Sale: 545 / Evening Sale, Dec. 08. 2023 in Munich Lot 10

Sean Scully
Cut Ground Blue Grey, 2011.
Oil on canvas
€ 300,000 - 500,000

$ 318,000 - 530,000

Cut Ground Blue Grey. 2011.
Oil on canvas.
Signed, dated and titled on the reverse. 71.8 x 81.5 cm (28.2 x 32 in).

• This is a particularly remarkable work from the "Cut Ground" series which he began in 2006.
• In this work, Scully combines the imagery and the essence of his entire previous creation.
• Owing to the harmonious and balanced colors and composition, this work occupies a special position in Scully's oeuvre.
• Works from this series are in the collections of the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, Richmond (VA) and the Fundación Bancaja in Valencia

PROVENANCE: Richard Green Gallery, London.
Private collection New York (acquired from the above).

"I want my brushstrokes to be full of feeling."
Sean Scully, zit. nach: Art UK,

Called up: December 8, 2023 - ca. 17.18 h +/- 20 min.

From Geometric Rigor to Sensual Color Field Painting
Since his artistic beginnings in the 1970s, Sean Scully has been fully committed to abstraction. His initially very precise, strictly geometric, even and minimalist stripe compositions became more painterly in the course of the 1980s, with freer and more sensual transitions. On a trip to Mexico in the early 1980s, the artist was particularly fascinated by the spectacular light and shadow effects on the Mayan ruins of Yucatan, which were built from countless stone blocks. Henceforth, Scully pursued a significantly less formal and less strictly geometric path than in his earlier works. The shiny materiality of the oil paints, the clearly visible brushwork and the soft, deliberately imprecise transitions between the individual color bars and stripes now come to the fore. "The result was a geometry that was less precise, less self-confident, less presumptuous, becoming instead more poetic, more mysterious, more intimate and more truthful." (Danilo Eccher, then director of the Museo d'Arte Contemporanea di Roma, in: ex. cat. Sean Scully: A Retrospective, London 2007, p. 13)

Geometric Structure and Free, Gestural Paint Application
Scully begins his work by structuring it in pencil or oil pastel. He divides the image area to be painted into several smaller rectangular elements and narrow stripes. The individual areas are then filled with several layers of paint using a broad brush. From the late 1990s onward, Scully added a significantly more emotional dimension to his works. By layering many color areas on top of each other, stronger colors can shimmer through at the transitions between the individual stripes and rectangles, because the boundaries are anything but rigid and precise: Scully fills the previously divided structure with a broad brush and with gestural and even rhythmic strokes. Colors overlap and mix, blur and allow the observer to experience the artist's physical work and thus the process of creation: "Of course, time is an aspect of my works, because it consists of layers. It is repeatedly over-painted, in different colors and with varying emphasis, I carry on until somehow everything, as elegant or awkward as it is, is in the right place where it can live." (Sean Scully in a talk with Kevin Power, quoted from: Kelly Grovier and Kirsten Voigt (eds.), Inner, Berlin 2018, p. 104). In the present work with its particularly intensive colors, cool and warm areas are side by side. Warm orange meets a fresh light blue, strong rapeseed yellow meets deep night blue. Darker color panels give their brighter, strong yellow neighbors an unexpected radiance and result in an appealingly rich and nuanced mosaic with a magnificent, delicately shiny painterly surface.

"Brushstrokes full of feeling". Mark Rothko and Sean Scully
While Scully's preciseness can be linked to, among others, the paintings of Piet Mondrian, the strong influence of American Abstract Expressionism becomes obvious in this time-consuming, physical layering of the colors, especially the vibrant color fields of Mark Rothko, whom Scully discovered in his early twenties during a visit to an exhibition at the Museum of Modern Art in New York. After he had emigrated to the USA in the late 1970s, he was intensively occupied with Rothko.
Like Rothko, Scully is almost obsessed with the effect of colors and the relationship between them, their contrasting interplay through which emotions and moods can be created and conveyed. "I want my brushstrokes to be full of feeling.", says the artist (S. Scully, quoted from: Art UK, -145127) Scully explains: "I believe that abstraction is and has been designed to embody deep emotion. I believe that is its purpose in the history of art." (S. Scully, 2012, quoted from: Kelly Grovier (ed.), Inner, Berlin 2018, p. 280).

From "Wall of Light" to "Cut Ground"
Despite the supposed similarities and parallels in Sean Scully's works, the works can be grouped based on their formal characteristics and can be assigned to a specific series. For example, the works in the "Robe" series consist of rectangles of the same size, neatly placed next to one another or stacked on top of each other. Scully's "Doric" works are subject to the three-part nature of the triptych, the "Mirror" pictures contain references to the diptych and the "Landline" series of works from the 2000s is characterized by the translation of the classic landscape picture to purely horizontal color stripes.
In "Wall of Light", presumably Scully's most famous series from the late 1990s, the artist uses color blocks of nearly same size which he puts together to create rather uniform, harmonious compositions. The lines become softer, the style becomes more painterly and the individual – actually hidden – color layers shine through the spaces between the color fields. This is the likeness to the series “Cut Ground”, of which the present work is a prime example, that the artist began in 2006. Their expressiveness arises in the painting process, it is constructed 'geologically', so to speak, like individual rock sheets, gradually from the lowest layer to the surface. The finished composition contains a certain emotionally charged depth effect due to the visibility of the underlying layers. In contrast to the more uniform image structure of the "Wall of Light" works, the "Cut Ground" works also contain very narrow stripes that add dynamics and motion to the composition. The color stripes of different widths run in different directions: The narrower, vertical stripes in the center meet wider, horizontal color bars and thus provide a certain energy flow in the picture, which, owing to the sensual brushwork, suggests additional momentum.
The result is a masterful synthesis of formal rigor, architectural composition, loose yet energetic brushwork and vibrant, intuitive color. The work from the "Cut Ground" series offered here embodies the essence of Scully's artistic work, from the beginning of the 1980s to the highly sensual, lively images of the more recent creative phases. With the iconic repertoire of short and long color fields, placed side-by-side and stacked, in cold and warm tones, light and dark, radiant or delicate, cut into narrow stripes or wide blocks, the best characteristics of Scully's art, his dedication and his unrelenting commitment to abstract painting culminate in this work.

London to Guangzhou
After two early nominations for the prestigious Turner Prize in 1989 and 1993 (but without an award), Scully's significant contribution to the history of abstract painting is now undisputed. His works are in the most prestigious international collections like the Museum of Modern Art, the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum in New York, the National Gallery of Art, Washington, D. C., the Tate Gallery in London, the Albertina in Vienna and the Guangdong Museum of Art in Guangzhou, China. His recent success in particular shows that Scully's work has already become established in European art history of the late 20th / early 21st century and continues to have a lasting influence on the development of contemporary abstraction. In 2013, he became a member of the Royal Academy of Arts, and Scully was the first Western artist ever to be honored with a comprehensive, retrospective exhibition in China, shown in both Shanghai and Beijing in 2014/15. In the last few years alone, his work featured in more than a dozen solo exhibitions in Europe and the United States, among them at the Thorvaldsen Museum in Copenhagen (2023), the grand exhibition "Sean Scully. The Shape of Ideas" at the Philadelphia Museum of Art (2022), at the National Gallery in London and the Albertina in Vienna (2019), as well as at the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden in Washington, D.C. (2018/19). [CH]

Buyer's premium, taxation and resale right compensation for Sean Scully "Cut Ground Blue Grey"
This lot can be subjected to differential taxation plus a 7% import tax levy (saving approx. 5 % compared to regular taxation) or regular taxation, artist‘s resale right compensation is due.

Differential taxation:
Hammer price up to 800,000 €: herefrom 32 % premium.
The share of the hammer price exceeding 800,000 € is subject to a premium of 27 % and is added to the premium of the share of the hammer price up to 800,000 €.
The share of the hammer price exceeding 4,000,000 € is subject to a premium of 22 % and is added to the premium of the share of the hammer price up to 4,000,000 €.
The buyer's premium contains VAT, however, it is not shown.

Regular taxation:
Hammer price up to 800,000 €: herefrom 27 % premium.
The share of the hammer price exceeding 800,000 € is subject to a premium of 21% and is added to the premium of the share of the hammer price up to 800,000 €.
The share of the hammer price exceeding 4,000,000 € is subject to a premium of 15% and is added to the premium of the share of the hammer price up to 4,000,000 €.
The statutory VAT of currently 19 % is levied to the sum of hammer price and premium. As an exception, the reduced VAT of 7 % is added for printed books.

We kindly ask you to notify us before invoicing if you wish to be subject to regular taxation.

Calculation of artist‘s resale right compensation:
For works by living artists, or by artists who died less than 70 years ago, a artist‘s resale right compensation is levied in accordance with Section 26 UrhG:
4 % of hammer price from 400.00 euros up to 50,000 euros,
another 3 % of the hammer price from 50,000.01 to 200,000 euros,
another 1 % for the part of the sales proceeds from 200,000.01 to 350,000 euros,
another 0.5 % for the part of the sale proceeds from 350,000.01 to 500,000 euros and
another 0.25 % of the hammer price over 500,000 euros.
The maximum total of the resale right fee is EUR 12,500.

The artist‘s resale right compensation is VAT-exempt.