Before he became U.S. President, Donald Trump used $10,000 from his foundation to buy a six-foot-tall oil portrait of himself at auction.
Next week, he’ll have a chance to bid on a bigger, albeit less flattering image: “Trump Descending an Escalator.”
The 2017 painting by New York artist Dana Schutz depicts a familiar stocky figure with bulging eyes riding down a golden escalator. The work is a highlight of the 20th century and contemporary art auction at Phillips being held just two weeks before the U.S. election. About 7-feet-tall and 6-feet-wide, it will be offered in London on Oct. 20, with an estimate of 380,000 pounds to 580,000 pounds ($750,000).
“Dana Schutz is one of the most significant painters of her generation and she has never shied away from challenging or hot button subjects,” said Robert Manley, deputy chairman at Phillips. The work touches “on a dizzying array of politics, art history and pop art.”
The image riffs on Trump’s famous 2015 escalator ride at Trump Tower in New York when he announced he was running for president. The moment became fodder for late-night comedians and made a cameo appearance on “The Simpsons.” It’s also a nod to “Nude Descending a Staircase,” a 1912 canvas by Marcel Duchamp.
Schutz, 44, is known for large and bold figurative canvases that re-imagine historic and mundane situations, often by adding elements of the absurd. She created the Trump work for a fundraiser at Petzel gallery in New York in January 2017.
“I don’t really make super-topical paintings,” Schutz later said about the Trump painting in a New Yorker interview. “But I wanted to get that moment of suspense, when you know something is going to happen and there’s nothing you can do to stop it.”
While not overtly political, Schutz’s work has sparked controversy. Soon after the Petzel show, another painting, “Open Casket,” depicting Black teenager Emmett Till who was tortured and lynched in 1955, drew protests and calls for removal – and even destruction – at the Whitney Biennial. The artist, who is White, was accused by activists of exploiting Black history. The painting remained on view, but Schutz had said she won’t sell it.
“Trump Descending an Escalator” was priced at $200,000 when it sold in 2017 to an anonymous collector, according to Petzel. The artist’s auction record is $2.4 million.
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