Phillips announces a de Kooning from 1980 that was shown at the Royal Academy in 1981 and at Gagosian in 2007. Estimated at $12-18m, the work will appear in the Evening sale on May 18th:
At 77 x 88 inches, Untitled II is an example of the largest of the three canvas sizes de Kooning used, reserved for his most ambitious projects. This painting is one of only a few paintings that he completed in 1980. The works from this period grew out of masterpieces from his highly acclaimed years of 1975-77. These bold, confident landscapes facilitated the transition from his earlier works to those created post-1981. Situated at this pivotal turning point, Untitled II takes a unique position within de Kooning’s oeuvre. On the one hand, the heavily painterliness of the background and energetic sweeps of the brush evoke de Kooning’s universally celebrated “pastoral” allover abstractions from 1975-1977. On the other hand, the present work also exemplifies the new-found sense of luminosity and open-endedness that de Kooning would further develop in a radically new visual language in the 1980s.
With Untitled II one sees an artist revisiting longstanding themes and formal elements, but also making his first forays into a new, radically different, visual territory. Shifting away from the tightly organized compositions and the heavily worked, dense canvases of his earlier years, de Kooning here puts forward a fluid space in which form, line and color blend into one another, foreshadowing the infinite white backgrounds and ribbon-like brushstrokes that would become the signature of his output in the 1980s.
Untitled II is the embodiment of the de Kooning’s newfound creativity after several years of episodic studio activity and marks the beginning of his celebrated final chapter. Widely celebrated upon its completion, it was notably exhibited the following year at the Royal Academy of Art’s A New Spirit in Painting exhibition in London.