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Antoni Tàpies (1923-2012) – composition with hat

To be sold at Uppsala Auktionskammare’s Important Sale: Modern & Contemporary 9 – 12 November 2021

Lot 116 Antoni Tàpies (Spain 1923-2012). Composition with hat. Signed and dated Tàpies 1966. Mixed media on paper, 50 x 64.5 cm.

This work will be included in the forthcoming catalogue raisonné and is accompanied by a photo certificate issued by Comissiò Tàpies 7 January 2019, photo no. T-9956.


200.000 – 250.000 SEK
€ 20.000 – 25.000

In context

Antoni Tàpies’s Composition with hat

Born into a Catalan family in Barcelona, Tàpies continued the tradition of Spanish abstract painting where signs and symbols are important, as they both explain and proclaim. Tàpies’ childhood during the 1930’s was to a great extent affected by the ongoing Spanish Civil War, and after attending a law program at a university in Barcelona he abruptly decided, without having taken any lessons in painting, to completely devote himself to the arts in 1946. Even in early stages of his artistic process Tàpies showed an interest in collage and graffiti, as well as experimenting in the spirit of Dadaism. During the post-war years he developed a heightened interest in Eastern culture, and in the later years of the decade it became a fundamental philosophical influence on his work because of its emphasis on material. Tapies’ work, painting and sculpting alike, often carry the signature of his heavy brush strokes and relief-like surfaces with a criss-cross of scratches and rents. This personal method and expression of his art is often seen in relation to the movement matiérisme (matter art) or Art Informel. Tàpies is today revered as one of the most important Spanish artists from the post-war period, having formed his own signature personal style, developed and further explored over decades, always remaining true to the very essence of his artistry.

Antoni Tàpies, Barcelona 1991. Photo: Raphael Gaillarde via Getty Images.
Antoni Tàpies, Barcelona 1991. Photo: Raphael Gaillarde via Getty Images.

Presented in the upcoming sale is a characteristic mixed media composition with a hat, executed in 1966. The artist has collated various mediums together and painted with a restrained palette consisting of colours in black, beige, brown and grey – typical to works of Tàpies dating from this period in his life. The hat as a motif is recurrent as well as several varying depictions of the garment were carried out by the artist during 1966‑67, from hats being crossed and painted over to an uncharacteristically bright pink one. One of these works surrounding hats, the Le chapeau renversé from 1967 is now in the permanent collection of Centre Pompidou in Paris. What immediately catches the eye of the viewer in the hat composition featured in this sale is a line of dots with arrows at the end, similar to the chalk markings of a tailor. Above the center of that line, a simple equation 6×4 stands out amongst a very subtle criss-cross pattern. Now these markings are not for nothing, but used in his compositions as references to the real world and symbols of issues, often seen in political contexts. For Tàpies, the cross was a symbol of liberation from the constraints of political corruption, as well as religion. The calligraphic brush strokes that form the outlines of the hat might lead the viewer’s thoughts to Japanese and Chinese artistic tradition.

Having experienced the Spanish Civil War and a ruthless dictatorship, Tàpies artworks dating from the 1960’s and early 1970’s were heavily influenced by his involvement in Spanish and Catalan politics. The violence of the war and the deep scars that it left on the cityscapes and the people of Spain inspired Tàpies to create many of his most interesting and important artworks. They speak of life, experience and humanity from a personal perspective and even though Tàpies might have felt inspired by some of his contemporary artists such as Jasper Johns and Robert Rauschenberg during his exhibitions overseas, his use of elements and subtle details were entirely his own way of expression.

During the late 1950’s and 1960’s, Tàpies’ works were exhibited at numerous important galleries and museums worldwide. In 1962 he was granted a retrospective show at Kestner-Gesellschaft in Hanover, the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum in New York and the Kunsthaus in Zurich. The attention achieved from the numerous exhibitions gave Tàpies an impressive international status in the early 1960’s and a world spanning reputation as an artist, which is as ever present until this day.

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Jeanna Ahlin


Modern & Contemporary Art
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