Sotheby’s announced the sale of a smaller version of a celebrated Peter Doig painting that has been a mainstay of Doig’s most significant shows. The £6-8m work was inspired by a well-known photograph of Jackson Pollock’s studio in East Hampton, New York. It has been in the same collection since 1999:
Peter Doig’s Daytime Astronomy (Grasshopper) will make its auction debut at Sotheby’s Evening Sale of Contemporary Art in London on 26 June 2018. Estimated at £6-8 million ($8.1-10.7 million USD), the painting is a spectacular distillation of all the elements that have made Doig one of the most celebrated and successful painters of his generation.
Oliver Barker, Chairman of Sotheby’s Europe, said: “Peter Doig is a master image maker. In Daytime Astronomy (Grasshopper), one of the artist’s most important paintings, Doig pays homage to his Abstract Expressionist forebears, most notably Jackson Pollock who is subtly incorporated into the horizontal layers of the picture, shown lying in the grass outside his Long Island Studio. The ever growing enthusiasm of collectors for Peter Doig at auction has cemented his reputation as one of the most important contemporary artists working today.”
A work that that has been in the same collection since its completion in 1999, Daytime Astronomy (Grasshopper) shares its subject with a larger painting by Doig, Daytime Astronomy (1997-98), which has been included in Doig’s most celebrated solo-shows.
Like many of the most acclaimed works by Doig, the dreamlike Daytime Astronomy (Grasshopper) is inspired by a wide array of sources and features numerous art historical references. The principal point of departure for the painting is a photograph taken by Hans Namuth of Abstract Expressionist Jackson Pollock lying in the grass outside his East Hampton studio. While the figure of Pollock himself is only subtly included in Doig’s canvas, the wider influence of the Abstract Expressionist movement on this picture is palpable. Daytime Astronomy (Grasshopper) includes echoes of Pollock’s own layered abstract compositions, while the influence of Mark Rothko can be detected in the segmented layering of the picture plane, as well as by the colour variation of the canvas; opaque greens and browns feature heavily on the bottom of the work, segueing to delicate coloured washes in the upper layers. Doig also riffs on Barnett Newman’s iconic ‘zip’ paintings, turning the artist’s ubiquitous vertical shafts horizontally, and dividing the painting into three clearly defined sections.
The reference to ‘grasshopper’ in the title is related to the subtle pose of the figure with their knees bent and sticking out of the grass, however is also related to a quotation Doig found in a book that cited the words of a 19th Century settler in Canada’s western prairies: “Man is a grasshopper here, a mere insect making way between the enormous discs of heaven and earth.” This quote echoes the tripartite arrangement of many of Doig’s compositions, including the present work and others such as The House That Jacques Built (1992) in the collection of the Tel Aviv Museum of Art.
The auction debut of Doig’s Daytime Astronomy (Grasshopper) follows the successful sale of Doig’s landmark painting The Architect’s Home in the Ravine (1991) which sold for £14.4 million ($19.9 million USD) in our March 2018 Contemporary art evening sale in London. Four of the five highest prices for the artist at auction have been set in the past 12 months.