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A Private American Collection

Sotheby's

7 PM, November 12, 2002

Sale 7841

Contemporary Art

Sale 7842

"Woman" by de Kooning

Lot 6, "Woman," by Willem de Kooning, oil, enamel and charcoal on paper mounted on board, 1947

By Carter B. Horsley

Sotheby's evening sale of contemporary art begins with a separate catalogue of "A Private American Collection" of Abstract Expressionist art that features 21 lots including important works by Willem de Kooning (1904-1997), Franz Kline (1910-1962), and Arshile Gorky (1904-1948) as well as works by Wayne Thiebaud (b. 1920). These works will be immediately followed by 46 other works including major works by Francis Bacon (1909-1992), Roy Lichtenstein (1923-1997), Jasper Johns (b. 1930), Philip Guston (1913-1980) and Anselm Kiefer (b. 1945).

In an "appreciation" to the catalogue for the private collection, Allan Stone, the dealer, wrote that "the gravity of this assemblage is overwhelming." Although the catalogue did not identify the owner of the private collection, it was widely reported that it is Thomas Weisel, an investment banker from San Francisco, who was offered a guarantee by Sotheby's in partnership with Mitchell-Inness & Nash, a New York dealer.

It is highlighted by a very charming and beautiful small oil, enamel and charcoal on paper mounted on board, Lot 6, by de Kooning. Measuring 16 by 15 1/2 inches, it is entitled "Woman" and was executed in 1947. It has an estimate of $3,000,000 to $4,000,000. It sold for $2,539,500 including the buyer's premium as do all results mentioned in this article.

The catalogue notes that in the late 1940s, the artist's "curvaceous forms have emerged from the scrim of Surrealism and the constructs of Cubism, and his figures begin to cant at sharper angles and develop jagged outlines." This work precedes the artist's famous series of paintings of women that are highly agitated, and rather violently rendered.

"Orestes" by de Kooning

Lot 11, "Orestes," by Willem de Kooning, enamel and paper collage on board, 24 1/8 by 36 1/8 inches, 1947

A larger de Kooning that also dates from 1947 is Lot 11, "Orestes." This 24 1/8-by-36 1/8-inch enamel and paper collage on board has an estimate of $8,000,000 to $10,000,000. It sold for $13,209,500, the highest price realized in the auction which had a sales total of more than $78 million and which sold almost 78 percent of its 66 offered lots, a lower percentage than realized the night before at Phillips de Pury & Luxembourg, but a bigger sale.

The auction started almost 15 minutes late and almost ended early as auctioneer Tobias Meyer announced the last lot of the sale one lot too early, to the amusement of the packed salesroom. After the sale, he said he was "very pleased" with the results" and that "the market is extremely healthy and very strong." Laura Paulson, the North and South America head of the Sotheby's Contemporary Art department, described the sale as "a triumph," added "we're thrilled."

The auction set seven new auction records for artists and three new auction records for artists by medium. Given the depressed state of the nation's economy and concerns about a possible war with Iraq, the art market has been anxious and while this auction was relatively successful it was surprisingly uneven with some works by famous artists selling well and some going unsold. While such discrepancies in values is not unusual, it only adds to and accentuates the market's uncertainties.

The catalogue notes that de Kooning painted nine black and white abstractions from 1946 to 1949 and that together with Jackson Pollock's drip paintings are "monumental achievements that catapulted the burgeoning school of Abstract Expressionism to the forefront." Six of the nine works, the catalogue continued, have entered museum collections. "Works such as Orestes contain such a compression of imagery, organization, line, plane and space, all alive yet at rest, that they are definitions of much of what Abstract Expressionism was about."

Lot 12, "Woman," is a 1952 painting of a "Woman" by de Kooning that is a pastel and graphite on paper. The work measures 20 1/4 by 14 inches and has an estimate of $4,000,000 to $6,000,000. It sold for $3,749,500 setting a new auction record for a work on paper by de Kooning.

"Red Eye" by de Kooning

Lot 14, "Red Eye," by Willem de Kooning, oil and collage on board, 16 1/2 by 14 inches, 1955

Lot 14 is an extremely bold and superb abstract work by de Kooning, entitled "Red Eye." An oil and collage on board, it measures 16 1/2 by 14 inches and was executed in 1955. It has an estimate of $2,000,000 to $3,000,000. It failed to sell and was passed at $1,600,000.

"Untitled" by Kline

Lot 5, "Untitled," by Franz Kline, oil on board, 17 1/8 by 26 inches, 1957

Simpler and bolder than de Kooning's "Orestes" is Lot 5, "Untitled" by Franz Kline, an oil on board that measures 17 1/8 by 26 inches. This black-and-white, 1957 work has an estimate of $500,000 to $700,000. It failed to sell and was passed at $420,000.

"Ninth Street" by Kline

Lot 13, "Ninth Street," by Franz Kline, oil on canvas, 60 by 78 inches, 1951

A larger black-and-white Kline abstraction, albeit one not in as good condition as Lot 5, is Lot 13, "Ninth Street." Painted in 1951, this oil on canvas is 60 by 78 inches and has an estimate of $4,000,000 to $6,000,000. It was formerly in the collection of Ben Heller and Jack Linsky. It sold for $4,519,500, an auction record for Kline, whose previous record was $2,860,000.

The catalogue provides the following commentary:

"By reducing his palette to black and white, Kline focused on structure and paint application, whether in the force of an individual stroke or n the sophistication of the layering of black over white and white within black. The verticals, angles and orbs of Ninth Street are a particularly sculpture composition that strains to contain the powerful dynamism that seems to bust across the picture plane. Kline is viewed as the master of black and white Abstract Expressionism, using the two colors as counterpoints in compositions of gestural velocity, such as Ninth Street. Kline's reduction of palette never eliminated hints of other colors completely, but the predominance of the two colors allowed him to more fully explore form though line, seeking to define space and movement in an abstract idiom. Ninth Street exemplifies the elegant and confident dynamism of Kline's broad compositions. With swatches of white over the thrusting black verticals and arcs, Ninth Street believes the misleading assumption that Kline simply painted heavy black strokes over white backgrounds. Rather, the artist unerringly alternated between the two colors to achieve a taut, unified composition, improvised through a strong instinct for equivalent paint areas. One senses that each application of one color invited a corresponding gesture from the other, so that Ninth Street's balanced dynamism evokes a strong kinetic response from the viewer."

While most Kline paintings are black-and-white abstractions, he did also work with other colors as evidenced by Lot 7, "Provincetown II," a 93-by-79-inch oil on canvas that was executed in 1959 and has an ambitious estimate of $2,500,000 to $3,500,000. It failed to sell and was passed at $1,600,000. The catalogue notes that "De Kooning considered Kline one of his best friends, and acknowledged that theirs was a relationship of mutual influence," adding that "Kline's use of large, broad brushes and muscular architectonic compositions clearly influenced de Kooning's work of the mid-1950s."

"From a High Place" by Gorky

Lot 15, "From a High Place," by Arshile Gorky, oil on canvas, 22 by 28 inches, 1944

Lot 15 is a major work by Arshile Gorky. Entitled "From a High Place," the oil on canvas measures 22 by 28 inches. Executed in 1944, it has an estimate of $6,000,000 to $8,000,000. It failed to sell and was passed at $4,100,000. After the sale, Mr. Meyer said that paintings by Gorky were rare and perhaps the market was not educated enough to understand his importance.

"In his tragically brief, but potent career," the catalogue wrote, "Gorky assimilated the pictorial innovations of Cézanne, Picasso, Kandinsky, Miró and the Surrealists, and serves as a crucial link from European modern art to the burgeoning Abstract Expressionists of the following decades. His synthesis of Modern art's many inventions, combined with is passionate embrace of nature and visual memories of Middle Eastern art, created a new vision for painting that would inform the work of his fellow artists of the 1940s and 1950s, from de Kooning to Still. Visits to the Virginia landscape would be the catalyst for his transformation of childhood memories into a metaphorical language of symbols and forms that constitute his inner vision, portrayed in lush, jewel-like tones that bring a new sense of sunlight to the artits's work.The chromatic brilliance of From a High Place, and the manner in which the linear shapes have dissolved into the atmosphere of the canvas is reminiscent of Kandinsky."

Lot 17, "Composition (Still Life)," is an 1936-7 oil on canvas by Gorky that measures 34 by 26 inches. The brightly colored work has an estimate of $1,500,000 to $2,000,000. It failed to sell and was passed at $900,000. Another Gorky, however, fared better, Lot 2, an untitled work on paper sold for $697,000, breaking the artist's former auction record of $431,500 for that medium.

"Toy Counter" by Thiebaud

Lot 19, "Toy Counter," by Wayne Thiebaud, oil on canvas, 60 by 72 inches, 1962

Wayne Thiebaud was the subject of a major restrospective exhibition in 2001 at the Whitney Museum of American Art. Lot 19, "Toy Counter," is a superb oil on canvas by Thiebaud. Measuring 60 by 72 inches, it was executed in 1962 and has an estimate of $3,000,000 to $5,000,000. It failed to sell and was passed at $2,800,000.

"Freeways" by Thiebaud

Lot 10, "Freeways," by Wayne Thiebaud, oil and charcoal on linen, 48 by 60 inches, 1975-9

Another Thiebaud from the same private collection is Lot 10, "Freeways)," an oil and charcoal on linen that measures 48 by 60 inches. Executed in 1975-9, it has an estimate of $1,500,000 to $2,000,000. It sold for $3,089,500, an auction record for the artist.

In the catalogue for the rest of the sale from various owners, there are numerous highlights.

"Triptych: Three Studies of Henrietta Moraes" by Bacon

Lot 48, "Triptych: Three Studies of Henrietta Moraes," by Francis Bacon, each 14 by 12 inches, 1966

Lot 48, "Triptych: Three Studies of Henrietta Moraes," is a stunning small triptych by Francis Bacon. Each of the three parts measures 14 by 12 inches and the triptych was executed in 1966 and has a modest estimate of $1,800,000 to $2,200,000. It was once in the collection of Nesuhu Ertegun. It sold for $2,429,500.

In describing his small portraits, the catalogue entry remarks that "here, color, form and composition are tightly knit together in a dazzling display of painterly bravura, forming a small group of extremely rare works that remain some of the highlights of the last one hundred years of painting." About 41 of these small triptychs exist, almost half of which are in museum collections.

Roy Lichtenstein is represented by two works in this auction, Lots 35 and 43.

The former is entitled "Step-on Can With Leg," and is a two-panel oil on canvas that measures 31 1.4 by 52 inches. Dated 1961, it has an estimate of $2,000,000 to $3,000,000. It sold for $4,840,500.

"Reclining Bather" by Lichtenstein

Lot 43, "Reclining Bather," by Roy Lichtenstein, oil and magna on canvas, 60 by 90 inches, 1977

The latter is entitled "Reclining Bather," and is oil and magna on canvas. It measures 60 by 90 inches and is dated 1977. Once in the collections of Mr. and Mrs. Raymond D. Nasher of Dallas and Keith Barish of Los Angeles, it has an estimate of $1,800,000 to $2,500,000. It sold for $2,099,500.

The auction has two works by Jasper Johns, Lots 39 and 41.

Lot 39 is entitled "0 through 9," and is a 27-by-21-inch sculpt-metal relief on canvas. Dated 1961, it has an estimate of $1,200,000 to $1,800,000. It failed to sell and was passed at $750,000.

Lot 41, "Untitled," is an encaustic on canvas that measures 66 1/8 by 44 1/8 inches. Executed in 1995, it has an estimate of $2,000,000 to $3,000,000. It sold for $1,989,500.

"die Funftorichten Jungfrauden" by Kiefer

Lot 42, "Die Funftorichten Jungfrauden (The Five Foolish Virgins)," by Anselm Kiefer, oil, acrylic, emulsion, shellac, straw and mirror fragments on oiriginal photograph on canvas, 94 1/2 by 133 7/8 inches, 1983

Lot 42, "Die Funftorichten Jungfrauden (The Five Foolish Virgins)," is an impressive and large work by Anselm Kiefer. The oil, acrylic, emulsion, shellac, straw and mirror fragments on oiriginal photograph on canvas measures 94 1/2 by 133 7/8 inches. Executed in 1983, it has an estimate of $700,000 to $900,000. It sold for $669,500.

"Painter in Bed" by Guston

Lot 29, "Painter in Bed," by Philip Guston, oil on canvas, 59 1/2 by 104 inches, 1973

Philip Guston's "Painter in Bed," Lot 29, shown above, is a major work from 1973. The 59 1/2-by-104-inch oil on canvas was once in the collection of Charles Saatchi of London. It has an estimate of $1,200,000 to $1,800,000. It sold for $1,879,500, breaking the former auction record for the artist of $1,707,500.

Lot 8, "Seated Figure with Pink Background," by Nathan Oliveira (b. 1928), sold for $317,500, smashing the artist's former auction record of $68,750.

Lot 9, "Boy With Flute," by David Park (1911-1960), sold for $779,500, breaking the artist's former auction record of $501,000.

Lot 23, "Archilles and the Tortoise," by Mark Tansey (b. 1949), sold for $999,500, soaring above the artist's former auction record of $242,000.

Lot 32, a large untitled gray painting with white squibbles in horizontal rows by Cy Twombly (b. 1928), sold for $5,619,500, $119,500 over the artist's former auction record. Another Twombly, Lot 51, "Mohammed Ali," a oil paint, wax crayon and graphite on canvas that was executed in 1964 had an estimate of $800,000 to $1,200,000 and was passed at $650,000.

Andy Warhol's "Del Monte Boxes (Peach Halves)," Lot 33, sold for $647,500, almost three times the artist's previous auction record for a sculpture. Another Warhol, Lot 64, "Myths: Santa Claus 36 Times," had a low estimate of $400,000 but was passed at $260,000, and a "Mao" portrait by Warhol with a low estimate of $450,000 also failed to sell.

 

See The City Review on the Contemporary Art day auction at Christie's in Spring 2002

See The City Review article on the Contemporary Art evening auction at Sotheby's May 15, 2002

See The City Review article on the Contemporary Art day auction at Sotheby's May 16, 2002

See The City Review article on the Contemporary Art evening auction in the fall of 2001 at Christie's

See The City Review article on the Contemporary Art evening auction at Sotheby's that follows this auction November 14, 2001

See The City Review article on the Post-War Art evening auction at Christie's November 13, 2001

See The City Review article on Contemporary Art evening auction at Phillips de Pury & Luxembourgh November 12, 2001

See The City Review article on the Contemporary Art evening auction in the Spring of 2001

See The City Review article on the Contemporary Art evening auction at Sotheby's May 15, 2001

See The City Review article on the Christie's Post-War Art evening auction May 16, 2001

See The City Review article on the Post-War art day auction at Christie's May 17, 2001

See The City Review article on Post War Art evening auction at Christie's, Nov. 15, 2000

See The City Review article on the Contemporary Art evening auction at Sotheby's, Nov. 14, 2000

See The City Review article on the Contemporary Art evening auction at Phillips, Nov. 13, 2000

See The City Review article on Contemporary Art Part II auction at Phillips, Nov. 14, 2000

See The City Review Article on the May 18-9 Contemporary Art auctions at Phillips

See The City Review article on the May 16, 2000 evening auction of Contemporary Art at Christie's

See The City Review article on the May 17, 2000 Contemporary Art evening auction at Sotheby's

See The City Review article on the Fall, 1999 auction of Contemporary Art at Christie's

See The City Review article on the Sotheby's Nov. 17, 1999 auction of Contemporary Art

See The City Review article on the auctions of Contemporary Art from a European Private Collection and Contemporary Art, Part 2, at Sotheby's Nov. 18, 1999

See The City Review article on the May 18, 1999 Contemporary Art Auction at Sotheby's

See The City Review article on Contemporary Art Part 2 auction at Sotheby's May 19, 1999

See The City Review article on the Christie's, May 19, 1999 Contemporary Art auction

See The City Review article on the Christie's, May 20, 1999 Contemporary Art Part 2 auction

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