david hammons - moving to the other side
Lot 48: DAVID HAMMONS, “Moving to the Other Side,” 1969 (silkscreen on wove paper). Estimate $100,000-$150,000. Sold for $112,000 (including fees)

 

WHEN PHILLIPS CONTEMPORARY ART AUCTION gets underway tomorrow morning, a central highlight of the show will be an early work on paper by David Hammons (b. 1943). “Moving to the Other Side,” one of the artist’s celebrated body prints, graces the cover of Phillips “Under the Influence” catalog where it is estimated to sell for $100,000 to $150,000. The 1969 monotype (Lot 48) is also featured prominently inside the catalog with a four-page essay and photos, including a gatefold, and promoted heavily in the press release for the New York sale.

A critically successful artist whose practice comments on race, politics and society-at-large and spans printmaking, painting and drawing, installation, performance and mixed-media sculpture, Hammons is as well known for his wry, innovative approach to art making as he is for flouting the accepted structure of the fine art world. He has no gallery representation and nearly 30 years ago, in an oft-quoted, rare interview with art historian Kellie Jones, he said, “The art audience is the worst audience in the world. It’s overly educated, it’s conservative, it’s out to criticize not to understand, and it never has any fun. Why should I spend my time playing to that audience?”

phillips 9:16:14 catalogNevertheless, in the intervening years, in addition to his impromptu performances, Hammons has exhibited his art in galleries and scholarly catalogs about his work have been published. The New York Times reported that he pitched the idea for his 2007 exhibition at the since shuttered L&M Arts gallery and paid for it himself. Remaining true to his independent spirit, his “alternative” stance has turned out to be a brilliant and successful conceit, bolstering the narrative foundation and intellectual temperament of his practice, and ultimately, it seems, boosting his market success.

Less than a year ago, Hammons’s basketball hoop chandelier appeared on the cover of Phillips Nov. 11, 2013, auction catalog. Interest in the work was exceptional and the mixed-media sculpture sold for $8,005,000, surpassing its $5 million to $7 million estimate, and setting a record for the artist at auction. Generally, collectors consign work for sale at auction and profit from the increased value of an artist’s work. In this case, Hammons reaped the benefits of the multi-million-dollar value placed on his work because he consigned it directly for sale himself.

“MOVING TO THE OTHER SIDE,” the work in tomorrow’s sale, is an early example of the body prints Hammons made in the late 1960s and early 70s when he was living and working in Los Angeles. He applied margarine and baby oil to his body and clothing, strategically pressed himself against sheets of paper placed on the wall or floor, and dusted the resulting impressions with pigment powder.

According to the provenance report, Lot 48 was acquired by the “present owner” at the Oct. 4, 2007, sale of works from the Golden State Mutual Life Insurance Company African American Art Collection at Swann Auction Galleries. At the Swann sale seven years ago, “Moving to the Other Side” sold for $64,800 including fees (the hammer price was $54,000).

The Swann catalog copy cites a Hammons interview with curator Joseph A. Young for the Los Angeles County Museum of Art exhibition “Three Graphic Artists” (Charles White, Timothy Washington and Hammons) in which the artist describes the challenges of his unique process:

“When I lie down on the paper which is first placed on the floor, I have to carefully decide how to get up after I have made the impression that I want. Sometimes I lie there for perhaps three minutes or even longer just figuring out how I can get off the paper without smudging the image that I’m trying to print.”
— David Hammons, 1970 interview with Joseph A. Young, LACMA

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The Phillips catalog features four pages about “Moving to the Other Side” by David Hammons, including a gatefold image of the lot.

 

THE PHILLIPS CATALOG INCLUDES archive images by photographer Bruce Talamon that depict Hammons’s method, showing how the artist used his body to create his prints. The essay notes the distinct way “Moving to the Other Side” was produced. Later body prints are generally executed in a dark hue and have a transparent quality that resembles an x-ray image. Conjuring a bear figure, this example features nearly opaque shades of gray on cream wove paper.

According to the catalog essay, “This particular work is slightly unique in its creation, as Hammons chose to make the initial body print against a silkscreen stratum and then used that screen to create the unique mono-print that is [literally] ‘Moving to the Other Side.'”

In his 1986 interview with Jones, Hammons says after he came to New York in 1974, he stopped making body prints. “I had to get out of the body prints because they were doing so well. I was making money hand over fist,” he says. “I was running out of ideas and the pieces were just becoming very ordinary, and getting very boring. I tried my best to hold on to it. It took me about two years to find something else to do.”

Jones, a professor of art history and archeology at Columbia University, reprinted the interview in her 2011 book “EyeMinded: Living and Writing Contemporary Art.”

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The catalog essay includes images by photographer Bruce Talamon that document David Hammons’s process for creating body prints.

 

WHILE HAMMONS HAS MOVED ON, his body prints continue to garner critical appreciation. The works were the focus of “L.A. Object & David Hammons Body Prints” at Roberts & Tilton gallery in Culver City, Calif., featured in “Now Dig This!: Art and Black Los Angeles, 1960-1980,” and “Witness: Art and Civil Rights in the Sixties,” now on view at Dartmouth University’s Hood Museum of Art, includes “The Door (Admissions Office).”

Currently, his work is being considered in parallel with the late French artist Yves Klein at the Aspen Art Museum’s “David Hammons Yves Klein / Yves Klein David Hammons” exhibition. And he may be setting up shop soon. The New York Observer reported in April that Hammons plans to convert an old Yonkers warehouse into an art gallery.

“UNDER THE INFLUENCE” SALES generally feature emerging artists. In its press release, Phillips describes the auctions as “giving collectors an early opportunity to own the stars of tomorrow,” many of the artists are appearing at auction for the first time alongside established names such as Hammons, who is referred to as a “contemporary master.”

“David Hammons’ continually evolving oeuvre has established his practice as one of the most seminal of any American artist working today.”
— Phillips, “Under the Influence” catalog essay

In addition to the cover lot by Hammons, the sale features a number of other highly regarded black artists including Sam Gilliam, Glenn Ligon, Julie Mehretu, Oscar Murillo, Chris Ofili, Adam Pendleton, Mickalene Thomas, Kara Walker and Kehinde Wiley. “The art audience,” the worst in the world, begins bidding at 11 a.m. EST. CT