LAMA BLOG

Peter’s Auction Pick of the Day: Mike Kelley

May 19, 2017

Every auction at Los Angeles Modern Auctions has its standouts and our May 21 auction is no exception.

Los Angeles Modern Auctions (LAMA)

Lot 64, Mike Kelley, The Missing Leg, 1984
May 21, 2017 Modern Art & Design Auction

One such highlight is The Missing Leg (1984), a monumental triptych by legendary artist Mike Kelley (1954–2012). Kelley was born in Detroit, Michigan and received a BFA from the University of Michigan. He relocated to the West coast to study at California Institute of the Arts, Valencia, where he graduated in 1978. He became known for his extensive collaborations with bands like Sonic Youth and artists like Paul McCarthy and Tony Oursler. Kelley’s output included video, multi-media installation, painting, drawing, and sculpture, and incorporated a range of sources from literature and punk music to philosophy and comic strips. His work, which often drew on his own life, traversed the boundary between high and low culture and is characterized by its wit and absurdity.

Los Angeles Modern Auctions (LAMA)

Lot 64, Mike Kelley, The Missing Leg, 1984 (Detail)
May 21, 2017 Modern Art & Design Auction

The Missing Leg consists of three monochromatic drawings depicting a tin of lard on fire, a pig, and a Los Angeles Police Department badge. Kelley deliberately opted for a flat style reminiscent of advertising graphics, in order to present his imagery in an authoritative voice and as a means of questioning society’s most valued institutions. This anti-authoritarian impulse is typical of the artist’s work. The pig has been placed centrally to serve as connection between the two neighboring drawings; its fat supplies the contents of the lard bucket, and it is also a derogatory term for the police in underground culture. In this way The Missing Leg combines wordplay with Kelley’s signature anarchic humor.

Los Angeles Modern Auctions (LAMA)

Lot 64, Mike Kelley, The Missing Leg, 1984 (Detail)
May 21, 2o17 Modern Art & Design Auction

It should also be noted that The Missing Leg has a remarkable provenance: it was acquired from the celebrated art dealer Rosamund Felsen, who was an important early supporter of Kelley’s work. The work was first exhibited as part of Australiana, a forty-piece installation at the first Newport Harbor Biennial at the Newport Harbor Art Museum in 1984. The original display explored the relationship between America and Australia, defined by their shared heritage as former British colonies. It examined such fundamental oppositions as good/evil and East Coast/West Coast and a similar binary is presented here, between the crisp-edged star and the untidy, bubbling bucket of lard.

Los Angeles Modern Auctions (LAMA)

Lot 64, Mike Kelley, The Missing Leg, 1984 (Detail)
May 21, 2o17 Modern Art & Design Auction

Kelley was recently the subject of a comprehensive international retrospective organized by the Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam in 2012, which traveled onto Centre Pompidou, Paris; MoMA PS1, New York, and the Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles. His work is held in the foremost museum collections around the world including the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA), New York,

Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, and Tate, London, among many others. This is a unique opportunity to acquire a significant piece by one of the seminal names in contemporary art.

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Lot Information:

Lot 64
Mike Kelley
The Missing Leg
1984
3 parts: acrylic on paper
A (Lard): Sheet: 41.75″ x 41.75″; Frame: 45″ x 45″; B (Pig): Sheet: 41.75″ x 54.25″; Frame: 45″ x 57.5″; C (LAPD): Sheet: 41.75″ x 41.75″; Frame: 45″ x 45″
LAMA would like to thank the Mike Kelley Foundation for their assistance in cataloguing this work
Provenance: Rosamund Felsen Gallery, Santa Monica, California; Private Collection, United States (acquired directly from the above, c. 1995)
Exhibited: “Newport Harbor Biennial,” Newport Harbor Art Museum, Newport Beach, October 4-November 25, 1984; “Mike Kelley, John Miller,” Metro Pictures, New York, February 2-February 23, 1985
Illustrated: Mike Kelley. L. Gabrielle Mark and E. Meyer-Hermann, eds. 2013. 70.
Estimate: $600,000 – $800,000

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