THE LOT NO.1, 2010

Important Women Artists
10 November 2021


born 1973
THE LOT NO.1, 2010

oil on canvas

60.0 x 70.0 cm

signed, dated and inscribed with title verso: The Lot I/ 2010/ Ben Quilty

$35,000 – $45,000
Sold for $55,227 (inc. BP) in Auction 65 - 10 November 2021, Melbourne

GrantPirrie Gallery, Sydney
Private collection, Sydney
Menzies, Sydney, 10 December 2015, lot 10
Private collection, Sydney


GrantPirrie at the Hong Kong International Art Fair, Hong Kong, 27 – 30 May 2010

Catalogue text

Painted in 2010, in a series following on from a metamorphic painting of his squalling infant son as a hamburger, Joe Burger, 2006, The Lot No 1 is an expressive display of a solitary, precariously stacked hamburger. Quilty’s still lives of the ubiquitous fast food are gutsy, reflecting plainly the attractions and dangers of the world in which we live today.
Ben Quilty is the closest thing Australia has to a celebrity artist and as Brooke Turner suggested, some of his public acclaim can be attributed to his blokey charisma and masculine subject matter: ‘artists do better if they’re blokes first, artist second… with references to cars and soldiers, birds, burgers and babies’.1 Quilty’s longstanding dedication to the reflection of the activities and machismo of the Australian whitefella would not be complete without images of the occasional burger, packed with bacon, egg, beetroot and a hashbrown – humorously known throughout the land as ‘the lot’!
The genre still life historically was associated with grandiose displays of food, the rarity and fragile nature of which illustrated the wealth of the painting’s commissioner and in a succinct vanitas, reminds us of the fleeting nature of life. Viewed in the context of Quilty’s early motifs associated with suburban reckless youths: the muscle cars, portraits of catatonically drunk mates and skulls, this seemingly anodyne appetizing burger acquires a slightly more sinister and cautionary subtext. 

In its ‘loaded’ form, the local hamburger is a little different to the simple cheeseburger, epitomizing symbol of American consumer culture and high capitalism. As an artistic motif, popularized by artists such as Roy Lichtenstein, Andy Warhol and Claes Oldenburg, the burger has historically been a vehicle for cultural criticism. Warhol in particular emphasized the democratizing effect of the burger in American culture, as a unifying commodity available and enjoyed by all Americans regardless of class or social standing, mass-produced and enjoyed by the masses.
Painted quickly with cake decorating implements, in emphatic swathes of heavy impasto, Quilty’s painting becomes more than the faithful representation of subject matter. Instead, it tends toward becoming the subject itself, recreating the viscous contents of a burger sliding from the crusty bun top, and collapsing across the canvas. No wonder the Art Gallery of South Australia chose to hang their version above the Art Gallery Food+Wine foyer during Quilty’s recent retrospective exhibition, in a cheeky exploitation of hungry audiences!
1. Turner, B., Good Weekend, Sydney Morning Herald, 23 February 2019