Lot 30
  • 30

SETH PRICE | Vintage Bomber

180,000 - 250,000 GBP
Log in to view results
bidding is closed


  • Seth Price
  • Vintage Bomber
  • vacuum-formed high impact polystyrene
  • 243.8 by 121.9 cm. 96 by 48 in.
  • Executed in 2008.


Petzel Gallery, New York
Acquired from the above by the present owner in June 2012


Colour: The colours in the catalogue illustration are fairly accurate, although they fail to fully convey the glossy nature of surface of the work. Condition: This work is in good condition. There are various dents intermittently along the outer edge which appear to be in keeping with the moulding process. Close inspection reveals minor and unobtrusive scuffs and a few media accretions in isolated places predominantly towards the lower half of the composition. Further close inspection reveals a very small semi-circular hairline crack to the right edge towards the bottom right corner, which has been consolidated. There are a few stable and consolidated hairline cracks to the upper and lower left corner tips of the work. The upper left corner top has been inpainted in a few places, and there are two small inpainted losses, one to the left centre of the upper edge and another to the lower right edge. No further 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

Vintage Bomber belongs to Seth Price’s most recognisable body of work: the series of vacuum-formed ‘canvases’ made of sleek, monochrome plastic in which shrink-wrapped bomber jackets are captured in relief. In the present work, the jacket’s contours have been captured in the minute detail of heat-formed golden plastic; each fold, wrinkle and seam has been trapped and re-contextualised as an art object that is part industrial packaging and part devotional relic. Intended, like a picture or an altarpiece, to hang on the wall, Price’s high-impact polystyrene compositions are sophisticated meditations on cultural signification, presence and absence, high-art and low materials. In Price’s artistic universe, plastic, a pervasive presence in contemporary life, is transformed into a highly valuable fine art commodity. For these works, Price makes use of a technique developed in the 1950s during the boom of industrial plastic-use, whereby heated sheets of plastic are vacuum-formed to take on the shape and volume of various moulds. Here, Price has chosen the bomber jacket as his mould around which opaque plastic sheets have cooled to form a hard shell; a shell that serves to iconify the bomber jacket as an item of twentieth-century cultural signification.

Interested in the ways in which information mutates and meaning shifts over time, Price chose the bomber jacket as a symbol, or indeed vessel, owing to its own varied history of appropriation. First used by fighter pilots during the First World War, the bomber jacket was thereafter adopted by a myriad of social factions. Made famous by heartthrob Hollywood movie stars of the 1950s including James Dean and Marlon Brando, the bomber jacket has since experienced a shift and flux in signification: graduating into the world of counter-culture fashion, this item of clothing was adopted by punks and skinheads in the 1970s, then by hardcore techno and hip-hop counter-cultures of the 1990s, through to its present day currency as an accepted sartorial staple.

Aesthetically, Price’s bomber jackets invite a dialogue with Henri Matisse’s monumental Backs, a series of sculptures created between 1909 and 1930 and posthumously cast in bronze that boldly reimagined the classical nude. Taking on the same monolithic, bas-relief format of Matisse’s famous works, Price transforms the twentieth-century master’s bold figurative abstraction through the jacket as a corporeal cipher rendered in a faux-luxe cheap material. We might also be inclined to channel this connection through the legacy of Bruce Nauman, whose seminal sculpture Henry Moore, Bound to Fail is readily evoked in Price’s pseudo-body fragment. In Nauman’s work we are presented with an iron cast of the artist’s loosely rope-bound and baggy cardigan-wearing back. As an abstract corporeal fragment, Nauman invokes the legacy of important twentieth-century sculptors such as Henry Moore (for whom Matisse was a significant influence), who, during the 1960s had fallen out of fashion with the emerging avant-garde. Trapped, bound, lifeless and still, Nauman’s iron body cast offers a complex meditation on the possibilities of figuration and abstraction in the emerging twentieth-century discourse of post-modernism. Price’s Vintage Bomber updates this narrative for the Twenty-First Century. By adopting an unashamedly commercial facture that would have made Warhol envious, and by choosing an item of clothing that itself has undergone a series of symbolic changes – from its original military origins through countercultural subversion to its present-day quotidian use – Price presents the shifting currency of corporeal representation in art. In Vintage Bomber the human body is rendered both vacant and superficial, a veritable death-mask cast in facile gold plastic.