When he moved to New York in the 1980s, George Condo had a dream. Born in New Hampshire, the aspiring young artist had studied art history and music at the University of Massachusetts. Like the revered painters of the Renaissance and Baroque, he yearned to apprentice for a 'master'. He got in touch with an agency, and was sent to the gallery of Rupert Smith - the master printer for Andy Warhol. Smith had convinced Warhol to do a show, and asked Condo to write its press release. When he read the text, Warhol - who was passionate about documenting his life - called Smith immediately and said: 'I want whoever wrote this to come and work as a typist to record what goes on every day at the Factory'.
The Factory was Warhol's famous studio, which had three locations between 1962 and 1984, and attracted a diverse crowd of adult entertainers, actors, filmmakers, socialites, and musicians. A few months into the role, Condo was asked to restore one of Warhol's paintings - a portrait of Diana Ross, which had a white spot in the middle of her hair. With a brush and bottle of black paint in hand, he placed a tiny dot of black on the canvas - inspiring onlookers including Warhol to proclaim 'Wow, that's amazing!'. From that day, Condo worked as a screen printer for Warhol's famous Myths series.
Condo worked in Warhol's workshop for 9 months - an experience he said ' made me feel like I was in touch with the art gods'. Now, almost 40 years later, Condo is still shocked to see his work exhibited alongside Andy Warhol.
After studying art history, Condo decided he liked Old Master paintings, and was therefore 'just going to paint them'. His work pays homage to Rembrandt, Caravaggio, and Goya - however, it is Picasso who inspires him the most. Condo has said that, if all the great artists throughout history were to be placed together in a still life, 'Picasso would be the lobster - which wins over the grapes and the walnuts'.
Just as Picasso painted a violin from four different perspectives, depicted together, so Condo creates works that capture multiple psychological states. His work The Insane Clown features multiple faces shown from different persepctives, each of which reflects a different emotional state - reflecting a desire to represent the entirety of human consciousness in a single image.
Condo has described his desire to present a range of mental states, emotions and psychology as 'Psychological Cubism'. Whereas traditional Cubism seeks to depict multiple objects simultaneously - often in two dimensions - in Condo's 'Psychological Cubism', it is the emotional and mental lives of people today which become a focus. For the artist, reality is something which exists in a very different way to subjective human experience.
Condo wasn't just inspired by art history following his studies; music - his second love - remains an influence, which shapes his work today. In 2010, Kanye West commissioned Condo to design the album cover for his album My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy. The two met in Condo's studio and listened to the album, after which Condo went on to create nine paintings. In one of their brainstorming sessions they were listening to Runaway, when Condo's wife showed West a slow-motion clip of French dancer Sylvie Guillem dancing, which inspired West to request a painting of a ballerina.
Condo's unique works have attracted interest amongst high-profile collectors and personalities. In April this year, Sotheby's closed a two week-long online bidding run for the eighth edition of their London contemporary curated segment. Hosted by heiress Margherita Missoni, the auction brought in a total of £5.1 million; the highest amount achieved for an online sale hosted by the auction house to-date. Condo's Antipodal Reunion was among the highest selling lots of the sale. It saw a series of rapid-fire bids resulting in a hammer price of £1.1 million, outselling its highest estimate £800,000 - the most expensive work to be sold in an onine-only sale in the company's history.