Auction House

Auction: Evening Sale - Contemporary Art

27. November 2023, 7:00 pm

Object overview


mixed media on paper; framed
23 x 34 cm
signed and dated on the reverse: West 76


directly from the artist;
since then private property, Austria

Estimate: € 50.000 - 100.000
Result: € 66.000 (incl. fees)
Auction is closed.

For Franz West, the early 1970s were defined by his struggle for recognition. Artistically, he explored a wide variety of directions, such as Conceptual Art, Marcel Duchamp and Cy Twombly, and Minimal Art. “In the works of the 1970s, you can see how he worked through the ‘isms’ – they have an incredible range” (Klaus Albrecht Schröder (ed.), The Beginning. Kunst in Österreich 1945 bis 1980, [“Art in Austria 1945 to 1980”] exhibition catalogue, Albertina modern, Vienna 2020, p. 578).
Collages form an essential part of his early work. Franz West uses found pictorial material, often consisting of advertising brochures, which he defamiliarises by painting additions to them and painting over them, thus giving it new meaning. Echoes of Dadaist collages can be detected, as can Franz West’s admiration for the Pop Art artist Richard Hamilton. “The faces found in the advertising materials are used as ready-mades” (Veit Loers, Franz West, Cologne 2006, p, p. 20), in that they are stripped of their previous function and placed in a completely new context of meaning.

Four naked figures, white painted bodies with collaged heads, are standing in front of a red theatre curtain. Thus, we perceive them not as being in front of an abstract background, but in a stage setting. The heads have been painted over in part, giving them a “pitted” look; “half-profiles become foreshortened profiles à la Picasso” (Loers, p. 21 f.), whereby the faces can be seen simultaneously from the front and in profile. Franz West thus intervenes in the collage in a rigid painterly manner. We see two male bodies with ejaculating penises, while the female genitals and nipples are highlighted in colour. A woman’s head on a male body provides additional irritation. Franz West’s assemblages have in fact little to do with conventional collages, as right from the start they are motivated by content rather than form. Here, the eternal smile of the advertising figures appears isolated and is, in its pointless cheerfulness, “frozen into ludicrousness in its self-referentiality” (Loers, p. 21).

(Sophie Cieslar)