Last night, Sotheby’s Contemporary Art Evening Sale totalled a whopping $364 million. One of the textile highlights was Rosemarie Trockel’s Untitled textile, selling for almost three times its $1.5-2million estimate, setting a new record for the artist at $4,981,000.
Born 1952, the German artist has been producing ‘knitted pictures’ or Strickbilder since 1985. She is one of the most successful female artists of her time and made a name for herself in a male-dominated environment. Her work consists mainly of lengths of machine-knitted woollen material stretched on to frames, which aligned with the revered process of ‘pure’ painting. The material is patterned with computer-generated geometrical motifs or recognisable logos, for example, the Playboy rabbit. The knitted works make a statement on feminism and comments ironically on the traditionally female past-time of knitting, placed in the context of being mass produced.
The design here has an inverted red and gold pattern of well-known Western logos. The endless repetition of motifs is Trockel’s trademark as well as symbolically de-contextualizing universally recognised logos, turning them into decorative patterns. Referencing the material of the work here, the Woolmark logo represents the image of the domestic female. The Playboy bunny, an emblem of the promiscuous, iconic magazine represents the sexualised, objectified female. The juxtaposition of the two represent opposing gender stereotypes and highlights the different categories which women are put into in everyday life.
The selection of iconographies raises questions about the role of our hyper-mediated society and how we can easily be influenced through the simple transformation and manipulation of images. Trockel’s work elevates the ‘domestic’ female work to the status of a work of art, simultaneously defying artistic codes and and undermining established female ideals and outdated gender politics. As Sotheby’s put it, ‘A wry commentary on conventional taxonomies and cultural hierarchies, Trockel’s striking wool painting is unique, yet universally resonant.’