Peter Doig’s Toronto Masterpiece Country-Rock Wing-Mirror Goes Under The Hammer

Peter Doig

Peter Doig’s masterpiece Country-Rock (Wing-Mirror) will be offered for the first time at auction in Sotheby’s Contemporary art sale in London on 30th June, This painting is one of the most important works by the artist ever to appear on the market. Having remained in the same collection since 1999, the year it was painted,it belongs to a series of three works which together rank among the most celebrated and desirable in the artist’s oeuvre. Estimated in the region of £9 million, the painting is the only work from the series ever to have appeared at auction.

Cheyenne Westphal, Co-Global Head of Contemporary Art at Sotheby’s, said: “The rainbow tunnel is one of the most prominent and resonant motifs in Doig’s oeuvre. For lovers of Doig, it has a supreme status – akin only perhaps to that of the canoe – and of all the works in which the motif appears, the Country-Rock series is the apogee. Doig is a giant in the current market, and this particular work is fabled. Its appearance at auction represents an all- time first – and hugely exciting – opportunity for collectors.”

Painted in London at a key turning-point in the artist’s career, Country-rock (wing- mirror) depicts a much-loved landmark near Toronto: the rainbow tunnel, which mysteriously first appeared above an underpass alongside the city’s Don Valley Parkway in 1972 when Doig was growing up in Canada. In this particular painting, the tunnel is seen from the passenger seat of a car, and the title is the soundtrack to the journey.

The Country-rock trio – all centred on the same vista of the Don Valley Parkway – was conceived between 1998 and 2000. One of the series is in the collection of the PinchukArtCentre in Kiev; the other – part of a prestigious private collection in Europe – was chosen as the front cover of the catalogue for the artist’s critically- acclaimed retrospective at Tate Britain in 2008.

Influenced by the work of Northern romantic landscape artists such as Caspar David Friedrich, the Country-rock paintings evoke a dream-like sense of nostalgia and memory – a sentiment which resonates through much of the artist’s work after he relocated from Canada to London in the late 1980s. The artist dismisses the idea that the works are specifically rooted to a sense of dislocation from his homeland, explaining that the series instead touches on universal ideas of memory and loss: “people have confused my paintings with being just about my own memories. Of course we cannot escape these. But I am more interested in the idea of memory itself” (Peter Doig quoted in: Richard Shiff, ‘Incidents’, Exhibition Catalogue, London, Tate Britain, Peter Doig, 2008, p. 21).

The Rainbow Tunnel, the source of inspiration for Peter Doig’s celebrated series of paintings, has become an unofficial landmark on the Canadian landscape – a symbol of joy and optimism perforating the cultural no man’s land lying alongside Toronto’s six-lane Don Valley Parkway. It mysteriously first appeared in 1972 above an underpass and quickly assumed a folkloric dimension as, over two decades, an anonymous guerrilla artist known only as ‘the caretaker of dreams’ repainted the vigilante rainbow with determined persistence more than 40 times after repeated attempts by local authorities to cover it in grey.

In 1994 it emerged that the muralist was Berg Johnson, a Norwegian-born artist who had originally created the rainbow aged 16 as a memorial for a friend who had been involved in a tragic car accident nearby. Johnson’s whimsical tale truly belongs in the realm of Canadian mythology. Undeniably redolent with nostalgia and hippy romanticism, this story is the perfect vehicle for Doig’s portrayal of Canada as a creative realm of free imagination.

 Sotheby’s Contemporary Art Evening Sale London 30th June


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