By Michele Leight
Innovation usually causes a ruckus - something artists know all about - and Simon de Pury, Chairman of Phillips de Pury & Company has done just that with the inaugural auction of their new exhibition and auction gallery located at the corner of Park Avenue and 57th Street. Full of surprises, he is now following Phillips de Pury & Company's unique "Theme" auctions - his idea - with a new series of guest-curated sales by art world luminaries. Entitled "Carte Blanche," the first in the series will debut with an auction organized and curated by Philippe Ségalot, the well-known art dealer (see The City Review article). "Carte Blanche" kicks off the evening sale on Monday, November 8, at 6 PM and will immediately be followed by "Contemporary Art Part I." The Ségalot sale has garnered a lot of attention and is expected to achieve in the region of $80 million. Contemporary Art Part I is estimated to achieve $23-$35 million and Contemporary Art Part II $7-$12 million.
Mr. de Pury is shown here with his favorite painting from "Contemporary Art Part I," a gorgeous mountainscape by Ed Ruscha, entitled "Sex at Noon Taxes," which irreverently writes itself across this bucolic scene in bold letters, invading its pristine perfection. The reflections are not part of the painting, which has an estimate of $3,000,000-$4,000,000. Mr. de Pury was especially pleased with the result for Ed Ruscha's "Sex at Noon Taxes," which sold sold for $4,338,500 including the buyer's premium as do all results mentioned in this article. He said it was the most expensive mountain picture by Ruscha ever sold.
This auction sold 22 of the 26 offered lots for $19,973,000. The pre-sale estimates were $23,600,000 to $34,420,000. The combined total for the Ségalot "Carte Blanche" sale and Contemporary Art Part I $137, 028,000, the highest total for any Phillips de Pury sale. When Simon de Pury was asked who and when the next guest-curated sale will take place, he said: "They may be artists, curators and collectors. There will be no pattern as to when the sales take place. It will happen when it happens."
A sculpture by 31 year old Dan Golen, (born 1979), Lot 104, "Untitled (Vete al Diablo)," with a pre-sale estimate of $150,000-$250,000, sold for $290,500, setting an auction record for the artist. Mr. de Pury said that when an artwork by Damien Hirst sold at Phillips for $600,000, setting an unprecedented record for a young artist, everyone was shocked. "It happened at Phillips first," he said, stressing several times that they have been committed to young, emerging artists, a niche that was created by Phillips: "The young artists whose work you buy at Phillips today will be the blue chip artists of tomorrow. They will be the The Ed Ruscha's and the Damien Hirsts."
Michael McGinnis said the result of the sale was a good indicator that the market was buoyant. We have been dedicated to this "niche" for a decade. When asked if he will do another sale Philippe Ségalot, smiled and said: "No. When you do it once you do your best."
Takashi Murakami was at the sale, which was a success for him, with his "Ms. Ko 2" selling for $6,805,200, the second highest total of the sale after Andy Warhol's "Men in Her Life."
At the press preview for the evening auctions Mr. de Pury introduced Philippe Ségalot and Michael McGinnis, Worldwide Head of Contemporary Art, Phillips de Pury & Company, while we were simultaneously entertained by a motorized "Mini-Me" Maurizio Cattelan - by Cattelan of course - called "Charlie" who circled around us happily, remotely controlled so he did not bump into anyone. He will be offered at the "Carte Blanche" sale. Thrusting forward from one wall in the handsome new exhibition space on the southeast corner of Park Avenue and 57th Street like a stags head, or the magnificent figurehead of a 16th century galleon, was the highly publicized "Stephanie, 2003," also known as "Trophy Wife." The subject, Stephanie Seymour, is the super-model whose media tycoon husband Peter Brandt commissioned this beautiful sculpture which depicts Seymour with luxurious, long brown hair, her hands discreetly covering her breasts. Cattelan is mischieviously comparing her with the hunting trophies of her husband that line the walls of their palatial home, irreverently poking fun at a man who commissioned an expensive sculpture from him. This is classic Cattelan, who is-is not joking. Regardless, they love the sculpture. Cattelan is also making fun of us for our obession with wealth, power and celebrity, which is the focus of many artists whose work is featured in this story. No one is off-limits and he delights in playing jokes on gallerists, power brokers and authority figures like "Frank and Jamie," illustrated below.
Mr. De Pury, Mr. Ségalot and Mr. McGinnis spoke about their excitement for the up-coming Contemporary Art Auctions, and the highlights of the sales. Mr. de Pury said The Contemporary Art II (day sale) will be held on November 9th at the 450 West 15th Street auction rooms and galleries, which he emphasized they will not be giving up. Numerologists might find it interesting to note that both the Phillips de Pury & Company addresses have the same number - 450. Phillipe Ségalot grew emotional recollecting the past three months, which brought back memories of putting sales together at Christie's "but with more time!" adding "I have enjoyed curating this unique auction, which will probably be the last one that I will do." He said that normally auctioneers work with what they are brought but in this instance he was lucky to be able to put together "a collection" of his own choice. There is no pretending that the Ségalot sale is not the highlight of the evening, but there is no shortage of great, collectible art on offer in "Contemporary Art Part I," which de Pury said he has Mr. McGinnis to thank for. He said Phillips have nailed the "young" contemporary art market, and have shown a commitment to them from the beginning. To prove the point, a mystical work by Dan Colen who was born in 1979, "Untitled (Vete al diablo)" is included in the evening sale (Lot 104, estimate $150,000-$250,000). Jenny Holzer, Cecily Brown, Martin Creed, Bill Viola and many other working artists are represented in Contemporary Art Part I. Estimates range from $70,000 to $5,500,000-$7,500,000 for Jeff Koons's "Caterpillar Ladder." Lot 104, sold for $290,500, an auction record for the artist.
No one one could walk casually past "Frank and Jamie," (Lot 112, estimate $1,000,000-$1,500,000), which pays homage to the police department, Cattelan-style. It sold for $1,594,500. Strategically placed at the entrance to the gallery where security guards might stand, Cattelan has literally turned law, order, and "authority," on its head. It is immaterial to Cattelan whether the power brokers and authority figures he subverts are art gallery owners, art lovers, or police officers. He even takes on large institutions and major art shows. Realistic and meticulously detailed - one officer wears a wedding band - "Frank and Jamie" are superb replicas of two New York City police officers from the now defunct Housing Authority division. By turning them upside down "he has rendered these purveyors of authority obsolete and incapable of performing their sworn duty to serve and protect. This mildly subversive element is the main ingredient in his work and is the preeminent reason why he has become such an adored artist," according to the catalogue entry. Upside down security guards also question the idea of the "art gallery, " and because they are compromised and useless, they would not be much good at protecting us if something happened - so the last laugh is on us. The catalogue cites that "the present work is part of what Cattelan once referred to as his trilogy about power." He has also controversially depicted the Pope crushed by a meteorite, and Hitler in the guise of a child praying for forgiveness - disturbing - until we understand what he is saying. Cattelan is a wizard and a showman, and brilliant at garnering publicity. Perhaps Mr. Cattelan will consider installations of upside down CEOs and hedge fund managers in the entrance to their offices.
Like Jeff Koons, Cattelan re-connects us to those blissful childhood days when we were unpretentious, never postponed joy and did not believe anything bad could happen to us. Koons is full of optimism, and his sculptures and paintings are exquisitely crafted. Cattelan creates controversial spectacles. But do not be fooled. His seeming childishness and gimicry is seriously humorous, or he is really joking. Like all clever humor, his can be "dark," and laced with the absurd or banal, or under-pinned by serious issues. The catalogue notes: "He loves nothing more than to tease his viewers and play (often well-deservcd) tricks on the art world - in so doing Cattelan has become Contemporary Art's charmingly brazen court jester." Shakespeare and Fellini, among other smart entertainers, deployed court jesters (clowns) to deliver serious or unpopular messages. They understood that people were more likely to absorb the ramblings of a bumbling clown than endure earnest sermons about debauchery, vice, corruption and above all hypocrisy. Lot 109, "Caterpillar Ladderr, was a polychromed aluminium sculpture by Jeff Koons (b. 1955) that measures 84 by 44 by 76 inches and was created in 2003. It has an estimate of $5,500,000 to $7,500,000. It was passed at $4,800,000. Michael MsGinnis said they still believe in the Caterpillar series by Koons: "We were a little ambitious on the market expectation," he said.
Among the other being offered in "Contemporary Art I" are a superb photograph "Untitled (Cowboy)" by Richard Prince (Lot 113, estimate $1,000,000-$1,500,000). It sold for $902,500.
Richard Prince's "Untitled
(Cowboy)" is from his iconic "Cowboy" series, culled
from Marlboro cigarette advertisements after they were no longer
used by the marketing company. Here, as in other images of America's
mythical and endangered cowboy, he is re-presented by Prince after
the original text has been removed, and the image cropped and
re-photographed. Like Warhol, Prince "appropriates"
what is already there, highlights American consumerism, questions
elitist ideas about the originality and status of the "art
object" - and ultimately its price-tag. Of the famous "Marlboro
Man" image Prince says: "Without him as an identifying
factor, it was easier to present these pictures as something other
than they were. I think that's the way I felt at the time anyway.
Other than I was," (L.Phillips, Richard Prince, New
York, 1992, p. 95. Referenced in the catalogue for this sale).
There are several outstanding Pop Art paintings, like Lot 116, "Two Figures, Indians," by Roy Lichtenstein (estimate $3,000,000-$5,000,000) and Lot 107, "Mona Lisa" by Andy Warhol (estimate $1,500,000-$2,500,000). Warhol "appropriates" the most famous and reproduced face in the world for this ethereal purple silkscreen painting, while Lichtenstein reduces the timeless designs of the Navajos and the Nacoma and Zuni Pueblo Indians of New Mexico to their fundamental geometric components in his powerful graphic style. It has such wall power! Lot 116 sold for $3,890,500. Lot 107 sold for $1,986,500.
Ed Ruscha offers his own comments about the beautiful "palindrome" mountainscape, "Sex at Noon Taxes" (Lot 115, estimate $3,000,000-$4,000,000), shown with Simon de Pury at the top of this story: "The mountains emerged from my connection to landscape, and experiencing it, and especially from driving across country. In the western half of the United States the mountains just erupt from the flat landscape.They're based on specific mountains and alterations and photographs, but they're not really mountains in the sense that a naturalist would paint a picture of a mountain. They're ideas of mountains, picturing some sort of unobtainalble bliss or glory - rock and ways to fall, dangerous and beautiful" (A. Gopnik, "Bones in the Ice Cream," Ed Ruscha Paintings,Toronto, 2002, p. 7). The catalogue for this sale offers a plausible explanation for the jarring, illogical words that invade the sublime natural beauty in this painting: "Like Magritte his (Ruscha's) paintings are riddles. They might quicken our curiosity, but they also baffle us by only ever flirting with meaning. As Ruscha once said: 'Art has to be something that makes you scratch your head.'" Ruscha wants us to do our own thinking.
Andy Warhol and Keith Haring were inspired by Walt Disney and the concept that art is for everyone, which became the mantra of Pop Artists, whose undisputed king was Warhol. Haring idolized Warhol, and his witty, winsome "Andy Mouse" (Lot 110, estimate $600,000-$800,000) pays humorous homage to his friend. It sold for $722,500. The catalogue for this sale contains an excerpt from "Keith Haring: An Intimate Conversation," by D. Sheff, Rolling Stone Magazine, August 10, 1989:
"Andy always had young people around him at all points of his life. Fresh blood with fresh ideas. It was good for him to be around, and for us it was good because it was giving us this whole seal of approval - the ultimate approval you could get was from Andy. Everyone looked up to him. He was the only figure that represented any real forerunner of the attitude about making art in a more public way and dealing with art as part of the real world. Even when we became friends, I was always sort of in awe of him."
Keith Haring was 30 years younger that Warhol and absorbed many of his ideas. "Andy Mouse" is the perfect fusion of different but related symbols of commercialism - Micky and Andy. It is such a fun painting, imbued with the same optimism as Jeff Koons's "Caterpillar Ladder." The "allover" pattern is reminiscent of Takashi Murakami's "Eye Love SUPERFLAT," painted in 2003, (Lot 114, estimate $600,000-$800,000), illustrated here. It was passed at $550,000. Andy Warhol was a huge influence on a young generation of artists whose work is featured in this sale, who moved on and made their own interpretations and art. They in turn helped propel Warhol forward. This sale is well edited, representing great works by individual artists that are connected to each other in some way.
Andy Warhol collaborated with
Jean-Michel Basquiat - who was 32 years younger - on several large
scale murals, and they were friends. Sylistically, however, Basquiat
was inspired by Jackson Pollock's raw power and the totemic
figures of his early paintings, as well as Jean Dubuffet's depictions
of the individual engulfed in an often hostile or overwhelming
urban environment. Both artists deployed highly individualistic
and unusual methods to achieve their imagery, which is also evident
in Basquiat's use of mixed media like oil sticks, crayons, xeroxed
collages, "found" wood from crates, and other urban
detritius, which often became the "frames" of his paintings.
"MP," 1984, (Lot 121, estimate $2,000,000-$3,000,000)
or "market price," is a forceful self-portrait alluding
to his concerns about signing up with an art dealer, and being
controlled by the gallery. It passed at $1.9 million. Basquiat had reservations about becoming
another cog in the art world machine. Words were important to
him and he used them prolifically: "...he
continually selected and injected into his works words which held
charged references and meanings - particularly about his deep-rooted
concerns about the creation (and exploitation) of natural resources,
animals, and produce" (R.D. Marshall, "Jean Michel Basquiat,"
Paris, 2000, p.37, catalogue for this sale). Xeroxed collages repeat
the word "carbon" down the right side of "MP,"
referencing the non-metallic element of diamonds (indirectly himself,
now a wealthy artist whose paintings were valuable), and graphite,
used by artists (like himself) to write and draw. Aligning these
words beside the powerful black male figure - himself - "MP"
becomes an extraordinarily vivid self-portrait.
George Condo is an individualistic, figurative painter who juggles the Old Masters, famous art movements like Surrealism and Cubism, and contemporary animation - as in this absurdly winsome work, with "characters" straight out of a fantastical Tim Burton movie. In the 1980s Condon inaugurated the term "Abstract Realism" to describe his imagery. Lot 109 has an estimate of $500,000-$700,000. It sold for $542,000.
Turning the pages
of art history back 60 years is the beautiful painting by Mark
Rothko, executed in 1947, before he became world
famous. Entitled "No.9," the shapes are beginning to
break up into what will become his signature blocks and rectangles
of color, but his fascination with color is established, and will
soon occupy center stage. This painting has an important history
that is explained in the catalogue: "In his second one-man
exhibition with Betty Parsons held in the spring of 1949, Rothko
included 'No,9.' Opening to positive critical response, reviews
described the work as producing a 'savage rhetorical impact' and
that the paintings 'did not imitate anything in the world.' Of the
eleven works in the show only three have been identified.
'Untitled," 1947' in the collection of the Solomon R. Guggenheim
Museum and 'No.9, 1948' in the collection of the National Gallery
of Art in Washington. 'No.9, 1947' is the only work positively
identified as having been in the show and also in private hands."
Lot 117 has an estimate of $800,000-$1,200,000. It sold for $842,500.
Simon de Pury said: "We are extremely proud about the launch of 450 Park Avenue and together with 450 West 15th Street, we will now have two outstanding spaces to showcase the exciting spectrum of our auctions." He added that they were delighted with the response of the public to the new gallery and its Contemporary Art installations.
See The City Review article on the Fall 2010 Contemporary Art evening auction at Christie's
See The City Review article on the Fall 2010 Contemporary Art day auction at Christie's
See The City Review article on the Fall 2010 Contemporary Art evening auction at Sotheby's
See The City Review article on the Fall 2010 Contemporary Art day auction at Sotheby's
See The City Review article on the Spring 2010 Contemporary Art day auction at Phillips de Pury