Henry Codax At Auction


Jacob Kassay can't hide. One of the square monochromes he allegedly1 created allegedly2 with Olivier Mosset for last summer's Henry Codax show at Carriage Trade is being flipped this week at Christie's.

Fortunately [sic], it's the awesomest, i.e., most Richterian-looking, one: Untitled (Dark Grey). I love the lot description too much not to quote it in full:

Henry Codax, a pseudonym created by New York-based artist Jacob Kassay and the Swiss conceptual artist Olivier Mosset, is referenced from a fictional character in the contemporary novel Reena Spaulings published in 2005. Co-authored by the collective Bernadette Corporation, an international conglomerate of artists, critics, dealers, and performers, Codax is described in the novel as a painter that [sic] "devotes his practice to a steady production of expensive, intimidating monochromes." In the present example, Kassay's iconic silvery paintings have been replaced by a sleek, anonymous grey surface. Stripping away any obvious authorship, Kassay and Mosset's Henry Codax joins the company of fictional and psuedonymous artists including Marcel Duchamp's Rrose Selavy and Richard Prince's John Dogg.
With a beefy credit line like that, the one thing this work fails at is the stripping away of authorship. And with an estimate of just $10-15,000, Codax is still quite a ways away from expensive. But it's early.

1 & 2 UPDATE: I can't imagine that it was designed to, but this Codax Moment turns out to be a crisp snapshot of how rumor becomes reporting, which then calcifies into bankable fact.

Between the time I read Andrew Russeth's story last year of rumors about Kassay's and Mosset's involvement in Henry Codax's art and this auction, I'd already forgotten that neither artist nor any gallery involved with them or the show had ever commented on or claimed authorship. In fact, the artists' reps said they knew nothing about it. Andrew even wrote of Kassay's possible involvement, "Of course, that is all speculation: with no one stepping up to claim authorship of the works, it is impossible to say."

And yet less than a year later, here is Christie's, describing both artists' participation as fact, and selling the painting on that basis. And I, too, basically said, "Sure, that's how I remember it, I guess." Except that Christie's goes even further by linking this gray canvas directly to the shiny auction hotness of Kassay's silvered paintings. Even though the only real similarity is the color range.

And though the format's a bit different, if Codax's work looks like anything, it's Mosset's conceptual monochromes. Of course, Mossets are not as frenzied a commodity as Kassays are, so that evidence/resonance, not furthering Christies' purposes, goes unmentioned. And again, unclaimed and uncommented upon by the artist.

If there's a question of whether the hyper-speculative Kassay auction market had the theoretical chops to handle the authorial ambiguity associated with Codax's work, they were dispelled last week, when the painting failed to sell.

UPDATE 3: And failed to sell in a very fascinating way. Kassay insisted that Christie's read a statement disassociating his name from Codax's work, which restored the ambiguity surrounding the fictional painter's factual progenitors to a nice sheen.

Mar 7, 2012, Lot 69: Henry Codax, Untitled (Dark Grey), 84x84in, est. $10-15,000 [christies]
Previously:on Jacob Kassay and collaboration
Related: Piper Marshall's review of Henry Codax's Carriage Trade show for Frieze [frieze]

Since 2001 here at greg.org, I've been blogging about the creative process—my own and those of people who interest me. That mostly involves filmmaking, art, writing, research, and the making thereof.

Many thanks to the Creative Capital | Warhol Foundation Arts Writers Program for supporting greg.org that time.

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first published: March 4, 2012.

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