Skip to main content
Go to accessibility notice


    Günther Uecker (b. 1930)
    Poesie der Destruktion, 1984
    Mixed media on canvas
    24 x 24 x 5-1/2 inches (61.0 x 61.0 x 14.0 cm)
    Signed, titled, and dated on the reverse: Poesie der Destruktion / 84 / Uecker

    Riva Yares Gallery, Santa Fe, New Mexico (label verso);
    Private collection, Chicago;
    Jewish Federation of Metropolitan Chicago, Chicago.

    This work will be included in the Uecker Archive.

    After making his name at the tail end of the 1950s with the influential ZERO group-a German-centered, global movement that he co-founded along with Heinz Mack and Otto Piene-Uecker began experimenting with new, sculptural tactics for disrupting the history of painting. The artist found creative freedom in one of the most common materials, the sort of nails found in any average toolbox, and found that he could conjure the extraordinary by banging, bending, and arranging them into evocative compositions. He had initially experimented by piercing three-dimensional objects, like chairs or pianos, with outgrowths of nails.

    From there he moved on to his mature style, geometric arrangements of nails on canvas that performed the same duty as brushstrokes. Often, this meant creating almost hypnotic patterns: swirling spirals or undulating, fluid waves. In this way, Uecker contrasted the violent force at the foundation of his practice (a sharp metal spike pounded by force with a hammer) with eye-pleasing compositions, made all the more seductive by the way that light from various angles would play off the densely crowded field of nails. Depending on their orientation, they could resemble swarms of birds or bees, or elegant, almost fractal geometries.

    Poesie der Destruktion, as its title strongly suggests, is invested in rationalizing or harnessing those two opposing forces: creative beauty, and destruction. While many of Uecker's works are meticulously composed-painstaking, serial rows of nails arranged to convey optical effects-this square-shaped composition has the deceptive appearance of randomness. A ground of camouflage-like, orange and black streaks of oil paint, interspersed with passages of raw canvas, is obscured by a thicket of bashed and mangled nails. It's as if the painting itself is shielded beneath this carapace of metal, which takes the cool rationality of Uecker's earlier arrangements and forcibly flattens and smashes it into submission. The tortured bits of metal curve and flex beyond the borders of the painting itself.

    An Uecker work like Spirale (1966), with its ordered curvature of precisely angled nails, sought to seduce. With Poesie der Destruktion, the artist has no such placating aims. It's a tougher vision, one that rewards patience and an open mind. What we find here is more akin to a poetics of war, of shrapnel: the aftermath of a disaster or explosion. The painting- which at first seems intent on repelling, on warding off-ultimately asks us to revel in the wreckage.

    More information about Günther Uecker, also known as Uecker, Günther, Uecker, Gunther, Günther Uecker.

    Condition Report*: Surface grime; otherwise, there do not appear to be any major condition issues.
    *Heritage Auctions strives to provide as much information as possible but encourages in-person inspection by bidders. Statements regarding the condition of objects are only for general guidance and should not be relied upon as complete statements of fact, and do not constitute a representation, warranty or assumption of liability by Heritage. Some condition issues may not be noted in the condition report but are apparent in the provided photos which are considered part of the condition report. Please note that we do not de-frame lots estimated at $1,000 or less and may not be able to provide additional details for lots valued under $500. Heritage does not guarantee the condition of frames and shall not be liable for any damage/scratches to frames, glass/acrylic coverings, original boxes, display accessories, or art that has slipped in frames. All lots are sold "AS IS" under the Terms & Conditions of Auction.

    Auction Info

    Auction Dates
    May, 2018
    24th Thursday
    Bids + Registered Phone Bidders: 4
    Lot Tracking Activity: N/A
    Page Views: 2,109

    Buyer's Premium per Lot:
    25% on the first $250,000 (minimum $19), plus 20% of any amount between $250,000 and $2,500,000, plus 12% of any amount over $2,500,000 per lot.

    Sold on May 24, 2018 for: Sign-in or Join (free & quick)
    Track Item

    Heritage membership

    Join Now - It's Free

    1. Past Auction Values (prices, photos, full descriptions, etc.)
    2. Bid online
    3. Free Collector newsletter
    4. Want List with instant e-mail notifications
    5. Reduced auction commissions when you resell your
    Consign now
    • Cash Advances
    • More Bidders
    • Trusted Experts
    • Over 200,000 Satisfied Consignors Since 1976
    Consign to the 2021 November 16 Silver & Vertu Signature Auction.

    Learn about consigning with us

    You have done a terrific job!  I am so pleased.  Thank you for your professionalism, it's been a complete pleasure dealing with you. 
    Merti, W.,
    San Francisco, CA
    View More Testimonials receives more traffic than any other auction house website. (Source:

    Video tutorial

    Getting the most out of search