“Untitled” (Bloodworks) from the Goetz Collection

Felix Gonzalez-Torres, “Untitled” (Bloodworks), 1992, four 11 x 9 inch drawings in colored pencil and graphite, or gouache and graphite, in the artist’s 12.5 x 10.5 inch frames, selling at Sotheby’s London on 18 Apr 2023

The Sammlung Goetz in Munich is selling stuff?1 Ingvild Goetz is the private museum OG. She’s has the Felix Gonzalez-Torres full stack: a stack, a billboard, a candy pour, a light string, an iconic and haunting photo, a text portrait, which has been installed in her Herzog & de Meuron building since the beginning, and she has—had—these early Bloodworks drawings.

Early in the sense that the lines on the handrawn grids still run “up.” In the book published alongside the artist’s MOCA/Hirshhorn/Renaissance Society show in 1994, Charles Merewhether wrote about these drawings under the heading, “The Line of Fortune”:

From 1988 on, Gonzalez-Torres has composed a series of drawings made of a single line running across a graph. In the earlier work the line ran upwards, and in the more recent down, as if charting the rise and fall of stocks, or sales of one commodity or another. The surplus value of labor, Marx might have called it, but the artist has chosen a different name, “Bloodwork.” The wavering line is not the abstract sign of market value, but of a different economy of fortune. By appropriating a minimalism of style, Gonzalez-Torres was reproducing the clinical character of medical charts of a body’s life. This was an economy of the body, with its line running upwards to indicate a healthy recovery, and down to mark its decline. And in reading such charts daily, so too the audience became its subject whose feeling of hope, of unhopeable hope, rises and falls.

The next Bloodwork drawing after these, a single graph on linen, “Untitled” (Bloodwork – False Hope), is the last one with an ascending line.

Despite their title these works have always felt depersonalized, even cool or cold, and shown in a large sequence, like 21 or 31 days, their similarity kind of defy close attention. But these, and earlier graphs on painted paper, feel like the opposite. Their precision and variation resonates with the time and experience of their making, on page after page in a spiral bound sketchbook.

In a 1991 interview Bob Nickas and Gonzalez-Torres talked about On Kawara’s date paintings in relation to these drawings. And that makes me wonder whether these graphs were a daily practice, an exercise, a routine or a respite, literal marks of the artist’s life and work.

1 Next morning update: A few weeks ago Goetz announced the sale of 49 pieces to fund a charity focused on elder poverty relief in Germany. According to the Die Welt article [shoutout A. G./@kios_que] above, Goetz has been donating and permanently loaning works to public collections since 2014. Mention of other charitable causes probably means additional sales from the 4,600 piece Sammlung are coming.

20 Apr 2023, Lot 27: “Untitled” (Bloodwork), 1992, est GBP 100-150,000 [UPDATE: sold for 161,100 gbp] [sothebys]