Sound and Noise and Adrenaline

Sarah Morris on her presentation at Art Basel in Miami Beach

At her New York studio, Sarah Morris spoke to UBS Art about her work, inspiration, and how she wants the viewer to feel when encountering her paintings. Works by the American painter and filmmaker, known for her complex large-scale abstract compositions, were presented by the UBS Art Collection at Art Basel in Miami Beach, including a custom wallcovering created especially for the UBS Lounge.

"I want the viewer to be subsumed by the system of paintings that I'm creating," explains Morris. It is this experience that the UBS Art Collection has realized through their presentation at Art Basel in Miami Beach this year. "Sarah has always had a very clear and unique vision," says Mary Rozell, Global Head UBS Art Collection. "I think her work is incredibly seductive. The vibrancy and boldness of it."

One of Morris's works in the Collection that was presented at Art Basel in Miami Beach is a new acquisition created this year, entitled 'Precious Stone [Sound Graph]'. The large graphic painting resembles a sound graph, capturing "this idea of sound and noise and adrenaline. I wanted to make a series of paintings based on speech and the importance of dialogue," the artist explains. "I think art is a conversation, and it always will be."

Another work that Morris presented in the lounge, 'Midtown-PaineWebber (with Neon)', 1998 was acquired by the UBS Art Collection in the 90s; the first artwork by Morris to be added to the Collection. Recalling that era, Morris shares that her studio at the time was in Times Square, "and when I say Times Square, I mean it was right on 42nd street. It was supposedly Andy Warhol's favorite building. It was a very different New York then…they had not sanitized it yet." Morris describes her fascination with the corporate buildings of Midtown Manhattan as a subject for her paintings: "It just seemed like an amazing schism. The 6th avenue canyon of all the mega corporations versus the actual life I was living which was in the art world as I was just starting out."

Speaking on the relationship UBS has developed with Sarah Morris ever since that first acquisition 20 years ago, Mary Rozell explains: "You don't really know an artist until you see their studio and you have a conversation with them, with their work around them. For us at UBS, we don’t just want to go into galleries and buy pictures, we want to have a relationship and a dialogue with the artist."

Following Art Basel in Miami Beach, Sarah Morris will create a wall painting in the lobby of the very building that 'Midtown-PaineWebber (with Neon)' depicts: the UBS headquarters at 1285 Avenue of the Americas. The wall painting was originally commissioned for the UBS headquarters in Zurich, and was reimagined for the new space in New York. Mary Rozell describes: "One of the great things about recreating this wall painting here in 1285 is that Sarah's first work for us from 1998 is a painting of this very building. So bringing her wall painting back to this same building we've come full circle."

Morris had new plans for the wall painting: "I wanted to slightly redefine the piece, to make sure that it is right for the new environment because the environment in Manhattan is of course completely different than that of Zurich."

The wall painting by Morris has been newly unveiled at 1285 Avenue of the Americas. Sarah Morris's works were presented at Art Basel in Miami Beach alongside other abstract works from the collection, including two wall sculptures by twentieth-century master Frank Stella.

December 2018

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