Christopher Wool

Untitled, 2007

Cataloguing     Summary     Essay     Comparables     Video     Market     Biography

ILEANA at
Explore Sydney Contemporary

Christopher Wool

(American, b. 1955)

Untitled, 2007
signed, dated 2007 and numbered PP 3/4
silkscreen ink on paper
image: 58.1 by 45.3 cm.
sheet: 76.2 by 55.6 cm.
Printer’s Proof 3/4 aside from the edition of 40.

Provenance
Brand X Editions, New York
Private Collection, United States

Another work from this edition is in the collection of the Museum of Modern Art in New York.

AUD $ 12,000

Payment over 10 months with Art Money available

Key Points

  • Another example of this edition is in the collection of the Museum of Modern Art in New York
  • The work is well-priced, with a comparable work on the market by the publisher for AUD 15,500. Another work from the same edition sold for AUD 10,500 in Sept 2019
  • The abstract motif in Untitled formed the basis for Wool suite of 8 paintings that was shown at the Central Pavilion of the Venice Biennale in 2011
  • Works in colour are relatively rare and sought-after, as Wool predominantly works in black and white
  • Christopher Wool is one of the most influential living artists, admired by curators, museums, collectors and artists alike
  • With an auction record of USD 29.9 million, Christopher Wool is one of the top 10 most expensive living American artists, and the definition of blue-chip

In Context

“From today painting is dead”, the French painter Paul Delaroche proclaimed after seeing the first daguerrotype, an early photographic technique. It would not be the last time that painting would be relegated to the history books – every few decades the debate about the continued impossibility of painting was reignited, and without fail after each death sentence painters would continue to paint. During the 1980s, painting was once again under fierce attack, paradoxically giving birth to some of the most engaging painterly practices. This time, artists undermined historical assumptions around the medium in order to keep it alive. Martin Kippenberger hired a commercial sign painter to paint his pictures; Albert Oehlen attempted to make ‘bad paintings’ and Richard Prince elevated the spray-painted car hood to the ultimate American type of painting. 

“Long story short: Reincarnation. What Christopher has done with silkscreen has made the medium whole again. He has taught an old dog new tricks.”

– Richard Prince, New York, 2014

As a friend and collaborator of these key 1980s artists, Christopher Wool engaged equally unlikely sources that traditionally had no place in painting. In an early body of work he turned towards the one thing that serious art was not supposed to be – decorative – and appropriated the patterns that were used by interior decorators as a quick fix for cheap New York apartments. The decorative patterns, painted in stark black enamel paint, were also seen as a reflection on the urban landscape of the punk generation during the conservative 1980s. Just as the artist’s famous stencilled word paintings, they embody a real lo-fi or DIY quality and aesthetic. 

“We are confronted with work that deals with the possibilities and mechanisms that keep painting alive and valid in the present, an issue that, despite all forecasts, is one of the most productive and complex issues in contemporary visual art”

– Marga Paz

Christopher Wool, Venice Biennale, 2011

Christopher Wool’s suite of 8 paintings at the Central Pavilion of the Venice Biennale, 2011

The artist’s other key painterly strategy was arguably even more ground-breaking. Christopher Wool produced a body of work based on the kind of gestural ‘action painting’ as practised by the abstract expressionists; some of it freely painted, other parts copied from generic examples of abstract paintings as illustrated in amateur art books. He reproduced these paintings into silkscreens, which were then recycled into other paintings or remade as silkscreens – as is the case in Untitled. This mode of self-appropriation cleverly undermines the modernist myths of authorship and originality, and also reconciles two opposing positions: that of the heroic painter whose hand is visible in his works, and that of the cold and mechanical silkscreen technique.

Christopher Wool was sympathetic to Robert Ryman’s statement on painting from 1969, which is particularly apt to the screenprinted abstracts: “There is never a question of what to paint, but only how to paint.” And whilst Wool’s silkscreens, be it on paper or on canvas, are not technically paintings, the imagery is in direct dialogue with it. The images represent the remnants of abstract expressionism in an age of mechanical reproduction, where gestural painting is no longer seen as an indexical link between the artist and his work, but has become a mere signifier for an expressive artistic language that is devoid of real emotion. As Marga Paz concludes:

“Wool has intuitively developed a reappropriation of his own works, which, by superimposing a series of layers he constructs an abstraction that looks gestural and eminently pictorial but is really a way of demolishing Abstract Expressionism’s concept of pictorial expressiveness.”

– Marga Paz

The use of digital technologies is also important vis-a-vis technological advancement in general, as Katherine Brison observes: “Recent works show Wool continuing to find new ways to subject his imagery to strata of procedural agitation, exploring the potentialities of digital technology for image making and abstraction in a world where modes of seeing are increasingly based on the radiant pixelated field of the computer screen.” This is perfectly exemplified in Untitled, where one of the artist’s earlier enamel works from the Drawings of Beer on the Wall series (2004) has been appropriated in a silkscreen. This same silkscreened image has since been used by Wool in a large number of paintings, including a suite of eight large canvasses that were created for the Venice Biennale in 2011 (see image below).

Comparable works

Christopher Wool, Untitled, 2006
silkscreen on paper, 76.2 by 55.6 cm. Ed. 40.
Museum of Modern Art, New York
Christopher Wool, Untitled, 2000
enamel on paper, 167.6 by 121.9 cm.
Whitney Museum, New York
Christopher Wool, Untitled, 1991
lithograph on paper, 97.7 by 63.8 cm. Ed. 40.
Boijmans van Beuningen, Rotterdam

Video

Watch the Parkett video on Christopher Wool

The market

Although Christopher Wool is one of the ten most expensive American artists with an auction record of USD 29.9 million, there is still a big gap between the top end of his market and his editioned works – a gap which often becomes narrower over time. That makes strong silkscreen works such as Untitled particularly interesting. With another example of this edition in the MoMA collection, and a whole suite of important paintings based on the same silkscreen that have been exhibited at the Venice Biennale, this work is highly representative of Wool’s practice yet still affordable. Another version of this edition sold for the equivalent of AUD 10,500 in September 2019, making this work well-priced (especially when import taxes and shipping are factored in). Moreover, a lesser work from the same series is priced at AUD 16,500 by the publisher. Whilst most of Wool’s work is black and white, he occasionally uses highly saturated colours such as the pink and magenta in this work, which makes it even more sought-after.

Christopher Wool, Untitled, 2007
silkscreen on paper, 76.3 by 55.6 cm., ed. 40.
Sold for: GBP 5,625 (AUD 10,500)
(Phillips London, 12 September 2019)
Christopher Wool, Untitled, 2006
silkscreen on paper, 76.2 by 55.9 cm.
ed. 40
Primary price: USD 12,000   (AUD 16,500)
(Brand X Editions, October 2021)
Christopher Wool, Untitled, 2008-11
silkscreen, enamel on paper,
182.9 by 140.3 cm.
Sold for: USD 518,000
(AUD 715,000)
Christies, London, 30 June 2021

Biography

Selected solo exhibitions
2019 Hill Art Foundation, New York
2017 Galerie Max Hetzler, Berlin
2016 Fondation Beyeler, Basel
2015 Luhring Augustine, New York
2015 Museum of Modern Art, New York
2013 Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum
2013 Art Institute of Chicago
2012 Musée d’art moderne de Paris
2010 Gagosian Gallery, Rome
2008 Ludwig Museum, Cologne
2006 Instituto Valenciano de Arte
2005 Taka Ishii Gallery, Tokyo
2005 Gio Marconi, Milan
2004 Camden Arts
Center, London
2003 Gisela Capitain, Cologne
2002 Le Consortium, Dijon
2001 Secession, Vienna
2000 Skarstedt, New York
1999 Centre d’art contemporain, Geneva
1992 Eli Broad Foundation, Los Angeles
1991 Boijmans van Beuningen, Rotterdam
1991 Kunsthalle Bern
1991 Kolnischer Kunstverein, Cologne
1990 Galerie Christian Stein, Milan
1985 Gagosian Gallery, Los Angeles
1984 Pat Hearn Gallery, New York
1982 White Columns, New York

Selected group exhibitions
2020 De La Cruz Collection, Miami
2019 Fondation Louis Vuitton, Paris
2018 Galerie Max Hetzler, Berlin
2017 Whitney Museum, New York
2017 Marciano Art Foundation, LA
2016 Museum Brandhorst, Munich
2015 Astrup Fearnley Museet, Oslo
2015 The Broad, Los Angeles
2015 Centre Pompidou, Paris
2014 Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam
2012 MoCA, Los Angeles
2011 Venice Biennale
2011 Rubell Family Collection, Miami
2010 Hammer Museum, Los Angeles
2008 Migros Museum, Zurich
2004 National Gallery of Canada
2003 Staatsgalerie Stuttgart
2002 Boijmans van Beuningen, Rotterdam
2001 Museum of Modern Art, New York
1998 Museum Ludwig, Cologne

Selected collections
Albertina Museum, Vienna
Art Gallery of Ontario, Toronto
Art Institute of Chicago, Chicago
Baltimore Museum of Art, Baltimore
Broad Foundation, Los Angeles
Carnegie Museum of Art, Pittsburgh
Centre Pompidou, Paris
Cleveland Musuem of Art, Cleveland
Dallas Museum of Art, Dallas
De La Cruz Collection, Miami
FRAC Nord – Pas de Calais, France
Hammer Museum, Los Angeles
Hirschhorn Museum, Washington
Musée d’Art Contemporain, Montreal
Musée d’Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris
Museum Boijmans van Beuningen, Rotterdam
Museum Ludwig, Cologne
Museum der Moderne Kunst, Vienna
Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago
Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles
Museum of Contemporary Art, Miami
Museum of Fine Art, Boston
Museum of Modern Art, New York
Tate Modern, London
Walker Art Center, Minneapolis
Whitney Museum, New York

ILEANA at Explore Sydney Contemporary

Walead Beshty, Louise Bourgeois, Dorian Büchi, Michael Craig-Martin, Melissa Gordon, Richard Hamilton, Rachel Howard, Louise Lawler, Tony Lewis, Sol LeWitt, Tim Maguire, Takesada Matsutani, Edda Renouf, Bridget Riley, Peter Schuyff, Stansfield/Hooykaas, Wang Guangyi, Christopher Wool

Presented at Explore Sydney Contemporary (11-21 November 2021)

All artworks © the artist.