A bespoke painted enamel panel created by American pop artist Roy Lichtenstein is coming up for sale with an estimate of $900k-$1.2m at the Contemporary Art Sale day at Sotheby’s New York.
The work, Composition, was commissioned in 1969 by the late playboy art collector Gunter Sachs for his then wife, the French model and actress Brigitte Bardot. Previously exhibited in Hamburg, Munich and elsewhere, the piece in porcelain enamel on metal measures 24 by 771⁄2 in. 61 by 196.2 cm.
Executed at the peak of Roy Lichtenstein’s career, the piece is a quintessential evocation of the artist’s celebrated Pop vernacular combining the best from the Modern Paintings series. Just a few years prior, Lichtenstein moved from his much-celebrated imagery of the early 1960s, comic-style heroines and expressive brushstrokes, and began to make compositions that resist easy classification. Rendered in porcelain enamel on steel, the work exemplifies Lichtenstein’s bold, punchy palette and Ben-Day dots ever present throughout his oeuvre.
In boldly challenging what constitutes ‘high’ art versus ‘low’ culture, and in questioning the distinction between fine art destined for museums as opposed to commercial advertising and media imagery that pervades our daily lives, Lichtenstein’s Modern Paintings continue to fuel one of the most contentious and theoretical dialogues in contemporary art today.
This monumental porcelain enamel work was envisioned as a bespoke artwork to outfit Sachs’ bedroom suite where it was installed below his bathroom sink for decades and was paired with Lichtenstein’s Leda and the Swan, which surrounded the large soaking tub overlooking the breathtaking mountain views of the Swiss Alps. This notorious penthouse apartment signified a culmination of Sachs’ passionate and extensive art collection. In creating Composition, Lichtenstein drew inspiration from his previous works by combining aspects from his Modern Paintings and Art Deco series.
Composition is an incredibly rare, unique example both materially and stylistically as it is one of only three unique porcelain enamel works created by the artist- further heightening the importance of this fortuitous commission between two visionaries in their respective fields.
The panel was mounted in Sachs’ bathroom in his legendary Pop Art-inspired penthouse apartment at the Palace Hotel in St. Moritz. Other distinguished artists of the day also contributed to the penthouse, such as Andy Warhol, Yves Klein, and Allen Jones, who later recalled there being a large, bullet-proof glass panel with one side splintered in several places–Sachs would stand on the other side and invite close friends to shoot at him, before inviting them to add their autographs to the bullet holes.
The Contemporary Art Day Auction takes place on May 17th 2019. Two other Lichtenstein works are included, as are pieces by Ai Weiwei, Jean-Michel Basquiat, Antony Gormley, Anish Kapoor and Jeff Koons among others.