Lot Notes:
In the 1970s Sigmar Polke produced a series of photographic suites based on his journeys. While in Quetta, Pakistan in 1974 he shot numerous images of opium dens "that ultimately became some of the most visually exquisite and most carefully crafted photographs in his entire oeuvre." (Schimmel, p. 72) The Quetta, Pakistan prints were embellished by hand with colorful egg tempera inks and gold and silver paint. As opulent as nineteenth-century Orientalist images, Polke's representation does not, however, isolate and thereby objectify the smokers as exotic curiosities. Rather they are viewed from across the den, behind other smokers, thereby positioning the artist (and the viewer) as den dwellers themselves.

Beginning with his 1971 Paris photographs printed using experimental techniques while under the influence of LSD, Polke exploited the photographic process as a means to alter "reality." He sought to expand the representational possibilities of photography beyond the objective to include the poetic, in a way that paralleled the mind-expanding effect of drugs. Like his Surrealist predecessors (Man Ray, for example), Polke embraced chance and accident in the darkroom and, in the case of Quetta, Pakistan, highlighted them. The intent, however, was not to tap into some mysterious unconscious realm, but rather to simulate an alternative perception of reality.

Lot Description:
Sigmar Polke (b. 1941)
»Quetta, Pakistan«
signed, titled and dated 'S. Polke 74 Quetta' lower right
watercolor and metallic gold paint on gelatin silver print
33.1/8 x 47in.
Price Realized $145,500

– From Christie's Auction, Lot 5 / Sale 9228

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