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James Rosenquist

(United States, 1933-2017)
6 000 000 - 8 000 000 SEK
530 000 - 707 000 EUR
564 000 - 752 000 USD
Hammer price
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The artworks in this database are protected by copyright and may not be reproduced without the permission of the rights holders. The artworks are reproduced in this database with a license from Bildupphovsrätt.

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James Rosenquist
(United States, 1933-2017)

'Welcome to the Water Planet III'

Signed James Rosenquist and dated 1988 on the overlap verso. Oil on canvas mounted to panel, three parts, total 525 x 204.9 cm, each 175 x 204.9 cm. (Total 206 11/16" x 80 11/16"). Registered in the James Rosenquist Painting Record with #88.06.


McDonald's Swedish Corp., Stockholm.


University of South Florida Art Museum, Tampa, Florida, 'James Rosenquist at USF', 10 October - 3 December 1988.


Donald J. Saff, 'James Rosenquist at USF. Tampa: University of South Florida', 1988. (ref. pp. 4, 47).
Craig Adcock, 'James Rosenquist's Commissioned Works'. Stockholm: Painter's Posters in association with Wetterling Gallery, 1990. (illus. p. 50; ref. pp. 51–52).
Walter Hopps and Sarah Bancroft. 'James Rosenquist: A Retrospective'. New York: The Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation, 2003. (ref. p. 383).
James Rosenquist with David Dalton. 'Painting Below Zero: Notes on a Life in Art'. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2009. (ref. pp. 295–96).
Stephan Diederich and Yilmaz Dziewior, eds. 'James Rosenquist: Painting as Immersion'. With essays by Stephan Diederich, Sarah Bancroft, Tino Grass, Isabel Gebhardt, Tom Holert, Yilmaz Dziewior, and Tim Griffin. Munich, London, New York: Prestel Verlag, 2017. (ref. p. 294).

More information

‘… Over the years I have made paintings and I have exhibited them. They weren’t commissions, but fireworks started to happen. Governments wanted to buy them; people argued over them and where to place them. Some people wrote poems about them. It was exciting. Later on people wanted to commission me to do a mural for them…’ James Rosenquist, 1989
James Rosenquist’s fascination with images of pop-culture, especially from Time Magazine, made him seek out another path than the Abstract Expressionists who were his peers. His hand-painted collage-like compositions differ from those of other early Pop art contemporaries as Jim Dine, Robert Indiana, Roy Lichtenstein, Claes Oldenburg and Andy Warhol. Rosenquist rarely used any mechanical means as stencils or silk-screening. He was a painter in the very traditional sense, producing very untraditional images.
The monumental painting ‘Welcome to the Water Planet III’ was commissioned by the McDonald's headquarters in Sweden in the late 80s. The work measures 5.25 meters in height and it is a magnificent work created for the modern open lobby of the head office in Stockholm. ‘Welcome to the Water Planet III’ is a striking image balancing between realism and kaleidoscopic abstraction. The canvas is divided by an invisible horizon over which bright signature pink water lilies are floating. Underneath is a magical tangle of flowers, roots, and a bird dragging pieces of skin. Up in the distant sky a stella nova passes by, possibly a threat to life below. It is partially obscured by a curious overlay of the slivered image of a fashion model’s face adding a mysterious aura to this work.
The practice of commissioned work has been a significant part of the art world for centuries. The traditional relationship between patron and artist has in recent times been replaced by the one between artist, gallery, and art dealer. James Rosenquist is unusual in that, albeit hesitant, he has had several important large-scale commissions for clients in the US and abroad.
Judith Goldman, writer and former curator at the Whitney Museum of American Art has described Rosenquist’s ambivalent approach to commissioned work. Rosenquist has found them difficult and has refused more than he accepted. On other occasions he has disregarded the agreed terms and created something totally different. He had no reservations, however, about accepting a commission from New York’s Four Seasons Restaurant in 1983. He liked the building, designed by Mies van der Rohe, he liked the interiors by Philip Johnson, and he liked the company of Picasso’s 1919 ‘Le Tricorne’, the painted theatre curtain installed at the restaurant at the time. He liked the champagne, the cuisine, and the glamour of the Four Seasons. Eventually he had an idea for the painting and left for his studio in Florida to work on the commission. He bought seed catalogues and tropical flower books, studied magazines and photographed flowers and fish. Three months later the seven-meter canvas was rolled up and driven to the studio at Chambers Street in New York. Goldman writes that no one had seen the painting until a grey Sunday in March when a wedding party of fourteen Swedish couples that included Princess Christina of Sweden arrived at the studio. Rosenquist conducted the successful tour of his studio as a dress rehearsal for the planned visit the next day by the owners of the Four Seasons. Three months after the installation of the monumental ‘Flowers, Fish, and Females for the Four Seasons’, 30 000 people had seen the painting.

Another commission with similar imagery as ‘Flowers, Fish, and Females for the Four Seasons’ was initiated by Björn Wetterling, Rosenquist’s dealer in Sweden in 1986. The restaurant ‘Operakällaren’, in the heart of Stockholm, wanted to commission a mural for their upstairs ballroom. Rosenquist had seen the location and had the exact measurements as he returned to Florida to work. In an interview with Professor Craig Adcock in 1989, Rosenquist comments:
‘As I said, it's cold in Sweden. I figured that people would want to come into a warm place with a red-hot painting hanging on its wall. A real bright coloured, orange-red picture would be as welcome on a cold frosty night as a hot drink. Outside, through the windows, you can see these large stanchions burning oil. The building looks like an old fortress. So, this place is very Nordic. Even in the Summer, I think it’s cool outside.’
In 1988, two years after the installation of “Ladies of the Opera Terrace”, Rosenquist was approached by Paul Lederhausen, the president of McDonald's in Sweden. The company wanted to commission a mural for the brick-walled atrium of the company headquarters in Stockholm. Rosenquist had met with Lederhausen and asked him what he was thinking about. The answer was ‘Good health, welfare and good food’. Rosenquist wanted to accommodate this line of thought and create something happy or in his own words ‘Disney-like’. In the above-mentioned interview with Professor Adcock he explains: ‘It was Winter again in Sweden, and I thought, well hell, I’ll give them something colourful, reddish, positive and filled with fantasy like the Garden of Eden.’ The resulting mural 'Welcome to the Water Planet III' is just that, a brighter and happier rendering of the first version in the series, created for the Lennox Building in Atlanta in 1987. The basic elements in the composition are the same, the Monet-inspired water lilies, the starry sky, and the cut-out overlays. However, the palette is warmer and the sense of an underlying threat to life on the planet is subdued. The bright water lilies are floating upwards, almost lifting from the horizon drawn towards the spiral galaxy in the sky. The distant stars can be seen as representing attraction, the attraction of making a journey to a point of light or the attraction of working to get to a point in thought.

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