“Daydream Nation” Art Goes On The Auction Block

noah | February 18, 2008 12:10 pm

The image at left is a reproduction of Gerhard Richter’s painting “Kerze (Candle),” which you may recognize as the painting reproduced for the cover of Sonic Youth’s Daydream Nation. Should you be a big enough fan of the band–or of art that, according to auction house Sotheby’s, “radiates inspirational tranquillity and is the shining embodiment of Hubertus Butin’s statement that ‘no still-life motif has been such an object of fascination for Richter as the subject of the candle”–and you happen to have a spare £1.8 million-£2.5 million ($3.54 million-$4.91 million) floating around your bank accounts, the painting can be yours; it’s being put up as part of a contemporary art auction at Sotheby’s next week, alongside works by Jeff Koons and Andy Warhol. After the jump, the auction catalog weighs in on Richter’s painting, which was part of a series that began as a response to the Pop Art movement, turning into an iconic image of its own.


Richter began his series of Photo-paintings, in the early 1960s. Initially as a European response to the American Pop Art movement, these works took found images from newspapers, books and other sources and painted them in black and white. However, it was not until around 1968 that Richter’s true gift to art history began to become clear. It was at this point that he began to expand his painterly spectrum and work in a number of different ‘styles’ and begin what has now become the ultimate Post Modern painterly project. Veering from figurative (Photo-paintings) to semi-figurative (Stadtbild) to Constructivist (Shadow paintings, Corrugated Iron) to Minimalist (Colour Charts) and pure abstract paintings, Richter took on every variant of compositional genre available and mastered them all with his own hands. Thus following a period of intense experimentation from 1968 onwards, it was not until the late 1970s and the 1980s that his investigations began to bear rich fruit and the various styles which he was working with began to interact within singular compositions, most famously in his series of Kerze paintings of the early 1980s….

As a post-script, it is interesting to note that rather ironically for a series which was founded on Pop Art conventions of adopting a readymade image from the mass media, this painting was adopted by the hugely successful American band Sonic Youth to brand their most famous album Daydream Nation in the late 1980s, an album which was recently re-released due to popular demand. Hence an image which was built as a comment on artistic tradition entered the mainstream as the definition of a generation.

[Lot 8 [Sotheby’s (reg. req.); HT NME]