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Chris
Levine

Discover art for sale. Buy and sell prints & editions online by Chris Levine. Fascinated with the perception of light and the role it plays in our experience of the world, Levine is an extraordinary artist, perhaps best known for his portrait of the Queen.

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Biography

Best known for his 2004 portrait of the Queen, Chris Levine’s portraits are unique in their combined use of light and photography. His work is executed in a number of mediums, including photography, lazer and hologram; he is best known for his 2004 photographic portrait of The Queen titled Lightness of Being. Working across multiple disciplines Levine seeks to use light and meditation to explore an ‘expanded state of perception and awareness’ creating environments or capturing subjects on a different plane.

Beginnings

Born in 1960 in Ontario, Canada, Chris Levine now lives and works in Northamptonshire. He studied at Chelsea School of Art and later at Central St. Martins where he was awarded an MA in Computer graphics.

Levine remembers a childhood fascination with holographs as a key informer for his future career. Influenced by his father who was an engineer, and his mother who painted, the artist has described himself as a child who was interested in science and always drawing. He has said he always knew he would create for a living, whether as a designer, musician or artist.

First Works

After graduating Levine started creating holograms commercially. The work he was doing was largely commission based and at this point he realised he wanted to create his own work; he wanted to make art.

Levine describes the turn of the millennium as ‘a difficult time’ in his life, and at around this point he discovered meditation. The artist spent ten days at a retreat in Kathmandu which he highlights as a turning point both in his life and in his work: 'Increasingly my work and direction has been informed directly out of meditation. Stillness is a portal to the divine, and by taking my subjects towards stillness, it allows for a more soulful connection with the subject, and that light radiates in the work.'

Much of Levine’s very early work could be described as sculptural, often taking the form of immersive light installations. On the surface these might seem quite different to the photographic work that he has latterly become well known for, but throughout the artists’ oeuvre this sense of creating and depicting a meditative calm is constant.

Success

Levine's success can be measured in a number of ways. Whether through the high profile collaborations and commissions he has worked on, the monetary value achieved by his artworks at sale, or through the global reach his artworks and shows can boast, it is safe to say that his career has been successful.

Levine has worked with subjects including Grace Jones, the Dali Lama, Queen Elizabeth II and Kate Moss. His works continue to fetch high values at auction, with original artworks selling for six figure sums. He has exhibited globally at London’s National Portrait Gallery and Science Museum, has staged light performances and exhibitions in spaces such as Radio City in New York commissioned by MoMA, The Eden Project, The Royal Opera House, MATE museum in Lima, and at MOFO festival for Tasmania’s MONA museum.

Most Famous Works

Levine’s 2004 portrait of Queen Elizabeth II is undoubtedly his best known work. Depicting The Queen with her eyes closed, the artist captures a moment of meditative calm in this portrait. Titled Lightness of Being, the artwork shows  one of the best known faces in the world in a previously unseen way: The National Gallery described the artwork as the most evocative image of a royal by any artist.

The image was a by-product of a commission to commemorate the Isle of Jersey’s 800th year of allegiance to the crown. The original commission was a three dimensional holographic portrait of The Queen titled Equanimity, this portrait required The Queen  to sit still for eight seconds at a time, while a moving camera captured 200 images per second as it moved around it’s subject. During takes Levine encouraged the Queen to rest and it was during this time that the image for Lightness of Being was captured.

Influences

Chris Levine references artists whom he admires, listing those as Anish Kapoor, Damien Hirst and Björk. However he says that ultimately he is not directly inspired by other people’s work: 'I have an in-built mechanism to go into uncharted territory and make my work. My process of distillation is kind of anti-style. It’s about touching the ephemeral, the infinite realm of the soul.'

Style & Technique

Levine is often described as a photographer, perhaps because some of his better known work is photography based. In truth Levine works across a range of mediums, from sculpture, to hologram, lazer and photography. His work also exists outside the realm of fine art, existing in the more commercial worlds of fashion, music and design.

Levine maintains that his multidisciplinary practice should not be defined by medium or category, but by light. Light is the common factor which appears throughout his body of work  is central to his creation.

Life & Times

Levine has described in interviews how many of the key components or themes of his work have been directly influenced by his life experience. His interest in technology and use of light stemmed from the influence of his engineer father, and a childhood fascination with lasers, sparked at the Science Museum in London.


His MA in computer graphics saw Levine embark on a commercial, commission based career initially, before he understood that he wanted to create art. Despite this later change of heart Levine continues to work collaboratively with other artists, designers, musicians and performers, also adapting his work for advertising and events. For this reason his way of working is often compared to his Pop Art predecessors Andy Warhol and Jeff Koons who also embraced commercialising art through their work.

On The Market

Chris Levine's original works have been known to fetch up to six figures at auction, while prints can be bought on the secondary market at more affordable prices.

Many of Levine’s available prints and editions are adaptations of original works, namely variations of his portraits of The Queen, Kate Moss and Banksy. Levine has also released series of more abstract works, often using symbols and just a couple of colours.

Lightness Of Being by Chris Levine

Image © Sotheby's / Lightness Of Being © Chris Levine 2004

1. £187,500 for Chris Levine's Lightness Of Being (2004)

A photographic ‘outtake’ and part of a larger-scale holographic depiction of Queen Elizabeth II, Lightness Of Being (2004) realised £187,500 at auction in April 2017, more than doubling its pre-sale estimate of £50,000-£70,000. This sale, which took place at Sotheby’s auction house in London, made the work the most expensive piece by UK-based Chris Levine to-date.

Working in an interdisciplinary fashion, Levine is well-known for harnessing the many representational powers of light. In this piece, Levine portrays the Queen – an iconic ‘image’ in her own right – with her eyes closed in a moment of pause and reflection.

Lightness Of Being (Pink) by Chris Levine

Image © Sotheby's / Lightness Of Being (Pink) © Chris Levine 2015

2. £150,000 for Chris Levine's Lightness Of Being (Pink)

The second-most expensive work by UK-based light-based artist Chris Levine, Lightness Of Being (Pink) is one of a number to depict Queen Elizabeth II. An ‘outtake’ from a larger-scale hologram-based work first completed by Levine in 2004, in September 2018 the piece realised £150,000 at Sotheby’s auction house, London. A silkscreen print complete with hand applied Swarovski crystals, the work smashed the upper-bound of its pre-sale estimate by £50,000 and depicts the monarch with her eyes closed; a vision of pause and tranquillity. The work reflects Levine’s keen interest in Tibetan Buddhism and meditation.

Lightness Of Being by Chris Levine

Image © Sotheby's / Lightness Of Being © Chris Levine 2008

3. £119,700 for Chris Levine's Lightness Of Being (2008)

Another work from UK-based artist Chris Levine’s ‘Lightness Of Being’ series, in April 2021 Lightness Of Being (2008) realised an astonishing £119,700 at Sotheby’s in London.

The third most-expensive work by the artist, Lightness Of Being (2008) is a now-iconic image that depicts the current British monarch, Queen Elizabeth II with her eyes closed. An intimate image that offers up a rare view of the Queen as she bears a restful expression, the piece started life as a photographic ‘outtake’, captured when Levine was preparing to create a full-scale hologram of Her Majesty in 2004.

She's Light (Laser 3) by Chris Levine

Image © Christie's / She's Light (Laser 3) © Chris Levine 2013

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