By Carter B. Horsley
This large auction has a number of excellent
works that could well have been included in the evening sale the
previous night, but then Phillips experts would be concerned that
without them interest might wane in this day auction. Such fears,
however, are a bit unfounded as there are plenty of interesting
works for collectors, not all of whom now are prepared to dig
very deeply into their pockets but who may in the future as their
knowledge and collections grows.
The standouts in this day auction include a
"dress" of brass wire designed by Isamu Noguchi for
Martha Graham, a very handsome and unusual sculpture by Roy Lichtenstein,
a good and interesting Lee Krassner gouache, a very evocative
work by Andes Serrano, two fine works by Shirin Neshat, a good
blue venus by Yves Klein, two unusual and handsome works by Alex
Katz, two very good works by Gerhard Richter, a good Malcolm Morley,
an interesting Jennifer Bartlett, two pleasant works by George
Condo, a strong Cindy Sherman, an excellent Nan Goldin, and an
intriguing work by Moriko Mori.
In contrast to Phillips's evening sale of
Contemporary Art the previous night that was very successful,
Only 56 percent of the offered lots in this much larger day sale
sold for a total of $1,4,39,518. The sale had a pre-sale low estimate
of $2,150,400 and a high pre-sale estimate of $2,953,000.
The Noguchi brass wire and bronze "dress"
in two parts, Lot 252, was designed in 1946 for Martha Grahams
famous ballet, "Cave of the Heart," and has been consigned
by the Martha Graham Foundation, which has recently been experienced
financial difficulties. Noguchi (1904-1989), Americas greatest
sculptor, did many sets for Graham, Americans greatest modern
choreographer, and this "dress" is one of the most memorable
creations in this famous collaboration. It has a conservative
estimate of $60,000 to $80,000. It sold for $129,000 including
the buyer's premium as do all results in this article.
Roy Lichtenstein (1923-1997) was best known
for his blown-up "comic strip" paintings and later for
his quite colorful sculptures that, like his paintings, had limited,
but bright and strong palettes. Lot 242, "Modern Sculpture
with Black Shaft," an aluminum and black glass sculpture,
81 by 52 ½ by 16 inches, was created in 1967 in an edition
of three. The work is very simple and is a tilted work that is
reminiscent of some of the style of Frank Lloyd Wright, but it
is very beautiful and has a conservative estimate of $50,000 to
$70,000. It failed to sell.
Lee Krassner (1912-1984) was the widow of Jackson
Pollock and is the subject of a major retrospective this winter
at the Brooklyn Museum of Art. Her work is similar in its dense
abstraction to Pollocks, but more structured and generally
with a different, more muted palette. Lot 248, "Heiroglyphe
No. 16," is a 26 ¼-by-22 ¼-inch gouache on
paper, executed in 1969. It has a very conservative estimate of
$12,000 to $18,000. It failed to sell.
Andres Serrano (b. 1950) was the center of
a major controversy a few years ago over his depiction of Christ
in a photograph in a container of urine. Despite its offensive
nature to some religious groups, the work was quite beautiful,
essentially substituting a reddish glow instead of a golden halo
to a traditional religious subject, a substitution that at least
in terms of color made some sense. Lot 264, "Piss Discus,"
portrays a discus thrower in a classic pose. It is a 28 ½-by-
18 ½-inch cibachrome, numbered 30 of an edition of 50.
It has a very conservative estimate of $3,500 to $4,500. It
sold for $3,565.
Shirin Neshat (b. 1957) is an Iranian-born
artist whose works often focus on the mores of Muslin societies,
especially as they affect women. Lot 268 is a 15 ¼-by-23-inch
color photograph, executed in 1999 and is number 23 of an edition
of 35. It is a very intriguing and beautiful work and has a very
conservative estimate of $3,000 to $4,000. It sold for $2,990.
It is entitled "Rapture" as is Lot 151, a gelatin silver
print, 19 ¼-by-24-inches, executed in 1999. The work is
an artists proof from an edition of 5 and has an estimate
of $4,000 to $6,000. It sold for $4,830.
Yves Klein (1928-1962) loves deep blue and
Lot 241, "Venus Bleue," shows what happens when you
take a Classical sculpture of a womans torso and make a
very fine plastic sculpture of such a form and cover it with dry
blue pigment in synthetic resin instead of lustrous white marble.
The work was conceived in 1961-2 and is number 189 from an edition
of 300. It has a slightly ambitious estimate of $40,000 to $60,000
given the large size of the edition. It sold for $34,500.
Alex Katz (b. 1927) is an artist best known
for his expression-less female faces that combined the simplicity
of Henri Matisse with the flatness and muted palette of Milton
Avery. For many years, the Art Deco building that was demolished
recently for a new skyscraper on the northwest corner of Seventh
Avenue and 42nd Street was adorned with several of Katzs
very bland and unattractive women. Lot 240, "The Runner,"
however, is much better as it shows a kneeling male looking directly
at the viewer in a broad rural background. The 24-by-26 ¼-inch
oil on canvas was painted in 1958 and has a modest estimate of
$15,000 to $20,000 and has a nice folk-art feel. It sold for
$34,500. Lot 239, "Vincent with Ukelele," is even
more surprising as it is a male again but this time strongly painted
with emotion and a good deal of painterliness. The 14-by-12-inch
oil on masonite has a conservative estimate of $8,000 to $10,000.
It sold for $23,000.
Lot 183 is a stunning and fiery untitled oil
and graphite on paper by Gerhard Richter (b. 1932) that measures
22 ¼ by 31 5/8 inches and was executed in 1986. It has
an estimate of $80,000 to $100,000. It sold for $79,500.
In dramatic contrast is Lot 229, a Richter oil on canvas, 21 by
15 ¾ inches that is a dark gray work with a long vertical
squiggle and two other small marks. It is a very subtle work that
was executed in 1969 and has an estimate of $30,000 to $40,000.
It failed to sell.
Malcolm Morley (b. 1931) is an artist of mirth
and Lot 213, "A Passion for the Funeral of Vincent Van Gogh,"
is a diamond-shaped oil on canvas, 83 by 48 inches. Painted in
1985, it has an estimate of $80,000 to $100,000 and is one of
the artists better works. It failed to sell.
Jennifer Bartlett likes to work with panels
and much of her oeuvre expresses a love of nature and parks and
gardens. Lot 200, "Horizon," is rather unusual as it
consists of two parts, a large curved oil on shaped canvas and
enamel and the other part silkscreen ink on 20 steel plates. The
plates are arranged in a similar curved to the large piece and
are meant to be displayed adjacent to it for a total measurement
of 48 by 250 inches. The work was executed in 1979 and has a conservative
estimate of $35,000 to $45,000. It failed to sell.
George Condo (b. 1957) often designs fanciful
biomorphic figures of great charm in the tradition of some of
Arshile Gorkys figures and Lot 192, which is untitled, is
a very good example. The oil and sand and canvas measures 65 by
53 ¼ inches and was executed in 1984-6. It has a conservative
estimate of $10,000 to $15,000. It failed to sell. A slightly
earlier work, Lot 190, has three figures rather than the two in
the other lot and here the mood is a bit more Picassoesque. Entitled
"Reunion," the 32 12-by-47 7/8-inch gouache on paper
was executed in 1985 and has an estimate of $20,000 to $25,000.
It sold for $9,200.
Cindy Sherman (b. 1954) has become extremely
popular in the art market for creating an unconventional series
of self-portraits. In one series, she put herself into Renaissance-style
pictures and in another she put himself into movie-type scenes.
She has also experimented with much wilder environments that border
on the erotic. Lot 159, "Untitled Film Still #122,"
is one of her better works because it is quite atypical. All of
her face except for her left eye is covered by a straggly platinum
blond wig. The photograph cuts off the top of her head. She is
dressed in a dark suite and is obviously standing quite rigid.
The suit permits a glimpse of her chest, but no décolletage.
The most visible part of her body are her clenched fists protruding
from the sleeves. Her arms are tight against her side. It is a
quite striking image of a persecuted woman in rage. The 40-by-30-inch
color coupler photograph is dated 1993 and number 3/18. It has
an estimate of $40,000 to $60,000. It failed to sell.
Nan Goldin (b. 1953) may well be the second
most popular female photographer in the current art market and
most of her color photographs are of people in their apartments
in moments of strong personal emotion. The intimacy is heightened
usually by over-saturated color. Lot 154, "Bruce in the Smoke,"
will surprise some of her fans because it is a very beautiful
picture. It evokes the tonalism of Steichen but also the monumental
of Ansel Adams because of the way the smoke rises almost like
clouds. The work was shot in 1995 and measures 27 ½ by
40 inches and is a silver dye bleach print mounted on foamcore.
The work is number 13 of an edition of 15 and has a conservative
estimate of $10,000 to $15,000 and is much better than her more
expensive color photographs of people in intimate situations.
It sold for $18,400.
The Goldin picture has mystery as does Lot
126, "Initiation, 1997," by Moriko Mori (b. 1967), which
depicts a women with white bangs holding a large crystal ball
in both hands. According to the catalogue, the work is a "ten-sheet
billboard, electrostatically printed in coated paper, each sheet:
60 by 48 inches
.overall: 120 by 240 inches
in 1997 as part of Art Metropoles Billboards by Artists
series of which one work was presented on a billboard in downtown
Toronto" This work is number 5 from an edition of 5 with
three artists proofs. The lot has an estimate of $15,000
to $20,000. It failed to sell.
In the back of the catalogue, Phillips acknowledges
that it has "a financial interest, which may be an advance,
a price guarantee and/or an ownership interest in the following
lots: 101, 127, 129, 142, 175, 203."