From a bon vivant’s bathroom in the Swiss Alps to the sale floor at Sotheby’s, Composition by Roy Lichtenstein has quite a story to tell. The dramatic porcelain-enamel-on-steel work ($900,000-$1.2m), one of only three unique porcelain-enamel pieces ever created by the artist, will go under the hammer at Sotheby’s Contemporary Art Day Auction in New York on Friday May 17.
This rare piece of pop-art history was commissioned by German photographer/playboy Gunter Sachs in 1969. Created at the height of the artist’s prolific career, it uses the pop-art language and vibrant palette that are synonymous with the artist in a dramatic interplay of contrasting elements. Fusing aspects of his Modern Paintings and Art Deco series, including iconic black Ben-Day dots, it is a dynamic work full of tensions – including those seen in the vivid rays of the rising sun, mixed with soft tendrils of green foliage.
The unique work was originally installed as a panel below the bathroom sink of Sachs’ penthouse at the Palace Hotel in St Moritz, and paired with Leda and the Swan – another pop-art piece that accompanied Sachs’ impressive collections of Allen Jones furniture, Jean-Claude Farhi Perspex wall panels and sculptures, and works by Andy Warhol and Yves Klein.
Much like Lichtenstein’s comic-book-inspired works that glamourised the concept of mass production, the porcelain-enamel medium of Composition added a layer of complexity to the artist’s oeuvre and further reinforced his quest for mechanical perfection.