20th Apr, 2024 18:00

TAKING FLIGHT: Selected Works from the Phoenix Collection

 
  Lot 22
 
Lot 22 - Alexis Preller (South Africa 1911-1975)

22

Alexis Preller (South Africa 1911-1975)
Adam

oil on canvas

Artwork date: 1972
Signature details: signed and dated bottom right; printed with the artist's name, the title, dimensions and medium on a Biennale of São Paulo 1973 label on the reverse
Exhibited: Bienal de São Paulo, Pavilhão Ciccillo Matarazzo, São Paulo, 5 October to 2 December 1973.
Pretoria Art Museum, Pretoria, 'Alexis Preller Retrospective', 24 October to 26 November 1972.

Literature: 12th Bienal de São Paulo. (1973). [exhibition catalogue]. Fundação Bienal de São Paulo, São Paulo. 5 October to 2 December 1973., illustrated in black and white on p. 590.
Berman, E. (1972). 'Alexis Preller: Pretoria Art Museum 1972 Retrospective', Pretoria: Pretoria Art Museum, illustrated in black and white. cat. 187.

Estimate
R8,000,000 - R10,000,000
 

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oil on canvas

Artwork date: 1972
Signature details: signed and dated bottom right; printed with the artist's name, the title, dimensions and medium on a Biennale of São Paulo 1973 label on the reverse
Exhibited: Bienal de São Paulo, Pavilhão Ciccillo Matarazzo, São Paulo, 5 October to 2 December 1973.
Pretoria Art Museum, Pretoria, 'Alexis Preller Retrospective', 24 October to 26 November 1972.

Literature: 12th Bienal de São Paulo. (1973). [exhibition catalogue]. Fundação Bienal de São Paulo, São Paulo. 5 October to 2 December 1973., illustrated in black and white on p. 590.
Berman, E. (1972). 'Alexis Preller: Pretoria Art Museum 1972 Retrospective', Pretoria: Pretoria Art Museum, illustrated in black and white. cat. 187.

(1)

102 x 102 cm; framed size: 142.5 x 137.5 x 4.5 cm

Provenance:

Aspire Art, Johannesburg, Historic, Modern & Contemporary Art, 28 October 2018, lot 103.

ABOUT THE ARTWORK

This trophy Alexis Preller artwork is a testament to the artist’s ability to capture the complexity of human existence through art. On first encountering the electrifying and vibrant painting from 1972, one is immediately struck by its hyper-saturated colour palette. Simply titled Adam, it belongs to a period in Preller's career where the artist was seeking a return to the fundamentals of figuration in his work, with the portrayal of the male form taking compelling new directions. As was often Preller's practice, he painted several variations of the Adam theme through the late 1960s and early 1970s.

Following an inspiring trip from Greece in 1968, Preller’s portrayal of the male form started taking a new compelling direction. The artist was seeking a return to the fundamentals of figuration in his work. Although not religious, he was conceptually interested in the “Biblical myth of the origin of humankind and the parallel return to the origin of his own creative language. In both cases, the focus fell on Adam, the first human figure to be shaped in the Garden of Eden… Adam was specifically the first man and thus the essential male prototype, just as Apollo was the ideal of male beauty. In his output after Greece, Preller freely celebrated both.”[1]

LEFT: Alexis Preller, Creation of Adam II, 1968

RIGHT: Alexis Preller, Creation of Adam I, 1968

Using Adam in or as the title for these works, Preller inaugurates this major theme with two exceptional works, The Creation of Adam I and The Creation of Adam II, both from 1968. In 1969, he completed a significant and original Adam. An almost life-size fibreglass and oil intaglio, it depicts a powerfully dramatic male figure, posed in the ancient Greek kouros style of a free-standing young male nude statue. Another Adam painting from the same year, Icon Barbare (Adam) (1972), evokes the same qualities as the current lot but is realised in gold leaf on wood and was exhibited, along with this Adam (1972), in Preller’s acclaimed retrospective exhibition at the Pretoria Art Museum in 1972.

LEFT: Alexis Preller, Adam, 1969

RIGHT: Alexis Preller, Icon Barbare, 1972

Clearly the most striking aspect of this important work is its startling colour palette in almost kaleidoscopic purples, blues and greens. It is a very different and extreme contrast to the far more muted palettes of the other Adams and brings it more in line with later paintings like C’est magnifique (1974). This Adam’s eyes are rendered in a powerfully uncanny electric blue, lending the figure an almost reverential and godlike atmosphere. They are completely blue, painted without irises, in an allusion to classical Greek sculpture. Preller imbues his Adam with this timeless quality, as if he is looking into the void, capturing powerfully the ambiguity between the abyss and a godlike expansiveness. It was certainly telling that Preller deemed it a significant enough work to go to the São Paulo Biennale of 1973, an exhibition for which only five works were selected.

Alexis Preller, C'est magnifique, 1974

[1] Berman, E. and Nel, K. (2009). Alexis Preller, A Visual Biography: Collected Images. Johannesburg: Shelf Publishing, p. 225.

COLLECTIONS:

The artist is represented in numerous local and international collections, notably, the Iziko South African National Gallery, Cape Town; University of Pretoria Art Collection, Pretoria; Johannesburg Art Gallery, Johannesburg; Tate Modern, London; Smithsonian National Museum of African Art, Washington D.C. and the British Museum, London.

The overall condition is excellent.

The canvas exhibits slight eveness or rippling on the top left corner, suggesting previous restoration.

Please note, we are not qualified conservators and these reports give our opinion as to the general condition of the works. We advise that bidders view the lots in person to satisfy themselves with the condition of prospective purchases.

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Auction: TAKING FLIGHT: Selected Works from the Phoenix Collection, 20th Apr, 2024

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