Contemporary Art Online

Contemporary Art Online

View full screen - View 1 of Lot 515. MARLENE DUMAS | AFTER FINGERS.


Lot Closed

March 7, 06:47 PM GMT


15,000 - 20,000 USD

Lot Details


The History of Now: The Collection of David Teiger Sold to Benefit Teiger Foundation for the Support of Contemporary Art




signed, titled and dated 1999; signed and titled on the reverse

ink on paper

Sheet: 5⅞ by 8⅜ in. (15.1 by 21.3 cm.)

Framed: 13 by 15⅛ in. (33 by 38.4 cm.)

Distinguished by his remarkable generosity, unfailing politeness and meticulous eye, David Teiger was one of the twenty-first century’s greatest patrons and collectors. Driven by a desire for inspiration and buttressed by meticulous research, Teiger built a collection that perfectly captures the zeitgeist of the art world from the 1990s through the 2000s. Defining excellence in a wide variety of collecting categories, Teiger insistently pursued the very best. He surrounded himself with artists and dealers, but most importantly museum curators, and would take advice from all quarters, relentlessly searching for the best works available, but ultimately with confidence in his own judgement.

The criteria by which Teiger collected were remarkably consistent, and were summed up in a quote he gave to The New York Times in 1998, when he first began acquiring Contemporary artworks. He said: “I’m looking to be inspired, motivated, titillated by art. I want to be surrounded by objects that give me positive energy… Of course I want first rate pieces. I look for authenticity, integrity, original natural surface and a strong sense of color and texture. But the most important thing is that I react in my gut” (David Teiger, quoted in: The New York Times, October 30, 1998). Years later the terminology changed but the requirements remained the same; for all his meticulous research and careful consideration of every purchase, Teiger still required that an item “have heat”, an intrinsic quality that would combine with other criteria such as “best of type”, “great craft” and “powerful presence” to qualify a work for admission to Teiger’s collection.

Amassed over the course of twenty years, the David Teiger Collection is wide ranging in its scope, comprising a spectacular array of contemporary artworks, from paintings and works on paper to photographs and prints, and one of the greatest collections of American Folk Art in private hands. Famously exacting, each purchase would necessitate an extraordinary depth of research, often including multiple studio visits. As he remarked in an interview with his friend Alanna Heiss, the then director of MoMA PS1, in 2005, “you can never get enough information”, while friends and those who worked with him spoke of his relentless pursuit of perfection.

The result of this exacting approach was that Teiger developed a remarkably discerning and prescient eye, leading him to patronize a number of hugely influential contemporary artists at the start of their careers, including Mark Grotjahn, Kai Althoff, Chris Ofili and Glenn Brown. This patronage would have been hugely important to them, not only financially, but in terms of the confidence it would have given them to know that their work was going to a very astute collector. As Alanna Heiss put it to Teiger himself, “you are very respected and loved by artists… [they] love to know that they are in your collection”.

This is not to say however that Teiger’s collecting was confined to identifying artistic frontrunners. He was a great believer in the potential for the rediscovery of an artist. The depth and quality of his collection of works by John Wesley for instance, an artist who started his career alongside Tom Wesselmann and James Rosenquist without ever receiving the same degree of acclaim that his peers enjoyed, speaks to Teiger’s belief in the underlying quality of the artist, despite his comparative critical and commercial anonymity.

Another definitive aspect of Teiger’s life was the enormous generosity towards institutions. Museums were privileged to know that they could always ask to borrow pieces from the collection, and donations were consistently made to acquisition funds and curatorial initiatives, most notably to the Museum of Modern Art in New York, where Teiger was an honorary trustee, but also the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum in New York, the Hammer Museum in Los Angeles, The Museum of Contemporary Art Los Angeles, and the Whitney Museum of American Art in New York, among others.

This preoccupation with artistic institutions was in large part owing to the immense respect that Teiger had for curators, to whom he attributed the power to narrate and determine the story of an artist or movement. He saw it as his duty to ensure that they had all the tools necessary to realize their aims. For instance, he was a key supporter of MoMA’s ambitious survey exhibition in 2002, Drawing Now: Eight Propositions, which stalled at a pivotal moment following the attacks on New York in September 2001. Funding had dried up and the exhibition was on the rocks until Teiger stepped in and provided funding not only for the exhibition but for an accompanying catalogue, which was the first drawing catalogue produced by the museum to go into multiple printings. Duly, this is now a principle objective of the Teiger Foundation, which will be the recipient of all funds generated by the sale of the collection—to continue Teiger’s initiatives in this direction.


Dumas is often described as an 'intellectual expressionist', blurring the boundaries between painting and drawing. Bold lines and shapes mix seamlessly with ephemeral washes and thick gestural brushwork. Acclaimed for creating works that recognize the humanity of the subject, she “has mastered a niche space between abstraction and figuration, intimacy and immediacy, exile and integration” (Emma Bedford, Marlene Dumas: Intimate Relations, Johannesburg 2008, p. 34). Dumas grapples with social, political, and emotional themes with a delicacy that has garnered praise throughout the art world.

Intimacy is Dumas’ method of representation. In After Fingers, the viewer voyeuristically looks in upon the backside of a woman, the close-cropped rendering a preferred method in Dumas’ repertoire. Like in her paintings of this era, the figure is scaled to overwhelm an otherwise neutral background. Dumas until recently owned the record for the highest auction result achieved for a living female artist. Her works are housed in the collections of Tate, London and Museum of Modern Art, New York.