By Carter B. Horsley
auction includes numerous works from the collection of Tom Patchett,
a Los Angeles collector who was a writer for "The Carol Burnett
Show" and "The Bob Newhart Show" on television
and important works by Jeff Koons, Felix Gonzales-Torres, Maurizio
Cattelan and good works by Jean-Michel Basquiat and Julian Schnabel
was a moderate success with 81.8 percent of the 45 offered lots
selling for a total of $8,302,500, considerably short of its pre-sale
low estimate of $10,530,000. Several auction records for artists
were set: Lot 40, "Prada III," for example, set a record
of $310,038 for Andreas Gursky; Lot 4, "Assortment (The Trunks;
Human Object)," set a record of $222,500 for Paul McCarthy;
Lot 15, "La Reine Blanche (Catherine Deneuve) set a record
for Pierre & Gilles of $70,700.
The most impressive work in the Patchett group is Lot 11, "Samson,"
shown above, by Chris Burden (b. 1946), a turnstile, winch, worm
gear, leather strap, jack, timbers, steel, steel plates and hardware
installation of variable dimensions that was executed in 1985.
It has an estimate of $250,000 to $350,000. It failed to sell.
Burden became famous as a performance artist focused on masochism
and retained the "threat of violence" in his later work,
such as this.
The catalogue provides the following commentary on this work:
"The jack supports two enormous wooden beams that extend
horizontally through the air and press against opposing walls
of the room in which it is installed. In order to fully appreciate
this installation, the viewer must pass through the turnstile,
which in turn expands the jack and forces the beams against the
walls. Although each movement is slight and imperceptible, the
sculpture maintains the theoretical capacity to destroy the room
in which it is housed. Like the Biblical hero for which it is
named - whose superhuman strength parted the columns of a temple,
killing Samson and the Philistine - the cumulative power of Burden's
sculpture may ultimately lead to its own demise. First installed
at the Henry Art Gallery in Seattle, Samson does more than implicate
the curious spectator in a destructive act. Once beyond the turnstile,
one must contemplate the relationship between works of art and
the institutions that normally harbor them. Just as Burden's ephemeral
performances questioned the value placed on traditional art objects,
Samson challenges the institutional power of the museum or gallery.
By literally threatening their imminent collapse, through Samson,
Burden asks if art can survive without these validating structures."
Lot 3, "Untitled," by David Hammons (b. 1943), is a
156-by-41-by-24-inch basketball installation that was executed
in 1989 and has an estimate of $80,000 to $120,000. It failed
to sell and was "passed" at 62,000. In the mid-1980s,
Hammons became well-known for "Higher Goals," an installation
of very tall telephone poles surmounted by basketball hoops that
were publicly displayed in Harlem and Brooklyn. The unreachable
hoops were meant to inspire players to achieve higher goals. This
work has a makeshift backboard made of the rear window of a Datsun
hatchback and a green garbage can lid.
Mike Kelley (b. 1954) is represented with several good works.
Lot 8, "Nature
and Culture," is a chest of drawers and wood wall panel with
decoupage, knobs, mirror and plywood that measures 83 1/2 by 27
1/8 by 16 3/4 inches and was executed in 1987. It has a modest
estimate of $80,000 to $120,000. It sold for $74,000.
Kelly's work, the catalogue notes, challenges "conventional
notions of masculinity."
"Reacting, for instance, to dominant conceptions of male
artistic genius," the catalogue states, "Kelley rejected
traditional fine-art media and chose to work with craft techniques,
thrift-store throwaways and other cultural debased materials.
The objects themselves consistently conjured an author whose masculinity
was severely compromised. While the artist laid only partial claim
to his manhood, the works unleashed a number of Kelley's repressed
other selves. They showcased the animal, infantile and - in the
case of the present sculpture - feminine aspects of human nature.
When confronted with Nature and Culture, one feels strangely transported
to the bedroom of a thirteen-year-old girl. Here Kelley has plastered
a bureau and a mirror with images snipped from glassy magazines,
and thus assumes the artistic identity of a bored teenager. A
far cry from the studied formalism of a modernist collage, Kelley's
obsessive cut-and-paste technique deliberately appropriates a
creative labor that is typically associated with adolescent feminity.
Questions of gender identity continue to unfold in a series of
provocative contrasts. Especially when viewed head-on, the comparable
rectangular shapes of this two-part sculpture general a striking
contrast of color. The bright pink lips that smother the bureau
are balanced against neutral gray scenes of military engagements
that cover the mirror. By contrasting the cosmetic with the combative,
the artifice of fashion with the reality of current vents, Kelley
cleverly addresses the polarized construction of gender in contemporary
popular culture. Resisting a simple displacement of blame, however,
the artist locates this binary opposition within a domestic tableau,
suggesting another potential source of such socialization."
shown above, by Mike Kelley, consists of three stuffed yarn animals
with afghans, two 19 5/8 inches in diameter and the third 49 1/2
inches. It was executed in 1990 and has an estimate of $150,000
to $200,000. It failed to sell and was "passed" at
$125,000. It is not from the Patchett Collection.
"By placing the pieces directly on the floor, Kelley summons
a host of associations, from the mundane (signaling an infant's
playtime) to the art historical (recalling Jackson Pollock's drip
paintings). This horizontal orientation also solicits the viewer's
corporeal interaction with individual pieces, reinforcing and
simultaneously denying our physical and emotional attachments
to treasured toys and comforting blankets," the catalogued
of the auction is Lot 16, "Fait d'Hiver," by Jeff Koons
(b. 1955), a porcelain sculpture, 19 1/2 by 63 by 31 1/2 inches,
executed in 1988 in an edition of three with one artist's proof.
It has an estimate of $1,500,000 to $2,500,000. It failed to
sell and was passed at $1,150,000.
This work depicts the head and upper torso of a woman lying on
her back in the snow in an apparently helpless position with a
pig and two penguins coming to her rescue. The woman is based
on a photograph of Ilona Staller in Stern magazine who
was bare-breasted wearing a knitted dress. "By juxtaposing
a strong sexual element with the saccharine sweetness of decorative
knicknacks, Koons produces a Walt Disney version of an erotic
fantasy. This disturbing combination identifies a primal hunger
at the heart of American consumerism, and suggests that all of
mass culture - whether its products are sordid or squeaky clean
- functions as a commercialized form of seduction.By elevating
these domestic knicknacks to the artistic scale of a museum masterpiece,
Koons blurs the boundaries between art and decoration, valuable
sculpture and everyday kitsch," the catalogue noted.
Lot 18, "Untitled (Lovers - Paris)," consists of two
groups of light bulbs and extension cords created by Felix Gonzalex-Torres
(1957-1996) in 1993. The work has an estimate of $500,000 to $700,000.
It sold for $618,500 including the buyer's premiumas do all
prices mentioned in this article. The artist began his "light
pieces" in 1991, the year that his lover, Ross Laycock, died.
"As the identical strings of light bulbs loosely intertwine,
the work's title alludes to the intimacy of lovers and also plays
on Paris's distinction as the 'The City of Light' and 'The City
of Lovers.' The artist's works are highly symbolic, conceptual
"Love Lasts Forever," by Maurizio Cattelan (b. 1960),
consists of four animal skeletons standing on top of each other.
The 76 1/4-inch-high work was executed in 1999 and has an estimate
of $500,000 to $700,000. It sold for $442,500. "Since
1994, when Maurizio Cattelan featured a live donkey in his first
one-man show in New York, animals have remained a recurring motif
in the artist's work. Following this debut, Cattelan began using
taxidermized animals, such as horses, squirrels and dogs, as sculptural
objects. Exercising greater control over their poses and placement,
the artist arranged these frozen creatures in gallery and museum
settings in oftentmes humorous and ironic positions, thereby generating
unexpected encounters with the animal kingdom. Love Lasts Forever
represents a significant advance within this body of Cattelan's
work. Stripped to the bone, these skeletal animal forms dispense
with the life-like illusionism of taxidermy, and introduce a more
obvious specter of death to the artists' work. Despite its macabre
appearance, the present sculpture ironically functions as an affirmation
of life. Love Lasts Forever features the skeletons of a
donkey, a dog, a cat, and a rooster, stacked atop one another
in order of descending size. This particular arrangement derives
from The Bremen Town Musicians, a German folk tale
written by the Brothers Grimm in 1819. In this story, four animals
are threatened with death by their respective owners, who consider
the creatures old and useless. Fearing for their lives, the animals
band together as musicians and seek their fortunes in the nearby
town of Bremen, where they encounter a house full of thieves.
Climbing on top of each other, the animals generate a chorus of
dissonant sound. Their terrifying music drives the criminals from
their hideaway, where the animals live out of the rest of their
lives in freedom. Drawn to this moment of high drama in the story,
Cattelan first created a singing stack of stuffed animals in 1995,
which he entitled Love Saves Lives. 'The second version,'
he has explained, 'came about almost three years later, when the
curator Kasper Konig asked me to show the [first] piece at Skulptur
Projekte in Munster (1997). I didn't like the idea of exhibiting
this piece again so I just thought about how time would have redefined
the work. It seemed to me that after three years, the animals
would have been reduced to skeletons, so this is what I showed'"
"Deprived of their fur and feathers, the four creatures are
now presented as ossified relics of the past. Yet Cattelan maintains
the original hints of bodily animation and vital energy. Backs
remain arched, limbs are still bent, and jaws continue to hang
open - as though the animals bray, bark, hiss and squawk into
eternity. Love Lasts Forever thus counters its own morbidity
with the optimistic suggestion that love may transcend the temporal
limits of mortal flesh."
The 1997 work, however, was damaged when its owner Shih Tzu, Lulu,
found the bones too appetizing and Cattelan made a new work, the
present one, in which the skeletons are not detachable as in the
1997 work. (The catalogue has a color photograph of the very adorable,
but quite mischievous, Lulu.)
(A 1998 version of the stuffed animal version of this work entitled
"The First, They Said, Should Be Sweet Like Love; The Second
Bitter, Like life; And The Third Soft, Like Death," is being
auctioned at Sotheby's the evening of November 14, 2001 and has
an estimate of $500,000 to $700,000. See The City Review article.)
Lot 22, "Statue of Liberty," by Andy Warhol (1928-1987)
is a 72-inch square synthetic polymer paint and silkscreen on
canvas. The work was executed in 1986 and has an estimate of $500,000
to $700,000. It sold for $662,500.
"Gestell (580-3), is a strong, 102 1/2-by-78 3/4-inch oil
on canvas by Gerhard Richter (b. 1932) that is one of his very
colorful abstractions. It was painted in 1985 and has an estimate
of $900,000 to $1,200,000. It was withdrawn.
Lot 28, "Woman on White Wicker Rocker," is a 1984 work
by George Segal (1924-2000). The 42-by-33-by-50-inch bronze with
white patina sculpture was executed in 1984 and is number three
from an edition of five. It has an estimate of $150,000 to $200,000.
It sold for $123,500.
Lot 30 is a very nice, small alabaster sculpture by Eduardo Chillida
(b. 1924). It is 10 5/8 inches high and was executed in 1990.
It has an estimate of $40,000 to $60,000. It sold for $123,500.
Lot 31, "Untitled," is a 39 1/4-by-25 1/2-inch oil on
paper mounted on canvas by Mark Rothko (1903-1970). It was painted
in 1964 and has an estimate of $300,000 to $400,000. It sold
"Untitled (Angel)," is a large and good, 96-by-169-inch,
acrylic on canvas by Jean-Michel Basquiat (1960-1988). It was
painted in 1982 and has an estimate of $900,000 to $1,200,000.
It sold for $783,500, the highest price of the auction.
Lot 38, "Some Bullfighters Get Closer To The Horns II,"
is a 108-by-94-inch oil on wood with plates and bondo by Julian
Schnabel (b. 1951). It was executed in 1982 and has a modest estimate
of $120,000 to $180,000. It sold for $321,500.
While this auction was held at 11 East 57th Street, its viewing
was held in larger quarters at 450 West 15th Street.