John McEnroe Is Selling a Mark Bradford Painting Inspired by Charles Manson

The 32-foot-long painting is likely to set a new record for the artist at Phillips London next month.

Mark Bradford, Helter Skelter I (2007). Courtesy of Phillips.

In a sale that is likely to leave previous auction records in its dust, Phillips will sell a major 32-foot-long painting by Mark Bradford at its upcoming London auction on March 8, for an estimated £6-8 million ($6.8-9 million). An additional perk? It’s being consigned by tennis star John McEnroe.

Helter Skelter I (2007), evokes the urban landscape of the artist’s native Los Angeles and was first shown at the New Museum as part of the 2008 show “Collage: The Unmonumental Picture.” Bradford’s renown has grown exponentially since then, with 20 of his works selling for more than $1 million each at auction, according to the artnet Price Database. Phillips already holds Bradford’s current record: $5.8 million for Constitution IV (2013), set in London in October 2014.

Mark Bradford's Constitution IV (2013) currently holds the record for a work by the artist at auction. It sold for $5.8 million at Phillips London in 2015. . Courtesy Phillips.

Mark Bradford’s Constitution IV (2013) currently holds the record for a work by the artist at auction. It sold for $5.8 million at Phillips London in 2015. Courtesy of Phillips.

McEnroe has “a history of buying monumental, expressive works, and it’s always driven by this idea that they would have a future life after my collection, in a way that’s hopefully more public,” the retired tennis player said in a statement. “What I love about this work is that every time you go up to it, you see something you hadn’t seen before and experience something a little different.”

The title of the work references Charles Manson’s vision of a race war between blacks and whites. In the painting, an intricate network of lines sprawls across the expanse of the canvas, resembling cracks in the earth, and are accompanied by fragments of enigmatic texts. Bradford’s refined technique of “décollage,” or cutting and tearing away original imagery, is on full display here.

The work was made at the same time as Bradford’s series of silver abstractions that debuted during his solo show at the Whitney Museum in 2007 and represents “the profound shift in the artist’s practice that was characterized by a departure from his earlier grid-like work,” according to a Phillips press release.

Jean-Paul Engelen, Phillips’s worldwide co-head of 20th century and contemporary art said the house was honored that McEnroe “entrusted us with the sale of this masterwork.”

Helter Skelter I will be offered at Phillips evening sale of 20th century and contemporary art in London on March 8.


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