Phillips London will present Mark Bradford’s “Helter Skelter I” (2007) from the Collection of John McEnroe, at its “Evening Sale of 20th Century & Contemporary Art” on March 8, 2018. Expected to realize in excess of £6 million, “Helter Skelter I” has never been publicly offered and is poised to set a new auction record for the artist.
“Helter Skelter I” was first shown at the inaugural exhibition “Collage: The Unmonumental Picture” at the New Museum in New York in 2008. The large-scale work stands over 10 meters wide, evocative of the urban landscape of Los Angeles. The title of the work refers to a moment of racial tension in American history, evoking the harrowing events that took place in Los Angeles in the late 1960s. It represents the profound shift in the artist’s practice that was characterized by a departure from his earlier grid-like work towards more decentralized, and increasingly monumental compositions that have become the hallmarks of his mature visual idiom.
In “Helter Skelter I,” an intricate network of lines explodes across the canvas, breaking the silver surface like cracks in the earth. Fragments of elusive text and imagery begin to reveal themselves, including a large black skull, an American flag, and snippets of words. Exemplary of Bradford’s technique of decollage, the work is constructed from the detritus he found on the streets of Los Angeles, such as posters, advertisements, and flyers. “Helter Skelter I” explores not only the vital tension between abstraction and representation in contemporary art, but also invites the viewer to confront some of the most pressing issues in today’s socio-political landscape.
John McEnroe, 7-time Grand Slam Champion and avid collector of contemporary art, said: “What I love about this work [“Helter Skelter I”] is that every time you go up to it, you see something you hadn’t seen before and experience something a little different. I hope and believe its next owner will be able to appreciate it for a very long time.”