Günther Uecker (German, born 1930), Oval (1958), estimated at £450,000-650,000. Photo: Bonhams.
Two works by the Zero group founding member Günther Uecker lead Bonhams March sale of Post-War and Contemporary Art at Bonhams New Bond Street.
Oval (£450,000-650,000) and Vogel (£400,000-600,000), painted in 1958 and 1962 respectively, represent a key period in the German artist’s early career, reflecting the dynamism of his practice in and around the time he was founding the avant-garde Zero group along with Heinz Mack and Otto Piene.
Ralph Taylor, Bonhams Senior Director of Post-War and Contemporary, says “We are delighted to be offering two important works by Günther Uecker. These pieces by one of the most exciting artists of the post-war era represent an exciting opportunity for collectors.”
Günther Uecker was born in 1930 in Wendorf, Germany, his work is included in the collections of international institutions such as the Tate Modern, London; the Museum of Modern Art, New York; the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York and the Musée national d’art moderne, Centre Georges Pompidou, Paris.
Uecker studied painting at the Kunsthochschule Berlin Weissensee from 1949 to 1953, and further pursued his artistic training in 1955 at the Kunstakademie Düsseldorf. Throughout the 1950s, Uecker cultivated a strong interest in repetitive practices and purification rituals, and became fascinated with the philosophies of Buddhism and Taoism. In response to these he developed rituals of his own, including the lengthy, repetitive, and meditative hammering of nails.
Uecker examined this effect further in the 1960s by introducing kinetic elements into his works through the use of engines, shifting his methodology from using precise, geometric patterns to more organic and irregular arrangements. In 1961, he joined the Zero Group founded by artists Heinz Mack and Otto Piene, who advocated a new ways of interacting with art. The group would soon reach out to embrace artists throughout Europe and become one of the most dynamic forces in post-war European art.
After the dissolution of the Zero Group in the mid-1960s, Uecker's began to incorporate body, Conceptual, and Land art into his oeuvre. In the 1970s he designed stage sets for several operas and in 1974 started teaching at the Kunstakademie Düsseldorf, which he would continue to do so until 1995.
Uecker has been the recipient of numerous prestigious awards, such as the Staatspreis des Landes Nordrhein-Westfalen in 2015. His work has been exhibited at museums around the world, including the Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam; the Budapest Museum of Fine Art, Budapest; the Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles; the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York; Ca’ Pesaro, International Gallery of Modern Art, Venice; and the Belvedere Museum, Vienna.
Other highlights include:
• Séi, a 1991 painting by the Gutai group founding member Kazuo Shiraga. Estimated at £500,000-700,000, this work follows on from impressive results in recent Bonhams sales for works by Shiraga and other members of the Gutai group.
• Shiraga (1924-2008) was one of the most original painters in post-war Japan. Famed for painting with his feet while suspended by a rope, he considered physical actions as fundamentally linked to spiritual experiences.
• The Gutai group, which means 'concrete', was founded in 1954 and sought to redefine art as a medium that could relate to post-war Japan.