GERALD LAING (1936-2011)
Self Portrait (Tear Gas Grenade)
digitized work on canvas with animated digital overlay
3840 x 2160 pixels
Painted in 2011 and minted in 2021. This work is unique and is accompanied by a non-fungible token.
The estate of the artist
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Lot Essay

Coming from the estate of the artist, Self Portrait (Tear Gas Grenade) was Gerald Laing's final painting in 2011 and has remained unseen until this time. In his last few years, Laing turned his mind back into classical sculpture with several significant commissions for large bronze public works in London, as well as creating highly politically charged war paintings around the Iraq and Afghanistan conflicts; he also, however, revisited his Pop Art roots with the iconic muse of Amy Winehouse. Despite building success, the art world and establishment still held him at arm’s length but started to warm to his work during a consistent three-year stint in London where his creative energy seemed unwavering.

On returning to Scotland to fight cancer, his clarity, power, anger and resentments remained as focused and spiky as ever. This final piece, taken from an image of Karachi, Pakistan in 2007, depicts a youth discarding, in an opportunist way, his bicycle to hurl a smoking tear gas canister back at the viewer and the authorities. A final two fingers up to the regime? Expert attention detail is given to the make and model of the tear gas manufacturer, found to be from the United States of America, and it is believed that Laing was finally exposing his defiance to the establishment through self-identification as the boy, while a middle-aged man looks on behind him from a position of safety. The work has never been shown or replicated and perfectly book-ends his first painting of 1958, also titledSelf Portrait.

Gerald Laing (1936-2011) was one of the leading British artists of his generation. He shot to fame as a student at Saint Martin’s School of Art in the early 1960s and spent most of the decade working in New York. His paintings of film stars, dragsters and other icons of popular culture place him as a major figure in both the British and American Pop Art movements. In the late sixties, his work became more abstract and sculptural, reflecting the "cool" style that was coming to dominate the New York art scene. A move to the highlands of Scotland in 1969 inspired the use of more substantial forms and rugged materials. In 1973, Laing abandoned pure abstraction and began modelling in clay and casting in bronze, becoming one of the country’s leading figurative sculptors. In 2003, he returned to painting with his searing Iraq War series and images of twenty-first century icons, such as Amy Winehouse and Kate Moss.

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