Peter Doig’s Cabin Essence at Christie’s on 16 October 2015

Wednesday, September 23, 2015
Peter Doig’s Cabin Essence at Christie’s on 16 October 2015

Peter Doig’s Cabin Essence as a highlight of the Post War and Contemporary Evening Auction at Christie's on 16 October 2015.

Peter Doig’s Cabin Essence at Christie’s on 16 October 2015

Christie’s is delighted to present Peter Doig’s Cabin Essence as a highlight of the Post War and Contemporary Evening Auction on 16 October 2015. A crystalline vision of Le Corbusier’s Unité d’Habitation, one of the most important modernist buildings of all time, the painting was executed between 1993 and 1994 and is the largest work within Doig’s celebrated sequence of Concrete Cabins.  The property of a private American collector, a significant portion of the proceeds of the sale will be given to benefit The World Justice Project. Following the record-breaking performance of Doig’s Swamped (1990) at Christie’s New York in May of this year, Cabin Essence will lead a week of Post War and Contemporary auctions at Christie’s London and will be on view at Christie’s New York from 26 to 29 September and Christie’s London from 10 October.

 ‘At the heart of Tate Britain`s retrospective of Peter Doig is a room of paintings for which the artist is perhaps most known: the “Concrete Cabin” series of 1991-96, comprising views of a modernist building seen through thick, dark trees. Among these works, Cabin Essence, 1993-94, is one of the best ... [It] is a great lyrical work that, although telling no particular story, distills the striking format of a strong inner structure held within a field of floating organic and decorative elements ... the image is one of rationality submerged in mystery.’ Artforum, April 2008.

Debuted as part of the original suite of Concrete Cabins, at Victoria Miro Gallery, London in 1994, Cabin Essence was then shown at the Tate’s Turner Prize exhibition that same year. The Concrete Cabins series, created between 1991 and 1998,is of central significance to Doig’s practice; Concrete Cabin (1991-1992) – the first in the series – is currently housed in the Leicester Arts and Museum Service and Boiler House (1994) is a promised gift to the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art.  Most recently, Cabin Essence was shown as part of Foundation Beyeler’s (Basel) Peter Doig retrospective that took place 2014-2015.

Peter Doig (b. 1959), Cabin Essence, 1993-1994. Oil on canvas. 90 x 137¾in. (230 x 350cm.) This work is offered in the Post War and Contemporary Art Evening Auction on 16 October at Christie’s London

A monumentally scaled investigation into the mechanics of vision and memory, Cabin Essence is Doig’s portrayal of his experience when he travelled to take part in the restoration of Le Corbusier’s abandoned Unité d’Habitation at Briey-en-Forêt in northern France. Doig first visited Le Corbusier’s Unité d’Habitation in 1991. As a recent graduate living in London, he was part of a group of artists, architects and designers involved in the building’s restoration. Built in 1957, and abandoned less than twenty years later, the Unité was one of the structures that proposed a new form of democratic living in post-War Europe. This forsaken temple of Modernist aspiration – an impeccable architectural grid subsumed by the chaos of nature – had a profound impact upon Doig.

Doig has recalled: ‘The building took me by surprise as a piece of architecture. But it was not until I saw the photograph I had taken of the building through the trees that it became interesting.  That made me go back and look at it again.  I was surprised by the way the building transformed itself from a piece of architecture into a feeling.  It was all emotion suddenly. ’ This encounter with this derelict Modernist utopia, seen through dense layers of trees, gave rise to a cycle of paintings based on his recollection of the event. Doig was only able to capture the sublime quality of this encounter by transforming original colour video footage, which was taken on location, into a sequence of black and white stills that were in turn photocopied into a book of blurred vignettes and only then finally translated into paint.

Rendered in tones of russet, green, yellow and blue that intermingle in shimmering, translucent bands, the painting is inscribed with thick passages of streaked impasto and bejewelled beads of colour that rain down upon this unearthly paradise. The visual splendour of the work is finely balanced with an intricate web of reference and association that Doig has continued to employ throughout his oeuvre; recalling the Canadian pine forests of his youth at the same time as anticipating the Caribbean jungles to which he would turn his attention the following decade, as well as establishing a dialogue with the work of Richter and Bonnard, Munch, Mondrian and Cézanne.

Francis Outred Chairman and Head of Post-War and Contemporary Art EMERI said: ‘At Christie’s we have been privileged to present some of Peter Doig’s greatest works in recent years, yet we have never had a work like this. One of the largest works made by Doig in the 1990s, it conjures an atmosphere that you could walk right into. There is such a wealth of art history referenced in the process and technique of the painting but ultimately it represents an entirely new means of figurative painting.  Quite simply the holy grail of Doig’s ‘Concrete Cabins’; acquired by the present owner from the Turner Prize in 1994 it comes to auction for the first time with an outstanding museum exhibition history.’

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