Jenny Saville

Jenny Saville painting

Jenny Saville’s “Propped,” first shown in 1992, set an auction high for a living female artist when it sold for 9.5 million pounds, or about $12.4 million, at Sotheby’s “Frieze Week” evening sale of contemporary art. Credit 2018 Jenny Saville / 2018 Artists Rights Society (ARS); New York / DACS; London; Courtesy of Sotheby’s.

The nude self-portrait “Propped,” by Jenny Saville, was bought by a telephone bidder at Sotheby’s on Friday night for 9.5 million pounds, or about $12.4 million… But before anyone had time to reflect on its significance, Banksy’s $1.4 million “self-destructing” painting intervened, and the world was talking about a sensational stunt, rather than the way that female artists, and artists from other long-disempowered sectors of society, were reconfiguring the art world.

(Scott Reyburn, “A Landmark Achievement for a Painting by a Woman, Upstaged by a Man,” NYTimes, 10-12-18)

About JMN

I live in Texas and devote much of my time to easel painting on an amateur basis. I stream a lot of music, mostly jazz, throughout the day, and watch Netflix and Prime Video for entertainment. I like to read and memorize poetry.
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14 Responses to Jenny Saville

  1. Have you deciphered the words?

    • JMN says:

      Excellent question! Can you make it out? I made one attempt to hold my iPad in front of a mirror, but I wear trifocals. I couldn’t get it in readable focus. It’s intriguing and endearing that she writes it backwards! I’m willing to have a second go at deciphering it though. I’m fascinated by what the thinking behind this particular flourish by a gifted painter is. I’ve wished before I could get page-size printouts of certain works (including yours) to dwell on at length in hard copy, but I haven’t yet checked into the technique (if any) or protocols for doing this. Are graphics in posts downloadable as jpegs? Silly question? I’m always behind in blogology!

      • I had a go with mirror and phone, but with little success. It may be very cunning and successfully given the appearance of coherent sentences, but in fact completely incoherent? – Some words/letters look like they are backwards, others not. The technical questions I’m going to have to pass on. Intriguing.

      • JMN says:

        Well done. I’m going to try my luck again. Fun project.

  2. I missed the stunt AND the painting

    • JMN says:

      The stunt got lots of press in the sources I read — all online. As an ostensibly sardonic middle-finger flipoff on Banksy’s part it may be a little sophomoric? Thumb in the eye of the moneyed artophiles or something? It’s not hard to have some sympathy for that anyway. The stunt was titillating mostly because of the 1.4 million involved, I would think. I didn’t know that his (is it a man?) work was bought and sold. Is his identity a poorly kept secret in UK circles?

      • I’m feeling ignorant all round on this one

      • JMN says:

        I think there may be a contrast between the UK and the U.S. news markets and cultures that made the story splash more here than there. We’re a crass, money-besotted lot in the aggregate, and the story was about money as much or more than about art!

  3. Eric Wayne says:

    Are you seeing a trend with the infiltration of radical ideology into art. You can barely read anything without THE CAUSE injecting itself into it: “rather than the way that female artists, and artists from other long-disempowered sectors of society, were reconfiguring the art world.”

    After reading thousands of such regurgitations of identity-politics/political-correctness talking points my forehead can’t take any more slapping. After a while it’s not even intelligent anymore. I fear that Jenny’s painting didn’t sell necessarily because of its quality as art, but rather because of its fashionable relationship to the body-positivity movement, in which case the purchase was political rather than aesthetic.

    I would boldly disagree with the author of that quote that non-white males (to be more succinct) are “reconfiguring” the art world, as if the goal of art were to “reconfigure” the art world (an assumption that gets tossed around uncritically). Rather, I’d say that identity politics has hijacked the art-world, and ironically and hypocritically doing more harm that good, especially in reducing art to a subordinate role as support for radical agendas and those who champion them. It’s as bad as being pressured to make patriotic art, or art supporting the three thousand year Reich. It’s just on the other side of the spectrum where another kind of intolerance, narrow-mindedness, and one-sided ideology thrives.

    • JMN says:

      Good thoughts boldly expressed. You always give much to mull over (for me). I’m not as deeply conversant with these controversies as you, but find the issues interesting. What are your thoughts about Goya’s work, if you have the time to share? I’d like to go back and see what that writing in Saville’s painting says. What does it contribute, I wonder? Some days it seems like identity politics has hijacked the *whole* damn world! Thanks for this input. Always valued.

      • Eric Wayne says:

        Surprisingly, I’m not a big Goya fan. His aesthetic just doesn’t really capture me. I’d think I’d really be drawn to his “horrors of war” work, but it leaves me cold. If his work were described to me, and I didn’t already know it, I’d be fascinated to see it. But in the end, somehow it doesn’t resonate with me that much, in which case I’m not a good person to comment on it. I’m not opposed to his political work, and don’t really have a problem with heavy political subject matter in art, but am opposed to art being in the service of politics, which is to make it a practical tool for other and even ulterior purposes.

        Yeah, you’ve been very tolerant of my rants against identity politics in your comments section. I’ve just become something like allergic to it from over-exposure.

      • JMN says:

        Goya has a similar effect on me. His work, horrors of war, the nightmares, the Maja Desnuda, in general what I’ve been exposed to in books, just seems… distant and static. The firing squad scene the same — a horrible event, but more melodramatic than tragic in his picture. How does one paint such a horrific happening anyway? Maybe Picasso came closer with Guernica. Velazquez, even though more remote in time than Goya, stimulates me more as a wannabe painter, especially when I see a blown-up detail of his brushwork. I like your distinction between art with political content versus art in the service of politics. I think I understand that, though I might have trouble sorting it out in specific instances. You give glimpses of horror and foreboding, for me, in some of your pictures, but it comes from a visionary, symbolic direction, I surmise. Don’t know enough to know what I don’t know! I’m always glad to have your comments.

      • Eric Wayne says:

        I think you are the first person to articulate my same feeling about Goya. And I’d agree about Velásquez.

        “You give glimpses of horror and foreboding, for me, in some of your pictures, but it comes from a visionary, symbolic direction, I surmise.”

        Yes, and thanks for “getting” that.

        “I like your distinction between art with political content versus art in the service of politics. I think I understand that, though I might have trouble sorting it out in specific instances.”

        Real specific instances are clearer than theoretical ones. The art that subordinates itself to a political agenda will often be overtly polemic, and show it in the medium and style as well as the content (ex., art by Sam Durant).

        “Rage Against the Machine” is a band which has overtly political, and leftist lyrics, but is nevertheless enjoyed by millions regardless of political affiliation. Politics is the subject, but audiences are also, and primarily loving the delivery, which is music fist, politics second.

      • JMN says:

        I’m glad to have struck a chord. It bucks me up to have my response to an artist seconded by someone in the field. Sam Durant is unknown to me. I’m curious to seek out samples of his art to see what you mean. Note taken. I do know of “Rage Against the Machine” by name, but I can’t say I know their music. The name is certainly resonant of the orientation you describe. Some Spotifying is ahead on that group. Thanks for those tips!

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