are a lot of contemporary art auctions so it is a relief that
the Part Two day sale of Contemporary Art is broken into two catalogues,
both with the same sale number, one for the morning and one for
Ignore the afternoon sale, which has nothing remarkable except
for a couple of nice paintings, Lots 383 and 385 by Eric Fishl
(b. 1948). Lot 383 passed and Lot 385 sold for $372,500 including
the buyer's premium as do all prices mentioned in this article.
The morning sale, however, is really good with few unappealing
lots. It has good, and moderately priced, examples of the work
of Arshile Gorky (1904-1948), Eva Hesse (1936-1970), Richard Estes
(b. 1936), David Smith (1906-1965), Claes Oldenberg (b. 1929),
Jim Dine (b. 1935), Robert Motherwell (19115-1991), Josef Albers
(1888-1976), Tom Wesselmann (b. 1931), Lucio Fontana (1899-1968),
Eduardo Chillida (b. 1924), Alexander Calder (1898-1976), George
Rickey (b. 1907), Mark Tobey (1890-1976), Franz Kline (1910-1962),
Willem de Kooning (b. 1904), Sam Francis (1923-1994), William
Baziotes (1912-1963), Joan Mitchell (1926-1992), Frank Stella
(b. 1936), and Andy Warhol (1928-1987).
While it is diminutive, Lot 223, shown at the top of this article,
"Composition," is a superb Arshile Gorky. With a fine,
subtle palette and deft lines and overpainting, this is a wonderful
painting despite the fact that it measures only 6 ½ by
10 ¼ inches. Painted circa 1946, it has an estimate of
$100,000 to $150,000 and is one of his best works. It failed
companion piece for the Gorky is Lot 224, "Abstraction,"
by Willem de Kooning, a 13 ¾-by-15 ¾-inch pastel
on paper mounted on board. Executed circa 1956-7 it is an unexpectedly
strong abstraction with an unusual palette for this wildly expressionist
painter. It has a conservative estimate of $20,000 to $30,000.
It sold for $35,850.
A more typical
and quite fiery de Kooning is Lot 225, "Untitled (Woman),"
an oil on paper that measures 29 by 23 inches and was painted
circa 1965. It has an estimate of $100,000 to $150,000. It
sold for $207,500.
is a very interesting and impressive, untitled oil on canvas by
Eva Hesse that has much of Gorky's artistic temperament. It was
painted in 1963 and measures 71 ½ by 83 ¼ and has
a conservative estimate of $180,000 to $220,000. It sold for
Frank Stella's sculptures are extremely dynamic and interesting
and "Talladega," his mixed media on tycore, Lot 165,
would be quite a striking companion to the Hesse lot. The brightly
colored Stella measures 70 ½ by 80 ¾ by 9 inches
and was executed in 1981. It also has a modest estimate of $180,000
to $220,000 given its flamboyance and size. It failed to sell.
It would be a very fine work for a large corporate office building
lobby is the front of the building had Lot 152, Tom Wesselmann's
large painted aluminum sculpture entitled "Tulip and Smoking
Cigarette." The 51 ½-by-96 ½-by-40-inch sculpture
was also executed in 1981 and has a conservative estimate of $100,000
to $150,000, perhaps reflecting the fact that not every intelligent,
sophisticated art lover smokes cigarettes nowadays but then that
fact should make the sculpture even more precious, perhaps. It
sold for $147,000.
intrepid collectors who might want to "smoke" in a less
public manner, a very nice maquette for Lot 152 is Lot 151. The
liquitex on bristol-board maquette measures only 4 ½-by-7
¾-by-4 ¼-inches and is number 81-3 and has a modest
estimate of $7,000 to $9,000 and comes from the Collection of
Samuel and Luella Maslon. It sold for $29,875.
Another sculpture from the Maslon Collection is Lot 142, a very
attractive "Femme Debout," by Etienne Hajdu (b. 1907).
The very handsome, 26 ¼-inch-high, pink-marble, abstract
sculpture is dated 1957 and has a modest estimate of $4,000 to
$6,000. It sold for $13,875.
Mark Tobey's wonderful white squiggles do not appear too often
and Lot 219, "Untitled," is a good example. A gouache
on paperboard, 17 inches square, it is dated 1958 and has a modest
estimate of $15,000 to $20,000. It was withdrawn.
works can be quite fiery at times but in Lot 238 she seemed to
have taken off on a Tobeyesque tangent, albeit not with white
but with black and brown and gray strokes. This 47 ¾-by-49
½-inch, untitled oil on canvas has a wonderful dynamic
and was executed circa 1955. It has an estimate of $35,000 to
$45,000. It sold for $59,750.
It is much
wilder than David Smith's very nice untitled tempera and black
ink on paper, Lot 243. This lot measures 21 ¼ by 17 inches
and is dated 1959. It has a modest estimate of $6,000 to $8,000.
It sold for $5,975. Smith, of course, is famed as a sculptor
but like Henry Moore and a few other sculptors he also was a good
has two good works in the auction, Lots 233 and 249. The latter
is entitled "Decent," and is a 78-by-43-inch wood engraving,
pigment, oil and monotype on handmade paper that is very structured
and very calligraphic and one of his more interesting creations.
It has a conservative estimate of $25,000 to $35,000 and is a
surprising relief from his many, many abstractions that have large
white backgrounds. It was executed in 1982. It failed to sell.
is a Francis that does have a lot of white background but its
very tall, slim format and top-heavy composition is rather unusual
for the artist, and very successful. Francis's paintings consistently
have good compositions but this one is something of a departure
for him. The 63-by-13 5/8-inch oil on canvas is dated 1957 and
has an estimate of $120,000 to $180,000. It sold for $130,500.
It is entitled "Fragment."
Francis's compositions seem like globular brightly colored versions
of Franz Kline's bold but monochromatic abstractions. Lot 221
is a very strong, small, untitled Kline. The 10 ¼-by-9-inch
ink on paper was executed circa 1956 and has an estimate of $50,000
to $70,000 reflecting its very strong composition. It failed
The auction has another small, untitled Kline that actually has
several colors, Lot 229. An oil and collage on telephone book
paper, it measures 12 ½ by 11 ½ inches and was executed
in1952. It has an estimate of $80,000 to $120,000. It sold
Eduardo Chillida is a fine sculptor and his untitled Chinese ink
on paper abstraction, Lot 202, would be an excellent companion
for the monochromatic Kline in Lot 221. The Chillida measures
11 ¼ by 14 inches and was executed in 1950. It has a modest
estimate of $8,000 to $12,000. It sold for $23,900.
and Chillida tend to convey strength through the bulkiness of
their bold strokes, Lucio Fontana conveys daring through his sinuous
and subtle slashings. Lot 200, "Concetto Spaziale,"
is an excellent example of Fontana's work. It is a 9-by-13 ½-inch
bright yellow waterpaint on canvas painted in 1962. It has an
estimate of $25,000 to $35,000. It sold for $95,600.
"Two Figures," is an excellent oil on board abstraction
by Robert Motherwell. Dated 1958, it measures 8 ½ by 10
½ inches and has a modest estimate of $40,000 to $60,000.
It sold for $56,762.
These small works are in fact very powerful.
(b. 1935) has several works in this auction, most notably Lot
124, "The Robe Following Her # 4," a very colorful oil
on canvas, 73 ¾ inches square, that was executed in 1984-5
and has an estimate of $80,000 to $120,000. It sold for $185,500.
Another Dine is Lot 107, "Two Hearts Meet in Walla Walla,"
an acrylic, sand and charcoal on wood, 48 by 72 inches. Dated
1985, it has an estimate of $90,000 to $120,000. It sold for
Another "Heart" is Lot 121, an acrylic and silkscreen
on canvas by Andy Warhol (1928-1987). This 18-by-14-inch work
was exected in 1979 and has an estimate of only $20,000 to $25,000.
It sold for $35,850.
121 only has one heart, Warhol could think in multiples, of course,
and Lot 108 is "Double Mickey Mouse," a 30 ½-by-43-inch
screenprint with diamond dust on paper. It is number 22 of an
edition of 25 and was executed in 1981. It had an estimate of
$60,000 to $80,000. It sold for $113,525.
Warhol is Lot 109, a pencil on paper, 40 by 30 inches, of "Superman.
It also has an estimate of $60,000 to $80,000. It sold for
is "Fan (Hard Model)," by Claes Oldenburg. The corrugated
board, spray enamel, crayon and straight pins work measures 42
by 28 ½ by 18 inches and is dated 1966 on the base and
1965 on the reverse. It was once in the collection of United States
Senator Frank R. Launtenberg of New Jersey. It has an estimate
of $80,000 to $120,000. It sold for $95,600.
A very good
photorealistic painting by Richard Estes (b. 1936) is Lot 109A.
Entitled "Donohue's," it is an oil on masonite that
measures 48 1/4 by 30 inches. Executed in 1967-8, it has an estimate
of $140,000 to $180,000. It failed to sell.
is one of the best modern sculptors and Lot 214, "Open Rectangles
One Up One Down, Excentric II," is a good example of his
art. The stainless steel mobile sculpture is 15 feet high and
was executed in 1978. It has an estimate of $100,000 to $150,000.
It sold for $284,500.