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Jim Dine (USA born 1935)

”In the Harem, Abu Tor”

To be sold at our Important Sale: Modern & Contemporary Art + Design 10 – 12 May 2023

Nr 481 Jim Dine (USA born 1935). ”In the Harem, Abu Tor”. Signed and dated Jim Dine Jerusalem 1979 on the reverse. Oil on canvas, 183 x 109.5 cm.


2.000.000 – 2.500.000 SEK
€ 177.000 – 221.000


Pace Gallery, New York.
Shaindy Fenton, Fort Worth, Texas.
Sotheby’s, New York, Contemporary Art, 27 February 1990, lot 206.
Galleri Kråkeslätt, Bromölla.
A Swedish private collection.


Pace Gallery, New York, ”Jim Dine: Paintings”, 11 January-9 February 1980.
Solomon R. Guggenheim, New York, ”N.Y School: Four Decades”, 1982.


Pace Gallery, New York, exhibition catalogue for Jim Dine: Paintings, 1980, illustrated.

In context

Jim Dine’s ”In the Harem, Abu Tor”

The robes have been a recurring motif for Jim Dine, and just like his hearts, they are almost synonymous with the iconography of his artistry and his everlasting source of inspiration. The iconic robes have ever since Jim Dine in the middle of the 1960s saw an advertisement in the newspaper New York Times for the sale of a bathrobe, to which he himself personally could relate, followed his artistry. For nearly half a century the robes have continued to develop in Dine’s imagery, and they exist in many different versions where he experiments with a variety of expression and techniques. From the realistic robe versions to the more abstract ones, they are all thought to be self-portraits, even though Jim Dine himself has claimed never to have owned or worn a bathrobe in his life. 

Born in 1935 in Ohio, Jim Dine arrived in New York in the late 1950s. Soon he was to become a heroic figure in the American art schools, closely linked to the Pop art movement. Dine’s debut on the New York art scene came via several ‘happenings’, performances which were executed together with artists Claes Oldenburg and Robert Whitman in the early 1960s. Dine however soon developed a diverse and individual body of work. By using everyday objects in his imagery, he empowered a generation of artists with the idea that mediocre things through art could transform into something greater. With an energetic approach, he started his experimental journey very often focusing on autographical themes that could develop further during his life. The objects he has chosen to interpret are all either linked to his own past and history, or to what he currently finds a particular interest in. Examples of these are the tools – the saws, brushes and hammers, that represents the echo of his childhood spent in his father Stanley Cohen’s store in Cincinnati, the heart being a valentine for his first wife Nancy and the bathrobe becoming the representation of self. Throughout Jim Dine’s extensive career the iconic depictions of hearts, tools and robes have become the hallmark of his grand oeuvre.

Today the magnificent artistry of Jim Dine is represented in the most prominent museum collections around the world, such as The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Centre Pompidou, Tate Gallery, Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum and Tokyo Metropolitan Art Museum.

Dine himself has described the situation when he felt the immediate relation to the bathrobe he saw in the newspaper ad: “There was nobody in the bathrobe, but when I saw it, it looked like me.” Shortly afterwards, the robe became the basis for an exhibition at the Sidney Janis Gallery in New York. Without the human body to give the garment individuality, the robe became an everyman as much as a self-portrait. The robe stands resolute and confident, without a body inside it, without head or hands, as a representation of strength and power, somewhat like the cloak of a superhero. The absence of an inhabitant human opens the interpretations of the robe, making the self-portraits express their diversity in different varieties. The titles of the robes are also important to the different versions. The bathrobe included in this sale is titled “In the Harem, Abu Tor” and was executed in 1979 in Jerusalem, it was exhibited at Pace Gallery in the year after and at the Guggenheim in New York in 1982. At this time Jim Dine was at the height of his career, having presented a large retrospective solo exhibition at The Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) the year before he painted “In the Harem, Abu Tor”. In an interview with ARTnews in September 1977 Jim Dine himself talked about his relation to the magical bathrobes: 

“The robes have become much more mysterious than they used to be, and that’s because I understand them more. Obviously, there’s some hidden significance there. But what’s funny is that I don’t own a bathrobe. I don’t wear one. I don’t walk around in one. I never see bathrobes around me, nor do I see people wearing them. I don’t have a bathrobe to paint from. What I use is what I’ve used from the very beginning – a newspaper ad which I clipped out of The New York Times back in 1963. The ad shows a robe with the man airbrushed out of it. Well, it somehow looked like me, and I thought I’d make that a symbol for me. Actually, it all began when I wanted to paint a self-portrait . . . and just couldn’t. It’s important for me to say this, because what I really wanted to do was sit in front of a mirror and paint a portrait of myself. But at the time, I was in analysis and the pressures I felt prevented me from going through with it.”

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