Contemporary Discoveries

Contemporary Discoveries

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Hugh Steers

Red and Green Striped Bedspread

Lot Closed

March 16, 04:09 PM GMT


7,000 - 9,000 USD

Lot Details


Hugh Steers

1962 - 1995

Red and Green Striped Bedspread 

signed Hugh Steers, titled Red & White Bed Sheet, and dated '88 (on the verso)

oil on paper

11 by 15 in.

27.9 by 38.1 cm.

Executed in 1988.

Midtown Galleries, New York

Private Collection (acquired from the above)

Acquired as a gift from the above by the present owner in 2016

Barbara Schröder & Karen Kelly, eds., Hugh Steers: The Complete Paintings, 1983-1994. New York: Visual AIDS, 2015, p. 203.

“[A] lot of my art has to do with that primal idea of drawing a painting of the hunt on the side of the cave to make the hunt successful. It’s like a conjuring. I would like to be able to act or have someone care about me the way some of the people in my paintings act or care about each other. It’s as if painting it will make it become real. That painting of a man holding another man is conjuring that tenderness, that hope that someone will still care about you and will be there. The Isenheim altarpiece shows a tortured man with skin lesions and it was painted for a monastery where people were treated for horrible skin diseases. Some people who see my paintings find them too much. But others say: ‘Right on. It’s so great to see this part of our lives out there in a painting.” (Hugh Steers interviewed by Holland Cotter for “Art after Stonewall: 12 Artists Interviewed,” originally published in Art in America, June 1994, pp. 55-65.)


Steers’ understanding of color and light, and his ability to express a wide range of emotions through figuration, reveal his deep knowledge of and direct influences from art history. The contrasting light of his work often references Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio, his elongated and sharp figures are informed by El Greco, his intimate imagery and unorthodox poses point to Pierre Bonnard and Edgar Degas, and his figurative compositions speak to Edward Hopper. Grounded in technique and the history of Western painting, he described his work as “allegorical realism” rendered "to draw the viewer in through the lure of a comfortingly recognizable style and then confront him with a subject matter of a challenging nature."


Diagnosed in 1987 with HIV, Steers’ subject matter often speaks to the experience of living through an evolving Queer identity and the devastating AIDS crisis. Much of his work addressed illness, isolation, alienation, companionship, and sexuality. While he described his images as “metaphors that come from very specific needs and things on my part,” he repeatedly insisted that the meanings of his paintings depended on what the viewer brings to them. (Hugh Steers: Daylight, Exh. Cat., Alexander Gray Associates, New York, 2015, pp. 3-4.)