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Post-War Art

Christie's

Tuesday, November 13, 2001, 7PM

Sale 9778

"Woman in Landscape" by Roy Lichtenstein

Lot 9, "Woman in Landscape," by Roy Lichtenstein, oil on canvas, 74 3/4 by 44 inches, 1980

By Carter B. Horsley

German Expressionist art has been very much in the news this season with the opening of the Neue Gallerie on Fifth Avenue that specializes in such art and the sale of the Hoener and Smooke Collections at Phillips de Pury & Luxembourg earlier this month.

One of the highlights of this evening sale of Post-War Art at Christie's is Lot 9, "Woman in Landscape," by Roy Lichtenstein (1923-1997), an extremely powerful and fine work that has a conservative estimate of $1,400,000 to $1,800,000. The 74 3/4-by-44-inch oil and magna on canvas was painted in 1980.

The catalogue provides the following commentary on this lot;

"German Expressionism's sharp intersecting planes and angular, dynamic lines appealed to Lichtenstein's sense of the graphic that is found in this present painting. Furthermore, interest in German Expressionism opened up new kinds of imagery to Lichtenstein, namely the human figure. From the middle of the 1960s until the end of the 1970s, the artist had focused on the abstraction of objects, such as mirrors or entablatures. With the advent of these pictures, Lichtenstein began to paint especially the female figure which he had not done so since the early 1960s.German Expressionist pictorial innovations led him to expand his ideas into sculpture and into a series of landscapes and figurative painting that are arguably his answer to Abstract Expressionism."

It sold for $1,436,000 including the buyer's premium as do all prices in this article, the fourth highest price realized in this not terribly successful sale in which 70 percent of the 56 offered lots sold for $25,154,500, considerably short of the pre-sale low estimate of $31,610,000. Christopher Burge, the auctioneer acknowledged at the post-sale news conference that "there were obviously some disappointments" and some "quieter periods." "Obviously, the market was being very selective and there is no question we're looking at a quieter market, but still one strong for quality and freshnessm," Mr. Burgee added.

World auction records were set for George Baselitz and Tom Wesselman.

"Der Hirte" by George Baselitz

Lot 18, "Der Hirte," by George Baselitz, oil on canvas, 63 3/4 by 51 1/8 inches, 1966

Lot 18, "Der Hirte," is a strong oil on canvas, 63 3/4 by 51 1/8 inches, by Georg Baselitz (b. 1938) that was painted in 1966. The work, shown above, is part of the artist's series entitled "Heroes" or "The New Types," and has an estimate of $1,000,000 to $1,500,000. It sold for $1,105,000 to a European private collector.

"Baselitz," the catalogue noted, "depicts a male figure in worn, baggy clothing plagued by doubts standing alone amongst the ruins, like a defeated soldier returning after the war to the ravaged homeland. Rather than representing nature as sublime, an aspect integral to German Romantic tradition, Baselitz shows a scorched landscape, whose ravaged terrain and bleeding trees represent the destruction of war."

A possible companion piece to the Baselitz might be Lot 51, "Nude," by Francis Bacon (1909-1992), a strong but simple work that was executed in 1961. The 78-by-56-inch oil on canvas has an estimate of $600,000 to $800,000 and is a good example of Bacon's visceral style and painterliness. It sold for $1,106,000, $6,000 over the previous auction record set at Sotheby's, Nov. 13, 1991.

"Still Life #28" by Tom Wesselmann

Lot 6, "Still Life #28," by Tom Wesselmann, acrylic and cardboard collage on board with working television, 48 by 60 inches, 1963

Lot 6 is an amusing and good work by Tom Wesselmann (b. 1931) that has been consigned by the Abrams Family Collection. Entitled "Still Life #28," it is a 48-by-60-inch acrylic and cardboard collage on board with working television that was executed in 1963 and the catalogue shows Harry Abrams, the famous art book publisher, sitting in front of it in his apartment. This work has a conservative estimate of $600,000 to $800,000 and is the cover illustration of the catalogue. It sold for $798,000 easily surpassing the previous auction record set in 1990 of $590,682.

Other highlights include very good works by Anselm Kiefer, Sigmar Polke, Jean Dubuffet, Gerhard Richter, and Andy Warhol.


"Sonnenblumen" by Anselm Kiefer

Lot 22, "Sonnenblumen," by Anselm Kiefer, oil on canvas, 86 5/8 by 74 3/4 inches, 1995

Lot 22, "Sonnenblumen," shown above, is a 86 5/8-by-74 3/4-inch oil on canvas painted by Kiefer in 1995. This powerful work depicts wilting sunflowers and while reminiscent of Vincent Van Gogh who also depicted these enormous flowers but with fabulous colors Kiefer's palette is dry and dark. This is a somber image of a "scorched earth," an important Kiefer theme. It has a modest estimate of $350,000 to $450,000. It sold for $402,000.

This and another Kiefer "sunflower" painting, Lot 23, came from the Hans Grothe Collection. Lot 23 is quite similar to Lot 22 and has an identical estimate. It sold for $391,000.

The Grothe Collection also has important works by Sigmar Polke (b. 1941).

"Fungus Rock" by Sigmar Polke

Lot 24, "Fungus Rock," by Sigmar Polke, silkscreen and resin on fabric, 118 by 157 1/2 inches, 1992

Lot 24, shown above, is entitled "Fungus Rock," and was painted by Polke in 1992. It is a 118-by-157 1/2-inch silkscreen and resin on fabric and has an estimate of $500,000 to $700,000. It sold for $501,000. The work is, according to the catalogue, 'comprised of a layering of painted, printed and patterned elements." "Pastel polyester fabric, a mesh of irregular black dots stenciled on the surface, and splashes of brightly colored pigment create a collage effect, not only united disparate images, but textures and materials as well. In addition to visual disparities, the pictorial elements themselves appear to be drawn from different periods. The rock has a prehistoric appearance, in contrast to the dots and the patterned fabric, firm and constant reminders of popular culture and mass production. Against the cool watery blue and purple patterns of the fabric is a large red stain.The viewer feels compelled to switch back and forth between the various components, the print of the support and the motifs that appear to be stenciled on top of it, creating an almost hallucinatory vision.there is no visual hierarchy, the image is deconstructed and combined with other images"

"Laterna Magica - Zyklus"  by Sigmar Polke

Lot 25, "Laterna Magica - Zyklus," by Sigmar Polke, five panels of lacquer on transparent synthetic fabric, each 39 3/8 inches square, 1995

Three years later, in 1995, Polke executed "Laterna Magica -Zyklus," five panels of lacquer on transparent synthetic fabric, Lot 25, shown above. Each panel is 39 3/8 inches square. The lot has a conservative estimate of $400,000 to $600,000 and is very impressive. This lot failed to sell and was "passed" at $320,000!

"Unlike traditional lantern-slides, Polke's transparencies are painted on both sides; it is as if we were privileged to walk on both sides of the mysterious curtain of the magic lantern show. The images do not form a linear, continuous sequence, nor are the panels stylistically similar. As in many of his works, Polke layers images on top of one another, making certain sections visually impenetrable. Images are drawn from religious iconography, toys, architectural details, mechanical illustration and symbols from alchemy, combined with stenciled scenes, decorative patterns, images of familiar icons, and veils and splatters of paint reminiscent of action painting.

The panels are mounted in a blond wood frame on legs and form a surround. The framing might well have been better in ebony wood or stainless steel as the blond wood looks cheap and does not relate to the palettes of the very interesting and dramatic images.

Jean Dubuffet (1901-1985) is an artist whose temperament is not so gloomy as Baselitz's nor as monumental as Polke's but on a simplistic note his grittiness is kindred.

"Paysage aux trois hommes coiffés de chapeaux" by Dubuffet
Lot 2, "Paysage aux trois hommes coiffés de chapeaux," by Jean Dubuffet, gouache and paper collage on paper, 13 5/8 by 16 7/8 inches, 1963

Lot 2, "Paysage aux trois hommes coiffés de chapeaux," shown above, is very strong, bright, vibrant and cheerful Dubuffet. Executed in 1963, it is a 13 5/8-by-16 7/8-inch gouache and paper collage on paper and has a very modest estimate of $80,000 to $120,000. It sold for $127,000.

Another strong Dubuffet is Lot 40, "Minaudeuse," a 25 5/8-by-21 1/4-inch oil on board, that was painted in 1950. It has an estimate of $600,000 to $800,000. It sold for $666,000. Dubuffet is known for his Art Brut and was fascinated by children's art and pictures made by schizophrenics. The catalogue notes that the surface of this work is "scored and scarred, a tumult of materiality," adding that "The thick impasto effects lend the painting a brutality, as though Dubuffet had attacked the board upon which he painted.



"L'Auditeur" by Dubuffet

Lot 57, "L'Auditeur, " by Jean Dubuffet, epoxy paint on polyurethane, 65 3/4 inches high, 1967

Dubuffet is an artist who is famed not only for his paintings but also his sculptures and Lot 57, "L'Auditeur," shown above, is a good example of his popular style of using epoxy paint on polyurethane in a manner somewhat related to works of art from Papua New Guinea, an example of which is reproduced in the catalogue. This 65 3/4-inch-high sculpture was executed in 1967 and has an estimate of $300,000 to $400,000. It sold for $358,000.

Lot 50, "Woman," is a fine charcoal and pastel on paper, 21 1/2 by 16 1/2 inches, by Willem de Kooning (1904-1997)(see
The City Review article on the artist). Drawn in 1951, it has an estimate of $1,500,000 to $2,000,000 and is very vigorous. The work was once in the collection of Ruth and Paul Tishman. It sold for $2,096,000.

"Untitled" by Willem de Kooning

Lot 39, "Untitled," by Willem de Kooning, oil pastel and pencil on paper, 18 by 11 3/4 inches, 1954

A slightly smaller but more colorful de Kooning is Lot 39, "Untitled," an oil pastel and pencil on paper, 18 by 11 3/4 inches. Drawn in 1954, it has an estimate of $200,000 to $300,000. It failed to sell and was "passed" at $190,000. The work had been on the art market two years ago.

"Holly" by Andy Warhol

Lot 4, "Holly," by Andy Warhol, 9 panels of synthetic polymer and silkscreen inks on canvas, each 27 inches square, 1966

No "Post-War Art" auction would be complete without Andy Warhol (1928-1987). Lot 4, "Holly," consists of 9 panels of synthetic polymer and silkscreen inks on canvas, each 27 inches square. This work, which was executed in 1966 has an estimate of $1,500,000 to $2,000,000 and comes from the collection of Holly Solomon, who also sat for portrait by Roy Lichtenstein, Richard Artschwager, Christo, Neil Jenney and others. Warhol, according to the catalogue, took her to 42nd Street and gave her $25 in quarters to take pictures of herself in a "photo booth." She wanted the artist to make portraits of her as wallpaper for her dining room, but Warhol declined to make wallpaper. The commission foundered, the catalogue noted, "until a misunderstanding with Warhol's dealer set him to work on the portrait." "Holly could only afford three, but when she took her husband to chose he told Warhol to wrap all eight of them. Later Alan Solomon borrowed them for an exhibition at the ICA Boston and he asked for a ninth panel from Warhol."

It sold for $2,096,000.

"Mao" by Andy Warhol

Lot 12, "Mao," by Andy Warhol, synthetic polymer and silkscreen inks on canvas, 50 by 42 inches, 1973

Another Warhol is Lot 12, "Mao," a 50-by-42-inch portrait of the Chinese Communist leader that was executed in 1973. Synthetic polymer and silkscreen inks on canvas, it has an estimate of $800,000 to $1,200,000. It sold for $831,000.


Gerhard Richter (b. 1923) is represented with four works in the auction.

Lot 8, "Diana," is a 78 3/4-by-74 7/8-inch oil on canvas that is a bluish painting of a nude in a forest. Painted in 1967, it has an ambitious estimate of $3,000,000 to $4,000,000 and is the back-cover illustration of the catalogue. Richter used photography as a source but blurred it "to make everything equally important and unimportant so that they do not look artistic or craftsmanlike but technological, smooth and perfect." The source of this work was a picture in a pornographic magazine and by giving it the title, "Diane," the artist is being ironic with the famous images of goddesses in art history. It was withdrawn from the auction.

Richter is an artist of many very different styles. Lot 14, "1024 Farben," for example, is a 118-inch square lacquer on canvas that was painted in 1974 and consists of many brightly colored small squares like in a crossword puzzle. It has an ambitious estimate of $2,000,000 to $3,000,000. This work comes from the Hans Grothe Collection. It comes from the artist's "Color Charts" series. The arrangement o the colors was random, according to the artist, "to obtain a diffuse, undifferentiated overall effect, combined with stimulating detail." Richter has admitted that Piet Mondrian, who painted checkerboard paintings in 1919, was an influence. It sold for $1,766,000.

A more interesting Richter is Lot 15, "Ausschnitt (rot-blau)," a 78 3/4-by-118-inch oil on canvas that he painted in 1970. This is the largest work in his series, "Details," which was based on enlarged details of the paint smears and dabs of color on his palette. It is quite painterly and has an estimate of $1,000,000 to $1,500,000. It failed to sell and was "passed" at $850,000.

Lot 16, "Abstraktes Bild," is a 78 3/4-by-63-inch oil on canvas by Richter that was executed in 1988 and is a richly colorly and very detailed abstraction that has a modest estimate of $400,000 to $600,000. It is also from the Hans Grothe Collection. It sold for $446,000.

"The Fence (Sydney Close)" by Jim Dine

Lot 56, "The Fence (Sydney Close), " by Jim Dine, acrylic on canvas with branches, 50 by 208 inches, 1982

One of the auction's most colorful works is Lot 56, shown above, "The Fence (Sydney Close)," by Jim Dine (b. 1935), an acrylic on canvas, 50 by 208 inches consisted of five panels separated and bordered at its ends by branches. The work was executed in 1982 and has an estimate of $350,000 to $450,000. It sold for $391,000.

See The City Review article on the Nov. 5, 2001 auction of the Smooke Collection at Phillips de Pury & Luxembourg

See The City Review article on the Nov. 5, 2001 auction of the Hoener Collection at Phillips de Pury & Luxembourg

See The City Review article on Phillips May 7, 2001 Impressionist & Modern Art auction

See The City Review article on Phillips Fall 2000 Impressionist & Modern Art auction

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