June 25 2013

Image of Guffwatch

Picture: Christie's

You and I might think that the above picture is just an 84 x 108 inch canvas covered with about twenty quid's worth of chewing gum. But this is not any ordinary gum. It has been chewed and stuck onto the canvas by Dan Colen (b.1979), and was sold this evening at Christie's, London, for £481,875. Suck on that, Wrigleys. 

Here's a vintage piece of breathless guff from the Christie's catalogue:

Playful and brazen, Untitled, 2010 is an energetic blend of the real world and the abstract. Scattering a multitude of brightly coloured chewed pieces of gum across a vast surface of a traditional canvas in an explosion of primary colour, Dan Colen creates a fascinatingly dense, intricate and animated abstract surface, transforming a ubiquitous object of the everyday into a vibrant monument of urban modernity. In a witty inversion of trompe l'oeil that embraces the possibilities created in a post-Pop era of modern art, Untitled instantly recalls the revolutionary drip paintings of Jackson Pollock, and the automatism common amongst many Surrealist and avant-garde American painters. Harnessing the gestural energy of a performance piece and tethering it to the expressive immediacy of abstraction, the artist demonstrates his mischievous ability to surprise and engage the viewer.

In case you missed it, here's an earlier post explaining how auction houses come up with this sort of thing.

And here's what Dan has to say about his gum paintings (for, yay, there is more than one) himself:

I started using the gum like paint. Certain canvases would have gum stretched from the center outward, creating 'hypnotic' spirals. I've also done a series of Bazooka Joe joke paintings, with the comics stuck to the gum. But most of the pieces are just about playing with the gum and building up layers until they finish themselves. They turn into a mess but remain beautiful (in my eyes)... I'm in a special, or at least particular, place right now that allows me to be very playful with my work... My conceptual development and working processes function differently without due dates-not for better or worse, just for a change of pace. Because of this situation these gum paintings were almost able to make themselves. I fell in love with them immediately'.

A Tweet from The Art Newspaper tells us that the gum painting was bought by dealer Larry Gagosian, who represents Colen: 

Gagosian keeps his artist in play - buys Dan Colen chewing gum piece for £400,000, low estimate

Always good to keep the prices up!

Update - dealer Mark Mitchell writes, on his blog:

If this piece could bear the weight of the interpretation given it in the catalogue, it would surely not be necessary for the artist’s dealer to purchase it, presumably in order to keep its putative value circling high above the clouds of taste, sense and comprehension.  If not a dealer, do you buy such a thing for its aesthetic charm, its intellectual content, its capacity to make you re-see the world, or its spiritual uplift?  Do you buy it for its ironic comment on the consumer-driven society which hatched it (and on which it surfs), or for its expression of the contemporary, fragmented zeitgeist? Is it actually applied, rather than fine, art – like a wall-hanging – chosen to fit an interior by its unique blend of tone and colour?  Is it a self-portrait of the artist, modelled from spit and shaded with DNA, capable of regenerating him at some point in the scientific future?  What of truth, beauty and the human condition would post-apocalyptic man gain from this canvas if he dug it from an archaeological pit in a thousand years’ time, and how would he differentiate it from the floor tiles or rags of curtain in the pit?

Archaeologists of the future! If you have indeed been misfortunate enough to dig up this masticated square of nothingness, do not judge us all by such vapid mistaste - let this blog be evidence that some of us. indeed probably most of us, would rather have had the floor tiles and rags of curtain.

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