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Contemporary Art

Part Two

Sotheby's

10:15 AM, May 17, 2002

Sale 7798

"Composition" by Arshile Gorky

Lot 223, "Composition," by Arshile Gorky, oil on canvas, 6 ½ by 10 ¼ inches, circa 1946

By Carter B. Horsley

There 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 the afternoon.

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 to sell.

"Abstraction" by Willem de Kooning

Lot 224, "Abstraction," by Willem de Kooning, pastel on paper mounted on board, 13 ¾ by 15 ¾ inches, circa 1956-7

A great 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.

"Untitled (Woman)" by Willem de Kooning

Lot 225, "Untitled (Woman)," by Willem de Kooning, oil on paper, 29 by 23 inches, circa 1965\

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.

"Untitled" by Eva Hesse

Lot 173, "Untitled," by Eva Hesse, oil on canvas, 71 ½ by 83 ¼ inches, 1963

Lot 173 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 $207,500.

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.

"Maquette for Tulip and Smoking Cigarette" by Tom Wesselmann
Lot 151, "Maquette for Tulip and Smoking Cigarette," by Tom Wesselmann, liquitex on bristol-board, 4 ½-by-7-by-4 ¼-inches, 1981

For less 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.


"Untitled" by Joan Mitchell

Lot 238, "Untitled," by Joan Mitchell, oil on canvas, 47 ¾ by 49 ½ inches, 1955

Joan Mitchell's 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.

"Untitled" by David Smith
Lot 243, "Untitled," by David Smith, tempera and black ink on paper, 21 ¼ by 17 inches, 1959

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 painter.

"Decent" by Sam Francis

Lot 249, "Decent," by Sam Francis, wood engraving, pigment, oil and monotype on handmade paper, 78 by 43 inches, 1982

Sam Francis 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.

Lot 233 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."

"Untitled" by Franz Kline

Lot 221, "Untitled," by Franz Kline, ink on paper, 10 ¼ by 9 inches, circa 1956

Many of 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 to sell.

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 for $174,500.

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.

"Concetto Spaziale" by Lucio Fontana

Lot 200, "Concetto Spaziale," by Lucio Fontana, waterpaint on canvas, 9 by 13 ¾ inches, 1962

If Kline 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" by Robert Motherwell

Lot 143, "Two Figures," by Robert Motherwell, oil on board, 8 ½ by 10 ½ inches, 1958

Lot 143, "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.

"The Robe Following Her # 4" by Jim Dine

Lot 124, "The Robe Following Her # 4," by Jim Dine, oil on canvas, 73 3/4 inches square, 1984-5

Jim Dine (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 $174,500.

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.

"Double Mickey Mouse" by Andy Warhol

Lot 108, "Double Mickey Mouse," by Andy Warhol, screenprint with diamond dust on paper, 30 ½ by 43 inches, 1981

While Lot 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.

"Superman" by Andy Warhol


Lot 109, "Superman," by Andy Warhol, pencil on paper, 40 by 30 inches

Another 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 $77,675.

"Fan (Hard Model), by Claes Oldenburg

Lot 118, "Fan (Hard Model)," by Claes Oldenburg, corrugated board, spray enamel, crayon and straight pins, 42 by 28 ½ by 18 inches, 1966

Lot 118 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.


"Donohue's" by Richard Estes

Lot 109A, "Donohue's," by Richard Estes, oil on masonite, 48 1/4 by 30 inches, 1967-8

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.

George Rickey sculpture

Lot 214, "Open Rectangles One Up One Down, Excentric II," by George Rickey, stainless steel, 15 feet high, 1978

George Rickey 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.

See The City Review article on the Post-War & Contemporary Art evening auction at Christie's May 14, 2002

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

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 & Luxembergh 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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