Contemporary Art Day Auction


Jean Dubuffet
1901 - 1985年
signed with the artist's initials and dated 81 
acrylic on paper laid down on canvas
67 by 50 cm. 26 3/8 by 19 5/8 in.
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Waddington Custot Galleries, London
Acquired from the above by the present owner


London, Waddington Custot Galleries, Late Paintings by Jean Dubuffet (1975-82), March - April 2012, p. 60, no. 21, illustrated in colour


Max Loreau, Catalogue des travaux de Jean Dubuffet, Fascicule XXXIV: Psycho-sites, Paris 1984, p. 85, no. 306, illustrated


Executed in September of 1981, Site avec 6 personnages forms part of a series titled Psycho-Sites which Dubuffet worked on until the following year. Days after the completion of this work, the series was exhibited to much critical acclaim at the prestigious Centre Georges Pompidou, confirming the importance of this series not only for Dubuffet’s oeuvre but within the wider context of art history. Drawing on some of Dubuffet’s older series like Théâtres de mémoire (1977) and Paris Circus (1957-59) as well as capturing the values of Art Brut that he so admired, Psycho-Sites can be seen a culmination of his artistic beliefs. In the present work, six figures float amidst a cacophony of black and red brushstrokes, each self-contained within their own border. Despite both sites and figures emerging from the same brushstroke, the uniformity of the subject highlights the immense diversity in the work rather than creating repetition. These abstracted and simplified figures alternately emerge from and blend with the surrounding forms. Though seemingly rendered in strict two-dimensionality, the fluctuating sizes of Dubuffet’s characters suggest a variation of distances that challenges the apparent flatness of the work.

Dubuffet’s insouciant approach to representation invites the viewer into the surface of the painting and encourages them to untangle the contours of each shape and imagine a mental landscape of their own. Dubuffet’s Sites were not drawn to represent a particular place, but instead refer to the concept of space. For the artist, these abstracted renderings were more effective in rendering reality than a literal depiction could ever be. "[The Sites] heighten the evocative power of the place portrayed…”, Dubuffet explained, “the presence of a human figure gives the place the necessary existence and vitality without which it might remain to the observer merely a network of incomprehensible planes and lines. The figures have the function of a catalyst that triggers the imagination" (Jean Dubuffet cited in: Exh. Cat., Salzburg, Museum der Moderne (and travelling), Jean Dubuffet, 2003, p. 252).

The influence of this series on the contemporary art production of today can be seen in Richard Prince’s Hippie Drawings (1997-2000) which many consider as a cross between Dubuffet and Basquiat. Dubuffet’s “art without antecedents” has certainly set a precedent for generations to come who cannot fail to acknowledge his unparalleled contribution to modern and contemporary art.

Contemporary Art Day Auction