Antoni Tàpies (Spanish, 1923-2012) Pila de Diaris (Pile of Newspapers) 1970

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Lot 22* AR
Antoni Tàpies
(Spanish, 1923-2012)
Pila de Diaris (Pile of Newspapers)

£ 50,000 - 70,000
US$ 62,000 - 87,000
Antoni Tàpies (Spanish, 1923-2012)
Pila de Diaris (Pile of Newspapers)

signed on the newspaper
oil, sand and glue on newspaper in an enamel and metal bowl

29 by 45 by 43 cm.
11 7/6 by 17 11/16 by 16 15/16 in.


  • Provenance
    Martha Jackson, New York (acquired directly from the artist)
    David Anderson, Buffalo (by descent from the above)
    Acquired directly from the above by the present owner in 2005

    Zurich, Galerie Maeght, Tàpies, 1971, cat. no. 57
    Buffalo, Albright-Knox Art Gallery; Chicago, Museum of Contemporary Art; San Antonio, Marion Koogler McNay Art Institute; Des Moines, Des Moines Art Center; Montreal, Musée d'Art Contemporain, Antoni Tàpies: Thirty-three Years of His Work, 1977, cat. no. 119
    Saint Etienne du Rouvray, 34e Exposition de l'Union des Arts Plastiques, 1982, p.5, illustrated in black and white
    New York, Marta Cervera Gallery, Tàpies: Objects From the Early Seventies, 1989, illustrated in black and white
    Madrid, Centro de Arte Reina Sofía, Extensiones de la realidad, 1990, p. 96, illustrated in colour
    Barcelona, Fundació Joan Miró, Extensions de la realitat, 1991, p. 82, illustrated in colour
    Bilbao, Guggenheim Museum, Antoni Tàpies: From Object to Sculpture (1964-2009), 2013-2014, p. 57, no. 9, illustrated in colour

    Pere Gimferrer, Antoni Tàpies et L'Esprit Catalan, Barcelona 1976, p. 267, pl. 292, illustrated in black and white
    Andreas Franzke and Michael Schwarz, Antoni Tàpies, Werk und Zeit, Stuttgart 1979, p. 149, pl. 160, illustrated in black and white
    Miguel Fernandez-Braso, Conversaciones con Tàpies, Madrid 1981, p. 91, illustrated in black and white
    Josep Vallès Rovira, Tàpies Empremta (art-vida), Barcelona 1983, pl. 164, illustrated in black and white
    Barbara Catoir, Conversations Antoni Tàpies, Paris 1988, p. 116, pl. 81, illustrated in black and white
    Anna Augusti, Antoni Tàpies: Catalogue Raisonné. Volume 3, 1969-1975, Barcelona 1992, p. 116, n. 2130, illustrated in black and white

    Antoni Tàpies' Pila de Diaris, 1970, has never appeared on the market having been in the collection of Martha Jackson, and subsequently her son David Anderson, ever since the collector purchased it directly from the artist. It is a work which challenges its audience, prompting manifold questions and confronting aesthetic expectations. Its original title, in the artist's native Catalan, translates into English as 'Pile of Newspapers', a simple description for what at first may appear to be a simple artefact. However, in his use of found objects and mundane materials, Tàpies has in fact created a work of art which defies convention and compels its viewer to consider, to carefully cogitate. Ultimately, it is its very simplicity which makes Pila de Diaris so involving, so puzzling and so profound.

    This sculpture, which undoubtedly reflects Tàpies' fascination with the philosophical tenets of Zen Buddhism, pulls together two basic elements, namely a pile of folded newspapers which are nestled comfortably into an enamelled metal bowl. Although there is nothing unusual about either of these materials, both of which might be seen on any sideboard in any house in any city in any country across the world, placing them together creates a strange, unexpected interplay. Suddenly something new emerges, a novel and avant-garde dialogue develops from two everyday items. In conjuring up this unusual relationship, Tàpies was surely invoking the spirit of Dadaism, and recalling in particular the assemblages of Marcel Duchamp. A development of the ready-mades, in which Duchamp presented single mass-produced objects, such as the famous bottle dryer or the notorious urinal, Duchamp's assemblages pulled together multiple objets trouvés into sculptural forms, forging works of art both shockingly innovative and strangely familiar. Perhaps the best-known example of Duchamp's assemblages is his Bicycle Wheel of 1913, which juxtaposes the wheel of a push-bike and a white wooden kitchen stool, creating in the process a surprisingly captivating end result.

    Pila de Diaris belongs to an important group of sculptures by Tàpies in which he utilised the stuff of life; worn-out rags, pristine white plates, broken planks of wood, bricks and even straw. For him, however, it was not the material that mattered, it was the forms that they created, and the process that they went through in order to become art. The body of this work may be humble newspaper, and its pedestal an austere white bowl, but the relative unimportance of the media is all part of its impact. In its rejection of the smooth, pure marble or burnished bronze of artistic tradition, the present lot demonstrates the artist's quest to reassess ideas of aesthetic value and creative worth.

    There is, however, artistic involvement with the objects here, Tàpies is smothering the flat plane of the top newspaper with messy pigments. This intervention brings to mind Robert Rauschenberg's iconic Bed of 1955, which is now housed in the collection of MoMA, New York; but while Rauschenberg still shows some attachment to the idea of a wall-mounted 'canvas' in his work, Tàpies rejects any semblance of this historic practise. For Tàpies, the paint was a method of blocking out the news print, removing any sense of connotation or context. Without the text, these newspapers lose their meaning, and become simply elements in a sculpture. The use of thick black and rich, russet red are typical of the artist's oeuvre of this period, which often employs colours which are earthy, primal, and unostentatious, tones which were also commonplace in the landscape and architecture of his native Barcelona.

    There is no easy solution to the enigma that is Pila de Diaris, 1970. In creating this work, Tàpies was not setting up a riddle to be solved; there is no right answer to the conundrums that it poses, no secret key that unlocks layers of hidden meaning. Instead, this sculpture requires reflection, and it is surely this reflection that is its purpose. It begs various questions: what is a suitable medium for sculpture? What, if anything, does this sculpture mean? When does an everyday item become a work of art? What, even, is art? For anyone viewing the present work, it is this compulsion to contemplate, this journey towards a potential truth that is important, the distance covered more significant than the vague, mirage-like destination.

    The recent inclusion of Pila de Diaris in the Guggenheim, Bilbao's 2013-2014 From Object to Sculpture, an unprecedented exhibition which comprehensibly reassessed the artist's three dimensional works, confirms its importance in the evolution of Tàpies' long, distinguished career. And if the work reminds us of a specific time, a period when art was being pulled apart, then rebuilt and refashioned, then it also remains remarkably relevant. The questions that it elicits are, after all, ultimately timeless, and the search that it provokes is potentially endless.
Antoni Tàpies (Spanish, 1923-2012) Pila de Diaris (Pile of Newspapers) 1970
Antoni Tàpies (Spanish, 1923-2012) Pila de Diaris (Pile of Newspapers) 1970
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