratch that runs intermittently along the bottom edge of the red plexiglass, only visible in raking light. There is some adhesive residue visible where the plexiglass meets the aluminium panels. This residue is in keeping with the artist's working process and choice of materials. No restoration is apparent when examined under ultraviolet light, although some light handling marks on the outer and inner edges fluoresce.
"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

“Color, like material, is what art is made from.” Donald Judd, ‘Some aspects of color in general and red and black in particular’ in: Exh. Cat., Hanover, Sprengel Museum Hannover, Donald Judd, Colorist, 2000, p. 114.

Extending dramatically along the horizontal plane, Untitled from 1984 is a sophisticated example of Donald Judd’s seminal wall-mounted sculptures. In the present work totemic compartments give way to a non-hierarchical treatment of space in which nine anodized aluminium units magnificently occupy their surroundings; units sovereign in their own physicality and devoid of symbolic allusion. Through a deployment of geometry and mathematics, Judd invokes a phenomenological encounter with the art object; a heightened sense of perception in which rectangular linearity celebrates simplicity of form. Judd’s pattern follows a rational numeric logic of reduction 4, 3 and 2. The principle of the progressions, in tandem with the sequence of equal-status elements, establishes an egalitarian object in which no one component is held above or below the rest.

Untitled is part of a series of sculptures – known as Progressions – first created in the 1960s using numerical formulas as a way of determining sculptural form. Judd executed such objects throughout his career, beginning with assemblages of raw industrial materials presented on the floor through to highly finished, glossy structures mounted directly onto the wall. Although he had initially trained as a painter, Judd was frustrated by the traditional concept of a painting on canvas and the longstanding artistic paradigm of replicating the illusion of three-dimensional space on two-dimensions. From the early 1960s he instead began experimenting with industrial materials, such as aluminium, Plexiglas and stainless steel to create objects that espoused an unyielding physical presence in real space.

In this respect Judd’s handling of form sits squarely at the forefront of the burgeoning Minimalist discourse of the 1960s, and yet the artist’s work kicked out against many aspects of this new vanguard. While Minimalism radically reconceptualised sculpture to include a priori conceptions of the art object (objects devoid of representation), a complexity and richness is evident in Judd’s visual lexicon. Rather than striving for reduction and absence, Judd’s oeuvre is “startlingly sensuous, almost voluptuous,” according to art critic Rosalind Krauss (Rosalind Krauss, ‘Allusion and Illusion in Donald Judd,’ Artforum 4, No. 9, May 1966, p. 25). In his critical writings, and in numerous interviews, Judd repeatedly outlined his independence from Minimal art. First summarised in his seminal essay ‘Specific Objects’ from 1965, Judd identified the new art object as “neither painting nor sculpture” but declared that “the use of three dimensions is an obvious alternative. It opens to anything” (Donald Judd, ‘Specific Objects’ in: Charles Harrison and Paul Wood, Eds., Art in Theory 1900 – 2000: An Anthology of Changing Ideas, Oxford 2003, p. 824).

Having first encountered the philosophical writings of colour theorists such as Johann Wolfgang von Geothe, M. E. Chevreul, and Wassily Kandinsky at the Art Students League, New York and later at Colombia University, Judd himself explored the creative possibilities and spatial effects of colour: "Material, space, and color are the main aspects of visual art. Everyone knows that there is material that can be picked up and sold, but no one sees space and color" (Donald Judd, ‘Some aspects of color in general and red and black in particular’ in: Exh. Cat., Hanover, Sprengel Museum Hannover, Donald Judd, Colorist, 2000, p. 79). Judd often looked to Josef Albers, who founded his demanding study of colour on the transformation of personal observation: “If one says ‘Red’ (the name of a color) and there are 50 people listening, it can be expected that there will be 50 reds in their minds. And we can be sure that all these reds will be very different” (Josef Albers, The Interaction of Color, New Haven 1963, p. 270). In the present work, the chromatic power of red is an intentional surface stimulus that deliberately emphasises the physical qualities of the selected material.

In Untitled, space and colouration indeed open an entirely new artistic vision. With a powerful visceral and chromatic drama, the present work is a compelling paradigm of Judd’s unparalleled and ambitious contribution to the philosophical and theoretical landscape of the Minimalist era.