Thursday, November 13, 2014

Culture: A Visit @ Sotheby´s, New York

(Drivebycuriosity) - Better late, than never. This week I visited Sotheby`s @ Manhattan`s Upper East Side for the first time. Being not a part of the infamous 1 percent I had been hesitant to visit a place that auctions art works which often costs millions of dollars. But I was surprised how friendly and cooperative the staff treats even so humble visitors and bloggers like me and how easy accessible their art pieces are.

The big house has a lot of exhibitions of art works from different epochs. On maybe 8 floors Sotheby ´s displays a huge number of paintings and sculptures. The place can easily compete with an ambitious art museum. And they didn´t prohibit taking pictures - as some museums still do. The staff didn`t even mind that I used flash which is usually not allowed in museums.

The reason for my visit was the preview for their evening auction of "Contemporary Art" on November 11 (sothebys  artnews). According to Bloomberg "a number of works were in private collections for a long time or hadn’t been viewed by the public for years" (bloomberg).

Especially Gerhard Richter´s "Abstraktes Bild" ("abstract picture", oil on canvas from 1991), which you can see on top of this post, had drawn me to the exhibition. The abstract painting was last exhibited in London in 1995, reports Bloomberg. Richter is my favorite artist and I am trying to spot as many of his paintings as I can. I love the structure of this beautiful painting which again proves Richter´s extraordinary mastership. The work sold in the auction for $21.4 million (estimate: $15-20 million).

Above this paragraph you can see a section of floor 10 with "Aluminium Girl" by Charles Ray (sold for $2 million) - isn´t she pretty?; "Landscape" by Mark Tansey (sold for $3.7 million) and "Untitled" by Christopher Wool (sold for $4 million).
My favorite in this group is the  kind of futuristic "Untitled" by Wade Guyton (Epson UltraChrome inkjet on canvas, in two parts each: 84 x 69 in. 213.4 x 175.3 cm) which found a buyer for $4 million. I have never heard from Guyton but I admire the clear crispyness of the painting.

Mark Rothko`s "No. 21 (Red, Brown Black and Orange;)" (oil on canvas, executed in 1951) above this paragraph made even more money than "the Richter" and sold for $44.9 million, the highest price in this auction. Not my choice, but if you have 3 or 4 similar "Rothkos" on your wall you might impress your guests a lot. Rothko’s “No. 21” was owned for more than 40 years by Sao and Pierre Schlumberger, whose family founded the oil exploration company that bears their name, says Bloomberg (bloomberg).

                                                          Chairman Mao With Us

I am not quite sure if I would put Louise Bourgeois`, "Spider I" (bronze, 50 x 46 x 12 1/4 in. 127 x 116.8 x 31.1 cm) on my wall. Anyway, it sold for $7.1 million. The buyer certainly doesn`t have arachnophobia.

I was glad to find there another favorite of mine: Sigmar Polke. The other day I had reported about his huge retrospective @ New York`s Moma (driveby). His "Filzschleife" (oil on felt), which reminds me a bit of his colleague Joseph Beuys, was sold for $2.2 million. Roy Lichtenstein, the godfather of pop art, was represented with his painting "Path through The Forrest" (Magna on canvas). Someone paid $3 million for this nice piece. Alexander Calder is known for his filigree kinetic sculptures (mobiles) but he also can paint: His painting "Personnage" (oil on canvas) was sold for $1.8 million.

China, the uprising power in everything, was underrepresented at this show. Anyway, the hilarious "Chairman Mao With Us" by Zeng Fanzhi (oil on canvas), was sold for $1.6 million.


                                                                  Warhol`s Selfie

There also were a lot of products from the ubiquitous Warhol Factory of course.
I really like Andy Warhol`s "Brigitte Bardot" (acrylic, silkscreen ink and pencil on canvas), sold for $1.6 million;
"Judy Garland" left the auction for $1.2 million;
his "Self-Portrait (Fright Wig)" (acrylic and silkscreen ink on canvas), sold for disappointingly $11,3 million, below the estimate ($12-18 million)
And somewhat took the "Debbie Harry " home - for $3 million.

My favorite "Warhol" in this show is his "Little Electric Chair" (luorescent paint and silkscreen ink on canvas 22 x 28 in. 55.9 x 71.1 cm). The painting shows a delicate mastership which we are not used from the highly productive factory. The painting was estimated $7.5-9.5 million and didn`t find a buyer. Walhol`s "Portrait of Johann Wolfgang Goethe", which you can see above around the corner behind Ray´s girl is less ambitious and too traditionalistic for my taste.

James Rosenquist´s strange "Highway Temple" (oil and wood on canvas mounted on board) must be an entertaining place. Someone bought it for $605,000.

Adolf Gottlieb`s  almost puritanical "Red an Blue" reminds me a bit of a Japanese temple art (sold for $2.1 million). I also enjoyed the surrealistic flower arrangement (?) called "Composition" by Sam Francis (Estimate $2-3 million, unsold) and Wayne Thiebaud`s "Hill Street (Day City), sold for $4.8 million.

I think Jean-Michael Basquiat is a bit overrated, many street artists are better. But I like this funny painting, called "Untitled" (acrylic and oilstick on canvas), which shows some talent. The work was auctioned for $5.7 million.

                                                               Craftwork Pays

The preshow for the "Contemporary Art) daily auction on 11.12.14 also had some tidbits (sothebys). Eric Fischl`s nude girl, called "Untitled" (oil on photographic paper 27 by 19 in. 66.6 by 48.3 cm) is still avaible (Estimate: $20,000-30,000).

Above you can see "Spirale" (acrylic and nails on panel) by Günther Uecker, another German artist. I wonder how his thumb had looked after hammering all these nails. Anyway, the work got sold for $1.1 million. Craftwork pays.

"Elizabeth Taylor (From Pictures of Diamonds)" (c-print 60 1/2 by 43 1/4 in. 153.7 by 109.9 cm) by Viz Muniz also caught my eyes. It is still unsold (Estimate: $120,000-180,000).

The mysterious "Red, Cut by Black" (oil and acrylic on canvas) by Robert Motherwell, which might show a crime scene, brought $2.6 million, more than twice the highest estimate ($1.2 million);  "Red and Blue December Water Fall" (oil on canvas) by Pat Steir was sold for $365,000 and "The Golden Tree No. 1" (oil on canvas) by Alan Davie was sold for $50,000.

                                                A Glance Into A Wormhole?

"Twilight" by Jeff Eldrod brought $161,000 & Michael Goldberg`s "Untitled" sold for $221,000. 

Jeff Eldrod`s "Medium Cool" (UV ink on Fischer canvas, 85 by 60 in. 215.9 by 152.4 cm) looks stunning. The special medium - "UV ink" - (wikipedia) creates the impression that the picture is alive and the structures are dancing randomly (sothebys). I had the feeling to look straight into a wormhole in space. Fascinating! Someone got it for $305,000 (Estimate just $50,000-70,000). Good luck.

                                              A Quick Look Into Russian Art

On my way through the house I also took a quick lock into the show "Masterpieces of Russian Art: The Bekkerman Collection" on another floor, which wasn´t part of this week´s auctions and is not contemporary art (bekkerman). Here my favorites: "Let´s Dance" by Edward Bekkerman (mixed media on canvas); "Two Girls" by Nicolas Fechin Tselkow (oil on canvas); "Circus" by Oleg Tselkov (oil on board).

I plan to come back soon to this wonderful and friendly place and to explore more of these marvellous collections. Thank you Sotheby´s for your hospitality.

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