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."
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
auction records were set for George Baselitz and Tom Wesselman.
"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
"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.
6, "Still Life #28," by Tom Wesselmann, acrylic and
cardboard collage on board with working television, 48 by 60 inches,
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," 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.
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
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"
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.
(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.
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.
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
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
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.
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 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
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"
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 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