T aking place live in London on 21 October 2020, the Contemporary Art Evening Auction will bring together works by some of the most engaging artists of the 20th and 21st centuries. Highlights include Bridget Riley’s Untitled (Diagonal Curve) - a seminal painting from the artist’s acclaimed 1960s series of black and white compositions, and Banksy's Show me the Monet, a dissident version of Claude Monet's Impressionist masterpiece.
The auction will take place alongside the Modernités auction in Paris in Sotheby’s third livestream auction event, “Modernités / Contemporary”. Developing the livestream auction model pioneered by the company in this summer’s marquee sales in New York and London, the auctions present defining moments of the 20th and 21st centuries through artworks by the greatest artists working in Europe and beyond.
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The sale highlights an outstanding selection of Post-War Italian art, offering works form artists such as Enrico Castellani, Lucio Fontana, Alighiero Boetti and Maurizio Cattelan, spanning several decades from minimalism through to Arte Povera and beyond. There is real diversity among these artists; from Piero Manzoni's 1962 masterpiece Achrome, which investigates the conceptual limits of painting, contrasted by Michelangelo Pistoletto's important early mirror painting L’Annunciazione (The Annunciation), which draws on the formal qualities of representational image of the human form, whilst making direct reference to art world he inhabits in using two of his associates, gallerist Annina Nosei and photographer Paolo Bressano
as his subjects.
Works by the leading figures in Minimalism have a strong presence in the sale, reinforcing the strength of the market for works of this calibre amongst collectors the world over. Highlights include Donald Judd's Untitled (86-19 Ballantine) where the interplay of material, form and colour is central to the reading of the work, and the same can be said elsewhere in the sale with Ellsworth Kelly's Black Green, which represents an important moment in minimalist painting. Alongside this, Brice Marden's 1975 work Etude Eté(Summer Study) which eschews any painterly brushstrokes and evidence of the artist's hand, instead favouring uniformity, precision and a deep exploration of the fundamental qualities of colour. “Colour is really something trying to summarise a feeling about each season. If you took them out of context, you’d not get it... it’s a thematic thing... Colour is a way of arriving at light.” With a focus on the viewers' total experience when encountering an artwork, these objects demonstrate a quiet meditation on the purity of form.
Bridget Riley's groundbreaking explorations in the 1960s saw her intuitive mastery of line, shape and space come together in a powerful sense of a captured kinesis, charging works such as Untitled (Diagonal Curve) with an energy that seemed to reverberate through the close harmony of lines and out to meet the viewer’s gaze, confronting and disrupting it. This example in many ways set the scene for much of the British Art that was to follow throughout the latter half of the 20thcentury, in which again and again, works resonated with a force and an energy that went beyond the sum of their parts. Gormley’s 2x2 brings life, death, the human form and the fundamental structures of matter together into a union at once reassuring and challenging, held in a powerful tension. Damien Hirst’s Cast a Long Shadow reaches even further into our relationship with death, making the triptych a kind of poetic window from consciousness into the void. In the case of Banksy, the energetic charge is more abrupt, a violence against both art and nature that confronts the institution of art itself, and brings the ideal into sudden confrontation with the real.