2 PM, May 15, 2011
By Michele Leight
Phillips de Pury have long championed emerging artists whose work continues to light up their galleries in spring and Fall on 57th Street in Midtown, and in Downtown Manhattan where they first set up their auction house and galleries. The company's commitment to emerging artists was clear from its inception in the lofty Downtown gallery space in the Milk Building, when the neighborhood itself was nothing like the sophisticated hub it is now. Simon de Pury has often affectionately described works of art as hanging "near the car wash" - the gallery wall abutting a garage with a car wash - to help orient bidders in a packed auction room. A pioneer in this now prestigious and booming neighborhood bustling with the rich and famous, stellar eateries, and fashion and design houses, Phillips de Pury's name is synonymous with cutting edge contemporary art.
Phillips de Pury & Company spring Contemporary Art Sales totaled $108,142,500, their highest total to date. The evening sale totaled $98,825,500 (see review of Phillips de Pury & Company's evening sale on this site). The day sale, reviewed here, totaled $9,316,900. The top lot of the sale was Mark Bradford's "Am I Losing You," (Lot 135) which sold for $506,500, well above its estimate of $250,000-350,000. New artists introduced to auction included Erick Swenson, Anatolly Kryvolap, Roe Etheridge, Eva Struble and Emily Sundblad. Works by Dan Colen, Ugo Rondinone, Philip Taafe, Vic Muniz and Kaye Donachie sold above the high estimate, and new world auction records were set by Josh Smith, Harland Miller, Deborah Kass, and Hilla Rebay von Ehrenwiesen.
Views from the Downtown galleries today include the bobbing heads of happy tourists and trendy Manhattanites strolling along the Highline a recent addition to the neighborhood - which passes, quite literally, outside their windows. The glistening waters of the Hudson River are visible behind it, an especially beautiful sight at sunset. Artworks offered in Phillips de Pury & Company's sales are always thought-provoking, and many emerging artist's careers have been launched here. Illustrated above are Lot 221,"Untitled," a diptych by Michael Lin (b. 1964), (estimate $50,000 to $70,000, which failed to sell, but it is wonderful), Lot 220, "Gifts from Heaven," by Zhan Wang (b. 1962), (estimate $35,000 to $45,000, which sold for $43,750, and the row of beguiling rocks, Lot 223, "Line to follow colors in pebbles," by Andy Goldsworthy (b. 1956)(estimate $50,000 to $70,000, which sold for $52,500).
Photographs were included in Phillips de Pury's earliest sales of contemporary art, another pioneering effort that continues and is reflected in many contemporary art sales today. Lot 147, "Junction, Atlanta," by Roe Etheridge (b. 1969), has a pre-sale estimate of $6,000 to $8,000. It sold for $11,875 (See "New Photography 2010, reviewed on this site in Art/Museums). Lot 159, "Dance of Destruction (Featuring 'Lady Liberty' as Shiva, Wovako, Eleanor and Jim Jones)," is a mixed media work including photographs with an estimate of $200,000 to $300,000. It sold for $194,500.
Illustrated at the top of this story is a dazzling photograph by Vic Muniz of Dame Elizabeth Taylor, who passed away in March, 2011. The top lot of Phillips de Pury & Company's evening sale was a beautiful silkscreen portrait of Elizabeth Taylor by Andy Warhol, which sold for $26,962,500, the top lot of the sale, and reviewed on this site. Both offerings are especially moving because Elizabeth Taylor is no longer with us. For several weeks, large posters of the Warhol portrait of her glowed from the windows of Phillips de Pury's 57th Street galleries, a fitting tribute to a deeply talented and gracious woman whose career spanned decades, and who was devoted to several important causes, notably HIV/AIDS. She was the last of the great icons of Hollywood's Golden Age, and this was not lost on Vic Muniz - or Warhol, who was the first to transcribe dazzling Hollywood stars to canvas, immortalizing them.
Poster of Andy Warhol's painting of Elizabeth Taylor in Phillips de Pury's 57th Street gallery/auction room window, Photo copyright Michele Leight 2011
The catalogue for this sale notes: "Phillips de Pury is honored to present a dazzling portrait of the late Hollywood icon Elizabeth Taylor. The portrait is not only a brilliant representation of the star's image, but one whose provenance extends to the subject herself. When the artist Vik Muniz decided to create his Diamond Diva series, he knew Dame Elizabeth Taylor would make the perfect subject to be rendered entirely out of precious stones. Fittingly, he promised her a gift of the first artist proof from the edition. Upon its completion, he presented her with a portrait that shone with nearly the vitality of the star herself...The story of this work's provenance evolved as Dame Elizabeth Taylor gifted the portrait to a dear friend of hers who believed it to be the actress's most glamorous depiction. With one more change of hands, the portrait found itw way to another devoted admirer. Here the star's legendary glamour resides in a final tribute, one definitive enough for the star to give her personal blessings as owner. Now, following the death of its beloved subject, the portrait's provenance continues to find its way towards one of the star's many dedicated devotees."
Lot 143, "Elizabeth Taylor (Pictures of Diamonds)," by Vik Muniz, has an estimate of $80,000 to $120,000. It sold for $170,500.
Mark Bradford's sprawling urban environments and sophisticated "fragmentary" compositions belie "their obstinate refusal to provide comforting or easy answers to the concerns he addresses - (and) create allegories that are at once formal, political, personal and psychological. His psycho-geographies and interventions insis upon the infinitely mutable qualities of urban space. The issues at stake - class, ethnicity, race, economic participation - are not quantifiable, not concrete, and not givens. Instead they are overlays, points-of-view, tools that weave in and out of each other in ways unexpected and contingent..." (Steven Nelson, "Mark Bradford's Allegorical Impulse," in "Mark Bradford," exh. cat., Sikkema, Jenkins & Co, New York, 2006, n.p., inclued in the catalogue for this sale). Lot 135, "Am I losing you..." has an estimate of $250,000 to $350,000. It sold for $506,500, the top lot of this sale.
Nick Cave's wonderful "Soundsuit," (Lot 120) might inspire special forces to beef up their comoflage. It would be pretty intimidating if this leapt out at you on a dark night in the middle of nowhere. Lot 120 has an estimate of $50,000 to $70,000. It sold for $96,500.
Lot 119, "Return to Bolsar 7 (Alternate title Vapors Stilling), by Phil Frost (b. 1973), a superb mixed media work that includes, among other things, chalky correction fluid. Lot 119 has an estimate of $15,000 to $20,000. It sold for $20,000.
Lot 134, "Untitled," by the duo Guyton/Walker is a sophisticated installation in blues, with re-created inkjet prints on the paint cans including one that depicts the cross-sections of pears, expertly rendered. The catalogue for this sale describes this partnership: "Guyton/Walker is like a corporate merger between two solo artists, whose qualities and ambitions are neither sacrificed nor confused but rather pooled and integrated to produce on super-double-artist. (John Kelsey, "Guyton Walker: Green Naftali," Artforum, May 2005. Lot 134 has an estimate of $80,000 to $120,000. It sold for $98,500.
Lot 127, "Hate Them," by Banks Violette (b. 1973), has an estimate of $100,000 to $150,000. It sold for $110,500. In the background (right) is Lot 140, "Siebteraugustneunzehnhundertneunundneunzig," by Ugo Rondinone (b. 1964), a mesmerizing work that is hard to overlook even in a gallery filled with competition. The catalogue for this sale notes: "In this series of circular canvases, Rondinone engages with the artistic tradition of geometric abstraction. His paintings evoke the targets of Jasper Johns, the brightly hued rings of Kenneth Noland, and the hypnotizing canvases of the Op Artist Bridget Riley. Rondinone not only alludes to these seminal works, but he also modifies the concentric circle motif by rendering it in the medium of spary paint. The spray paint lends his rings blurred edges that seem to simultaneously push against and bleed into each other. This effect imbues Rondinone's canvases with a pulsating, almost hypnotic energy. The series' varied combinations of colors lend each canvas its own indivudual rhythm and intensity. As such, the present lot is an exquisite example of Rondinone's ability to manipulate a deceptively simple form - the circle - in order to create a mesmerizing and innovative visual effect." Lot 140 has an estimate of $150,000 to $200,000. It sold for $278,500.
Lot 318, "Dalla Primavera de Botticelli," by Marcello Lo Giudice (1955), is a personal favorite. This would be my take-home work of art because it would delight all the young people in my family - they would probably try to sleep on it, however, and they would definitely add their own butterflies, or over-paint the existing ones. Lot 18 has an estimate of $25,000 to $35,000. It sold for $48,750.
Illustrated above is Lot 194, "Untitled," by Agam (1928-2005), that has an estimate of $20,000 to $30,000. It failed to sell. However, Lot 195, "Untitled," by Agam, which is also mixed media work including paint tubes in blues, green and black, sold for $21,250 (estimate $20,000 to $30,000).
Lot 344, "Pergula" by Thomas Schiebitz (b. 1968), is a striking oil and marker on canvas that measures 73 by 114 3/8 inches. It has an estimate of $40,000 to $60,000. It sold for $43,750.
Two superb paintings by Ross Bleckner (b. 1949) are illustrated above: Lot 321, "Study in Replication," has an estimate of $8,000 to $12,000. It sold for $10,000. Lot 132, "Pathway with Black," has an estimate of $40,000-60,000. It sold for $50,000.
The wonderful work on paper illustrated above, showing part of a sail, is "Lot 272, "The City at 11.16 am (#5, #6, #7, #70, #76, #81, #85, #88)," by Dave Muller (b. 1964) and it has a reasonable estimate of $18,000 to $22,000. It sold for $25,000.
Lot 141, "Untitled (pink and blue)," by Tom Friedman (b. 1965), includes an interview with the artist in the catalogue for this sale:
John Miller: Your work sometimes reminds me of a book I grew up with: Fun With Next To Nothing. It told you things like how to make an airplane out of popsicle sticks or a wall plaque out of bottle caps.
Tom Friedman: Well, that's not surprising. I like it to have a sense of being at home.
John Miller: Why "home?"
Tom Friedman: I like the connection to everyday materials, things just sitting around the house. For me, home just means "being yourself." You don't have to go outside to know more; you already have everything you need. I don't think of learning as an additive process. Instead, your mind rearranges itself in certain ways. It's interesting to think that all the potential knowledge is already there ("Tom Friedman with John Miller," Index Magazine, 1998)
Lot 141 has an estimate of $120,000 to $180,000. It failed to sell. Go figure, as they say. It is still wonderful.
Lot 337, "Karma," by Do Ho Suh (b. 1962), is a fun, imaginative sculpture in resin, gradually unfolding into miniatures of itself till it becomes a point that runs out. It has an estimate of $20,000 to $30,000. It sold for $82,900, well over its high estimate.
Lot 220, "Gifts from Heaven," by Zhan Wang (b. 1962), looks like burnished silver but it is made of stainless steel. It has an estimate of $35,000 to $40,000. It sold for $43,750. Through the window are people enjoying the view of the Hudson River from the Highline.
Lot 332, "Untitled," by Andy Collins (b. 1971), is like an abstract world map, and has a reasonable estimate of $4,000 to $6,000. It sold for $6,500.
Lot 188, "Crosses," by Hilla Rebay von Ehrenweisen has an estimate of $50,000 to $70,000. It sold for $74,500, a world auction record for the artist.
Creative geniuses are often generous about giving credit to colleagues they admire. The catalogue for this sale includes an interesting anecdote about an artist who died decades ago, but whose work resonates today because she was way ahead of her time:
"Hilla Rebay is one of the original art lovers responsible for not only bringing modern art to America in the first half of the last century, but for also being the inspiration and the driving force gehind the founding of the Guggenheim Museum. In a letter from the museum's architect Frank Lloyd Wright, he tells her: ' This whole building has been built for you and round you whether you know it or not'" (Frank Lloyd Wright to Hilla Rebay, August 9, 1945).
What a heartfelt tribute from one of the greatest architects of all time, whom Rebay chose to design The Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum. That showed great judgment! As a close friend and advisor to Solomon Gugenheim, Hilla Rebay (1890-1967) helped him establish the Guggenheim Museum in New York City, and guided him to buy some of the works of art. She was appointed to its Board of Directors, but things did not turn out well for her after Guggenheim's death. She was expelled from the board by family members and did not attend the opening of the museum because she was not invited. Nor did she ever visit the museum she had been so instrumental in helping to create. Hilla Rebay was born in 1890 and died in 1967. She was friends with many artists, including Kandinsky and Marc Chagall. Lot 188, "Crosses", sold for $74,500, a world auction record for Rebay.
Generosity of spirit continues with Lot 169, "Hamburger," and Lot 170, "Be Somebody with a Body," by Andy Warhol, who gave them as a gift to the present owner, Robert Lee Morris: "Andy gave these both to me wrapped in brown paper, under the dinner table at the Odeon. I am sure you know how he was so generous like that." (Robert Lee Morris quoted in the catalogue for this sale).
Season after season Andy Warhol continues to appeal to buyers at all price levels, whether the offerings are sketches, lithographs, prints, paintings, or silkscreens. Three iconic silkscreen paintings of Liz, Jackie and one of Warhol's earliest self-portraits were the top selling lots at Phillips de Pury, Sotheby's and Christie's contemporary art evening sales this spring, reviewed on this site.
Lot 127, "Lil T's Toilet Team" by Tom Sachs
Lot 127 is an amusing work by Tom Sachs (b. 1966) entitled "Lil T's Toilet Team." It has an estimate of $100,000 to $150,000. It sold for $116,500.
"Untitled" by Anselm Reyle, acrylic and mirrored Plexiglass on canvas, 53 1/4 by 46 inches, 2003
Lot 313, "Untitled" by Anselm Reyle (b. 1970), is a striking acrylic and mirrored Plexiglass on canvas that measures 53 1/4 by 46 inches. It was created in 2003 and has an estimate of $20,000 to $30,000. It sold for $22,500.
See The City Review article on the Contemporary Art evening sale at Christie's May 11, 2011
See The City Review article on the Contemporary Art evening sale at Sotheby's May 10, 2011
See The City Review article on The Collection of Allan Stone auction at Sotheby's May 9, 2011
See The City Review article on the Carte Blanche auction curated by Philippe Ségalot at Phillips de Pury November 8, 2010
See The City Review article on the Contemporary Art evening auction Part I at Phillips de Pury Pury following the Ségalot auction
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