Günther Förg, ‘Untitled’, 1990, Sotheby's: Contemporary Art Day Auction

This work is recorded in the Günther Fürg archive with number WVF.90.B.0635. We are most grateful to Mr. Michael Neff from the Estate of Günther Fürg for the information he has kindly provided.

From the Catalogue

Executed on a monumental scale, Günther Förg’s Untitled is a chromatically intense and superlative example of the artist’s iconic Lead Paintings. These monolithic and muscular paintings stand at the very apex of Förg’s multifaceted practice, which spans over thirty years and includes media as diverse as painting, sculpture, photography and installation. Created in the late 1980s and early 1990s, this exhaustive series, which masterfully juxtaposes smooth flat paint against the coarse patina of pliable lead, is considered one of the great contemporary contributions to European abstract art. As Förg has said, “For me, abstract art today is what one sees, and nothing more” (Günther Förg in conversation with Thomas Groetz in Exh. Cat., Vienna and Klosterneuberg, Essl Museum, Günther Förg: Back and Forth, 2007, p. 13). Through his bold visual embrace of pure, unadulterated color and his fascination with its unique interaction with weighty unprimed lead, Förg has utterly reconfigured and re-directed Minimalism’s trajectory, and in doing so, has rightfully instated himself as one of the most eminent painters of our time.

Eschewing the traditional canvas format, the towering, almost herculean Lead Paintings are made by tirelessly wrapping vast sheets of lead, often in several layers, around a wooden frame; a process that imbues Förg’s work with an entirely unique material presence. Leaving the lead completely untreated, the artist would traverse over the chalky, oxidized surface with rich, luscious pigment in bold color fields, which emphasize the solidity of the support and endow these powerful works with their overwhelming gravitas. The textural variance of the metal lends this work its constant intrigue: “I like very much the qualities of lead – the surface, the heaviness. Some of the paintings were completely painted, and you only experience the lead at the edges; this gives the painting a very heavy feeling – it gives the color a different density and weight. In other works the materials would be explicitly visible as grounds. I like to react on things, with the normal canvas you have to kill the ground, give it something to react against. With the metals you already have something – its scratches, scrapes…” (Günther Förg in conversation with David Ryan, in: David Ryan, Talking Painting: Dialogue with Twelve Contemporary Abstract Painters, London 2002, p. 77).

Förg’s career-long fascination with material qualities is something that is firmly entrenched within the history of Modernism. We immediately think of the precedent of Robert Ryman, whose practice was so focused on "the image" or "the end product", whilst the muscular, virile use of lead in Untitled instantly recalls the organic, powerful sculptures of Richard Serra. Visually, however, the color field works of Abstract Expressionist giants like Mark Rothko and Barnett Newman are perhaps the most obvious precedent, while the scratchy marks apparent in the upper register of the work remind us of Cy Twombly's canonical blackboard works. Nonetheless, the present work is distanced from Abstract Expressionism’s concern with the sublime and metaphysical aura; Untitled is instead a manifesto of pure formalism, an essay in Förg’s defining rationalism and a celebration of absolute materiality.

Courtesy of Sotheby's

Signature: signed and dated 1990 on the reverse

Dallas Museum of Art, Encounters 2, Günther Förg & Skeet McAulay, August - September 1992

Exh. Cat., Berlin, Galerie Max Hetzler, Günther Förg 1987-2011, 2011, p. 34, illustrated

Luhring Augustine, New York
Galerie Max Hetzler, Berlin
Acquired from the above by the present owner

About Günther Förg

Günther Förg studied at the Academy of Fine Arts in Munich and is part of a post-war generation of German artists who reacted against Modernism. His diverse body of work includes sculpture, painting, printmaking, photography, and drawing, often in combination. Förg was one of the pioneers in exhibiting multi-disciplinary works, pre-dating much of installation art. Though stylistically diverse, his works share an interest in fragmentation and the political climate of his era in German. He has been historically categorized as an abstract and Minimalist artist (though his work does include some figuration). Förg is known for the use of brightly saturated solid colors, though one of his most famous series is a body of black-and-white photographs of international Bauhaus architecture, taken between 1980 and 2006.

German, 1952-2013, Fuessen, Germany, based in Colombier, Neuchâtel, Switzerland