February 11 2014

Image of Guffwatch

Pictures: Phillips 

Rich pickings for Guffwatch in the latest Phillips contemporary art sales, held in London yesterday. Above is Banksy's utterly pointless Rembrandt 2009, of which Phillips says:

The present lot shows Banksy’s lighthearted attitude as he attaches googly eyes to one of the most famous paintings in art history. Banksy recreates Rembrandt’s well known Self Portrait at the Age of 63 (1669) and covers the expressive eyes, perhaps what Rembrandt’s portraits are best known for, with googly eyes. This simple act undermines the painting itself and encourages the viewer to question the nature of art, creating a piece that is not only witty but visually very amusing. Poignantly, in this case Banksy has altered a work in a similar fashion to his grafti on London’s buildings. However, this practical joke is not without forethought. His appropriation of Rembrandt’s nationally beloved self portrait invites the viewer to question why this act seems so audacious, why this painting is valued so highly and, foremost, what constitutes great art. As a street artist, Banksy is no stranger to graffiti being deemed ‘low art’ or even ‘vandalism’. Consequently, he aims to subvert what we consider ‘high art’ by taking a famous painting, catching the viewer’s interest with attention grabbing googly eyes and creating a piece that is entertaining, thought provoking and progressive.

Someone paid £398,500 for that, twice the mid estimate. Wowee. And in case the buyer was concerned that the picture was just a rubbish pastiche in a crap frame (which it is), Phillips did at least sell it with 'a certificate of authenticity'. In other words, that's the valuable bit.

And there's more! For Lucien Smith's Feet in the Water, 2012 (below), which was painted with a fire extinguisher. Says Phillips:

Lucien Smith’s Feet in the Water, 2012, is part of a series of highly acclaimed rain paintings from the rising talent, whose work is becoming greatly sought after. They represent abstraction, emotion and nature with simple figurative gestures which mimic the rain, an instantly recognisable element fraught with symbolic meaning. Smith ironically pokes at this notion whilst depicting the beauty of the rain and, indeed, nature itself. The rain series was created when Smith, distracted and enclosed by the city, moved upstate. This isolation from the city allowed him to work on a larger scale and, most importantly, reconnect with nature, which Smith used as a catalyst for his art. Additionally, the time spent upstate encouraged Smith to work with different tools, in this case, the fire extinguisher. His innovative use of an old fashioned fire extinguisher filled with paint to spray his canvases is especially effective in this particular case as it physically imitates precipitation with falling droplets of paint. The effect is original and representative yet abstract, referencing the artists Smith was inspired by, from Jackson Pollock to Morris Louis. Rain as a subject matter is not only indicative of his appreciation of nature; it also illustrates a larger metaphor. Smith explains, “When I was looking through comics, I’d run across the same image of characters trapped in the rain. It’s like a universal symbolic image of being sad and alone.” (the artist Lucien Smith and Bill Powers, purple NEWS, 2012) For this reason, Smith progresses towards the use of light blue paint, as in this particular lot, because of the allusions to sadness. Furthermore, Smith noted that rain is often illustrated in light blue, which encouraged him to start using this colour. Consequently, the piece is representative of rain both physically and allegorically, whilst retaining a beautifully simplistic pictorial space.

Yours for £194,500.

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