Untitled (Landscape), a watercolor on paper by Nicolas Party, showcases a Seussian landscape of orange and pink bushes, teal Cypress spires, and bare golden branches. It could command $80,000 at Phillips New York.

Update: Whoa! Untitled (Landscape) by Nicolas Party sold for $237,500.

What you see: Untitled (Landscape), a 2013 watercolor on paper by Nicolas Party. Phillips estimates it at $60,000 to $80,000.

The expert: Samuel Mansour, an associate specialist at Phillips and head of its New Now auction.

Who is Nicolas Party? He’s Swiss-born and is probably best known for his bright color-saturated paintings, murals, sculptures, and drawings. His work bridges figurative art and abstraction to create environments and worlds that are grounded in color theory.

What do we know about Nicolas Party’s influences? Who or what has shaped his approach to art? It’s safe to say that Party has been influenced by some of the more traditional greats of the Western art canon, with evidence of everything from Old Masters and Rococo to Léger, Magritte, Hockney, and Matisse in his work. For the most part, Party’s work can be divided into three distinct subjects: portraiture, landscapes, and still lifes. With Party, along with his peers in the contemporary art world, we’re seeing a return to figuration [art that depicts figures, as opposed to abstraction]. Figurative images have really been commanding the market, and this is a wonderful example to come up for sale.  

How prolific has Nicolas Party been so far? He’s had an extremely impressive career. At only 40 years old, he’s had several solo exhibitions worldwide, in addition to a solo presentation coming up this year at Hauser & Wirth in Los Angeles.

Do collectors show a strong preference for a particular type of work by Nicolas Party? As I mentioned, his works can be divided into portraiture, landscapes, and still lifes. We’ve had the privilege of offering examples of all three over the course of the past few seasons, and there really is an even split among collectors with what personally resonates with them. The first major work offered at auction was called Sunset and it was donated by the artist and Xavier Hufkens Gallery for our Art for One Drop charity auction in 2018. We were blown away by the enthusiasm for his work, and it seems to have increased exponentially since, both in terms of the number of collectors, as well as in geography [how geographically spread-out the collectors are]. His highest price was just set in November [2019] in Hong Kong.   

Does Untitled (Landscape) depict an actual, identifiable place, or is it fanciful? Party grew up in Switzerland by a lake. He has spoken about how his work depicts familiar forms, such as the trees and natural elements in Untitled (Landscape), but he translates them to be more conceptual shapes.

Untitled (Landscape) is a watercolor on paper, whereas Nicolas Party’s preferred medium seems to be pastel. How, if at all, does that matter? Is his approach to this watercolor pretty similar to his approach to pastels? Color is a strong focus for Nicolas Party, and this work is a prime example. While he does work in pastel quite a bit, his paintings in oil and watercolor allow him to experiment with color in different ways. With Untitled (Landscape), in particular, he’s showing a great deal more dimensionality than you might see in some of his other works, whose forms he chooses to leave more simplified.

This work measures 30 inches by 22 inches. Is that a typical size for Nicolas Party? I would say that this is in line with many of his other works, His top prices are all for works that are quite a bit larger, though none are massive. For example, his record price was set for a work that is over seven feet tall, and in our May evening sale last year, we offered a landscape that was six and a half feet tall.

Could you talk a bit about Nicolas Party’s use of color, and how it adds to the appeal of his work? Bold saturated colors are central to his work. Party’s murals and pastel works reference surrealism and fauvism. He’s clearly interested in Matisse and Hockney, the two premier colorists of the 20th century, and he is definitely continuing in that tradition.

What is Untitled (Landscape) like in person? Are there details or aspects that the camera doesn’t pick up? This work was really difficult to capture in a photograph, particularly with the dimensionality and the volume he’s chosen to create among the forms, as well as the intensity of color. It really is one of those pieces that comes to life in person.

Do we know what year that Nicolas Party’s work reached the secondary market? We first included Nicolas Party in an online-only auction in Summer 2018. It was an editioned screenprint, and it performed quite well– more than tripling its low estimate. The first pastel on canvas was sold a couple months later in our Art for One Drop charity auction, and that was really the first major piece to come to market at any of the houses. His market has come quite a long way in the past year and a half, and we’re excited to see how the trajectory progresses.  

Nicolas Party has generated a lot of buzz lately, what with the show at Hauser and Wirth and coverage in Artnet and other venues. How does that affect how you set an estimate? In generating estimates, we have a lot to consider, including past prices for comparable works, collector interest, and institutional and gallery interest. Of course it’s great when an artist is generating a lot of buzz. That helps raise awareness of their work.

Why will this Nicolas Party work stick in your memory? What I love about Untitled (Landscape) is that it is familiar and totally fantastical all at once. The work depicts trees and bushes, which are instantly recognizable but transformed into a fantastical landscape that’s almost Dr. Seussian in form and color. I think that duality is what makes the work so appealing.

How to bid: Untitled (Landscape) by Nicolas Party is lot 43 in the New Now auction taking place at Phillips New York on March 4, 2020.

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