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Chagall experienced modernism’s golden age firsthand

NEW YORK – Marc Chagall (1887-1985), painter, designer and printmaker, was born to a devout Jewish family in Vitebsk, part of the Russian Empire. Throughout his life, he depicted its legends and lore.

After completing his art education, Chagall settled in Montparnasse, Paris, a hive of post-Impressionistic creativity. Like luminaries Henri Matisse, Amedeo Modigliani, Piet Mondrian and Pablo Picasso, he experimented with modern trends, light, color and form.

‘Les Maries dans le Ciel de Vitebsk,’ 1969, oil on canvas, 16in x 10½in. Realized €400,000/$583,004 + buyer’s premium in 2011. Image courtesy of Millon & Associes and LiveAuctioneers

Chagall also explored Cubism, depicting fragmented, abstract forms from varied viewpoints. I and the Village (1911), for example, depicts man and goat, who, through shared memories, meet in concentric circles and interlocking geometrics. The Fiddler (1913), green-head atilt, arms angled, legs bowed and feet splayed, hovers above Russia’s rural slant-roof huts and steepled churches, all swathed in snow.

When World War I broke out, Chagall and his wife—just married in Vitebsk, were stranded in Russia. During these dark days, he created a delightful celebration of newlywed love, The Birthday. In it, the artist himself—swept off his feet with joy, bends over backwards to kiss his bride. During this period, Chagall also founded a Vitebsk art school, created stage designs for the State Jewish Chamber Theater and exhibited works in Moscow and St. Petersburg. Finally, in 1923, the couple resettled in Paris.

‘Romeo et Juliette,’ (CS 10 Sorlier), 1964, edition 15/200, Charles Sorlier engraver, Mourlot printer, signed, 26 1/8in x 40 in. gilt woodframe. Realized $28,000 + buyer’s premium in 2014. Image courtesy of Brunk Auctions and LiveAuctioneers

Though art forms continued to evolve, Chagall, true to his vision, continued to portray dreamlike images of curvy mermaids, tiny topsy-turvy villagers, flying cows, floating fiddles, blue donkeys, plump roosters and light-as-air lovers. He often adorned his etchings of Old Testament figures with folkloric and Hasidic elements as well. Moreover, scores of his colorful, complex Biblical scenes, like The Creation of Man (1958), The Binding of Isaac (1966), and Abraham and the Angels Going to Sodom (1956), depict glorious, winged beings guarding and guiding from above.

In Chagall’s world, couples, too, levitate with love. The Newlyweds Over Vitebsk (Les Maries dans le Ciel de Vitebsk, 1969), blessed by a floating fiddle and bouquet-bearing donkey, hover ‘twixt sun-kissed heaven and earth. Romeo and Juliette (Romeo et Juliette, 1964), crowned with flowers, soar atop a mermaid-steed through lush-green Parisian skies. A full moon, perhaps symbolizing universal love, reflects their joyous faces.

‘Le Profil Bleu,’ framed lithograph, 1972. Signed and numbered 25/50, 25½in x 19in,
Maeght Editeur, Paris, publisher. Realized $3,000 + buyer’s premium in 2019. Image courtesy of Rago Arts and Auction Center and LiveAuctioneers

Although raised as a Jew, Chagall repeatedly depicted Christ on the Cross, especially during the Nazi Era when he fled France for the United States. According to Susan Tumarkin Goodman, senior curator emerita at the Jewish Museum, “For Chagall, the Crucifixion was a symbol for all the victims of persecution, a metaphor for the horrors of war and an appeal to conscience that equated the martyrdom of Jesus with the suffering of the Jewish people and the Holocaust.”

In addition to etchings and paintings, Chagall produced ceramics, sculptures, lithographs, tapestries and mosaics. He also created costumes and sets for the American Ballet Theater and designed magnificent murals for the Paris Opéra (1964) and the New York Metropolitan Opera (1966).

‘Tribe of Levi,’ limited edition lithograph from Maquettes of Stained Glass Windows for Jerusalem, 1964, signed, 29in x 20¾in, Charles Sorlier, printer. Realized $8,500 + buyer’s premium in 2015. Image courtesy of Dane Fine Art and LiveAuctioneers

In his later years, Chagall created exquisite stained-glass windows for the Art Institute of Chicago. the United Nations and several French cathedrals. His Twelve Tribes of Israel, a set of shimmering creations located at Jerusalem’s Hadassah Medical Center, is often considered his masterwork. According the Hadassah site, each pane, which honors a son of Jacob, the Biblical patriarch, “is a microcosm of Chagall’s world, real and imaginary; of his love for his people; his deep sense of identification with Jewish history; his early life in the Russian shtetl. … Chagall’s genius transforms time and space.” Each pane has been replicated in limited edition lithographs. Moreover, several adorn stamps issued by the United Nations and the Israel Philatelic Federation.

‘Lozna near Witebska,’1985, Adam i Ewa, signed, limited edition lithograph, approx. 30½in x 22¼in. Realized 26,000 PLN (Polish Zloty) or $7,444 in 2012. Image courtesy DESA Unicum SA and LiveAuctioneers

“It has always been difficult to untangle Chagall’s two interlocking reputations—as a pioneer of modernism and as a major Jewish artist, “writes Lauren Bradley, fine art specialist at Rago Arts and Auction. “To be sure, he was both. He experienced modernism’s golden age in Paris, where he forged a highly personal synthesis of Cubism, Symbolism and Fauvism that was widely influential and that would, after a certain period of incubation, give rise to Surrealism. At the same time, he was most emphatically a Jewish artist, whose work was one long dreamy reverie of life in his native Vitebsk.”

Lithograph 1977, signed and numbered 61/150, published by Sorlier Graveur on Arches. Approx. 26in x 19½in image. Realized $8,500 + buyer’s premium in 2016. Image courtesy Auction Gallery of Boca Raton LLC and LiveAuctioneers

 

David Hockney: more than pool pictures

NEW YORK – David Hockney is synonymous with paintings of swimming pools, but throughout his career he has utilized many techniques and styles in creating art and his subject matter interests have ranged from landscapes to portraits. While celebrated as a painter, he is also a talented draftsman, printmaker, photographer and stage designer. From his double-portraits in the early 1960s, which gave way to swimming pools and California landscapes later that decade to rarely shown photographic collages in the 1980s and more recent iPad drawings printed on paper, the artist is known for bold and colorful works encompassing varied media.

David Hockney’s ‘30 Sunflowers,’ 1996, oil on canvas, made $2.2 million + buyer’s premium in May 2011 at Phillips. Photo courtesy of Phillips and LiveAuctioneers

Considered one of the most influential artists of the 20th century, Hockney was born in Bradford, England and has long maintained homes and studios in London and California, which inspires much of his artwork.

In early 2020, London’s National Portrait Gallery opened “David Hockney: Drawing from Life,” the first major exhibition of the artist’s works in two decades. The exhibition explored how drawing is integral to the manner in which Hockney (b, 1937) processes the world through his art and experiments with new techniques and concepts that later make their way into paintings. One art style seems to lead to another, creating a chain of sorts in his oeuvre.

David Hockney ‘Maurice 1998,’ etching A.P. II/X 44 x 30½in © David Hockney. Photo Credit: Richard Schmidt, Collection: The David Hockney Foundation; David Hockney ‘No. 1201,’ March 14, 2012, iPad Drawing © David Hockney. Image courtesy National Portrait Gallery, London

“Drawing from Life” explores Hockney as a draughtsman from the 1950s to now by focusing on his depictions of himself and a small group of sitters close to him: his friend, Celia Birtwell; his mother, Laura Hockney; his curator, Gregory Evans, and master printer, Maurice Payne,” according to a press release on the exhibition.

The exhibition includes new and early works that have not been publicly shown before. The exhibition was scheduled to travel to other museums, including the Morgan Library & Museum in New York.

This signed lithograph titled ‘Hotel Acatlan’ went for $67,600 + buyer’s premium in November 2019 at Palm Beach Modern Auctions. Photo courtesy of Palm Beach Modern Auctions and LiveAuctioneers

Among his most well-collected paintings are his California-inspired works, especially those of pools. The David Hockney Foundation website notes in its chronology for the artist that Hockney found endless inspiration in California’s landscape, both natural and man-made. Swimming pools were a favorite motif during the 1960s, where Hockney explored the reflective quality of pools and its interplay with sunlight. “He continues to be mesmerized, as his work attests, by that city’s swimming pools and other glistening surfaces,” according to the foundation website.

Hockney’s paintings routinely bring solid prices on the art market and it should come as no surprise little surprise that his sun-dazzled pool paintings are among the most desirable.

This 1976 photo portfolio, ‘20 Photographic Pictures,’ with 20 chromogenic prints, published by Editions Sonnabend, brought $60,000 + buyer’s premium at Millea Bros. Ltd. in May 2018. Photo courtesy of Millea Bros. Ltd. and LiveAuctioneers

Hockney’s self-portrait, one of many, Portrait of an Artist (Pool with Two Figures), 1972, set a new auction record in November 2018 for the most expensive painting by a living artist. It sold at Christie’s New York for $90 million. In February 2020, Sotheby’s London held a contemporary art evening auction that was led by The Splash, a 1966 acrylic, selling for over $28 million. The latter painting was made near the start of Hockney’s California era, which is marked by his California Dreaming series, where he began using acrylic paints.

While portraits and his California scenes are famous for being avidly sought after by collectors, Hockney’s landscapes are also notable, even ones not associated with West Coast locales. In February 2020, William Bunch Auctions & Appraisals in Chadds Ford, Pa., sold an English landscape from the 1950s, Kirton, an oil on board, well over its high estimate for $75,000.

This early landscape oil on board, ‘Kirton,’ circa 1950s, attained $75,000 + buyer’s premium in February 2020 at William Bunch Auctions. Photo courtesy of William Bunch Auctions and LiveAuctioneers

In the 1950s, Hockney painted landscapes around Suffolk County before discovering abstract expressionism, which had a profound influence on his artistic visions,” according to the auctioneer’s catalog notes for this painting. Still a teenager at this time, Hockney and fellow artist John Loker were known to have spent some time around Kirton in 1957, on their way to Constable, to paint or sketch local scenes en plein air. They were often seen riding around the countryside on their bicycles.

In his native Bradford, where he was born, he is so revered that Bradford Museums & Galleries, whose art collection likely intrigued and inspired the artist-to-be as a child, officially opened up its David Hockney Gallery in July 2017 as part of Cartwright Hall.

A polychrome pencil and tempera work on paper, inscribed ‘Small Californian Forest,’ realized $66,572 + buyer’s premium in June 2019 at Itineris. Photo courtesy of Itineris and LiveAuctioneers

Jill Iredale, curator of fine arts at Bradford Museums & Galleries, wrote in a blog a month later about the intimate look the new gallery offers and its rare insights. “It provides examples of the different medium he has used and introduces some of the recurring themes in his work, and it gives an insight into his family life through his personal photograph albums—albums that have never been seen in public before,” she wrote.

From his self-portraits to depictions of family and people in his inner circle to idyllic landscapes and color-saturated scenes, Hockney’s works continue to fascinate viewers. In more than 60 years of making art, he has made many memorable pictures, playing with the elasticity of space and time as well as texture, color and light.

Warhol, Lichtenstein well represented in prints auction Sept. 18

Pop art’s biggest names are found in a Jasper52 prints auction that will be held online on Wednesday, Sept. 18. Nearly 100 limited edition silkscreens and lithographs from the pop art greats including Andy Warhol and Roy Lichtenstein are offered.

Andy Warhol, ‘John Lennon,’ 1986, silkscreen, not signed and numbered, paper size 36 x 36in., images size 36in x 36in. Estimate: $1,500-$2,000. Jasper52 image

View the auction here.

Learn more about the auction on Auction Central News.

Cuban artist channels Toulouse-Lautrec in Jasper52 sale June 18

Cuban artist Luis Miguel Valdés is featured in a Jasper52 online auction that will take place on Tuesday, June 18. Born in 1949, Valdés resides and works between Havana, Mexico and Miami. Several prints by José Luis Cuevas (Mexico, 1934-2017) comprise the balance of the 69-lot auction.

Luis Miguel Valdés, ‘Painter Painting to Painter Painting,’ 2017, acrylic on canvas, 59in. x 84in.,
Estimate: $10,400-$13,000. Jasper52 image

View the auction here.

Learn more about the auction on Auction Central News.

Pop and street art meet in Jasper52 prints auction Dec. 5

Jasper52’s Street Art & Pop Art Prints online auction on Dec. 5 features affordable works by renowned artists such as Banksy, Keith Haring, Andy Warhol, Roy Lichtenstein and Robert Indiana.

‘Girl with Red Heart Balloon,’ attributed to Banksy, stencil/spray on metal road sign, 24 inches in diameter. Estimate: $700-$800. Jasper52 image

View the auction.

Learn more about the auction on Auction Central News.

Art of the ’80s auction Oct. 3 projects exuberant backlash

Art of the ’80s, bursting with defiant, upbeat imagery, is presented in a collection of works that will be sold in a Jasper52 online auction on Wednesday, Oct. 3. Driven by a force that was amiable and edgy, fun and liberating, artists working in this decade produced light artworks that were well-received by the public then and to this day.

‘It’s a Beautiful Day’ by Michael Clark, 1985 signed mixed media, paper size is 22.5in x 30in. Estimate: $5,300-$6,100. Jasper52 image

View the auction.

Learn more about the auction on Auction Central News.

Invite Modern Masters Into Your Home

Ask any interior designer the most affordable way to add color and style to your home, and you might hear the reply, “Modern art prints.” A blank wall is a clean slate, waiting for you to add your own personality through prints and works on paper by modern masters. You can start or add to your collection of prints by bidding in this week’s curated auction, which is filled with wonderful works by Roy Lichtenstein, Jasper Johns, Pablo Picasso, Alexander Calder and other greats of the modern era.

Thirty-one thoughtfully chosen artworks are included in this selection, which opens with eight prints from Pablo Picasso’s portfolio titled “15 Drawings from the Pantheon 1946.” From an Albert Carmen/Pantheon limited edition of 500, the portfolio’s lithographs were printed on Arches paper with Pochoir hand coloring. They include: Man with Pipe, MinotaurFour Ballet DancersTwo Nudes, and four others.

One of eight Pablo Picasso lithographs from the portfolio Fifteen Drawings from the Pantheon 1946, est. $1,500-$2,000

 

The sensational pop art vision of Roy Lichtenstein comes to life in a 1966 triptych titled As I Opened Fire. Composed of three lithos in Lichtenstein’s trademark primary-color, comic-book style, the triptych tells a brief story about a fighter plane in action. Part of the rare Lifetime Edition published by the Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam, this print is estimated between $600-$800.

Roy Lichtenstein triptych As I Opened Fire, 1966, each of the three measuring 641 x 530mm, part of the rare Lifetime Edition published by the Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam, est. $600-$800

 

Souvenir d’Oceanie is the title of an Henri Matisse color lithograph artist-signed in the plate and printed under his supervision at the Mourlot Studio, Paris, in 1954. The lithograph plates were erased after the edition was published. The edition was issued by Teriade for Verve, Paris, in 1958, and is offered with a $400-$600 estimate.

Henri Matisse (French, 1869-1954), Souvenir d’Oceanie, lithograph created 1954, issued by Teriade for Verve, Paris, 1958, 260 x 356mm, est. $400-$600

 

Subtle pastels combine in Kikuo Saito’s square mixed-media print titled Tin Garden. Saito began his career as a studio assistant for some of the most prominent painters of the 1970s/80s, including Larry Poons, Kenneth Noland, and Helen Frankenthaler, and later developed his own calligraphic style. Tin Garden, published in 1981 by John Szoke, New York, is numbered 10 of an edition of 35. The artist pencil-signed the print at the lower right.

Kikuo Saito (Japanese), Tin Garden, 1981, mixed media/paper, 10/35, pencil signature at lower right, est. $800-$1,000

 

Representative of another genre altogether, Mel Ramos’ lithograph The Nile Queen, is from an edition of 199 and depicts a seductive woman in an emerald-green swimsuit against a background of Ancient Egyptian imagery. A former college art professor, Mel Ramos is best known for his paintings of superheroes and female nudes, which often incorporate elements of realist and abstract art.

Mel Ramos (American, b. 1935-), The Nile Queen, edition of 199, printed in 2000, 28 x 25in, pencil-signed by artist at lower right, est. $800-$900

The Fine Print: Contemporary Art at Down-to-Earth Prices

“Art enables us to find ourselves and lose ourselves at the same time,” wrote Thomas Merton, early 20th-century theologian, author and Trappist monk.

That’s a powerful and appealing statement, isn’t it? If you’ve been watching the prices that fine artworks have been commanding, you may have resigned yourself to the fact that you’ll have to find another (more affordable) way to “find and lose” yourself. Take heart and take note: prints provide the opportunity to own high-quality works by modern art visionaries, including Roy Lichtenstein, Andy Warhol, and Keith Haring, at a fraction of the cost of originals.

That sounds like a fulfilling way to experience the duality of art appreciation described by Merton, so to gain some perspective about collecting contemporary prints we turned to an expert: Wade Terwiliger, co-owner of Palm Beach Modern Auctions.

“Contemporary art is hot, hot, hot, and increasing prices reflect that interest,” Terwiliger said. “As prices for original works of art by noteworthy artists have skyrocketed, prints have gained recognition as a more affordable way for collectors to obtain images by these artists. We’re seeing a broad range of prices for prints, with collectors worldwide getting in on the action online.”

Collecting Tip: Always, always, always ask questions. It’s important to find out the dimensions, the condition, and if artwork has been examined out of its frame.

Solid provenance and/or documentation are a focus for many collectors. So are good names and signed editions, Terwiliger said. And it goes without saying, condition is also an important factor. However, as Terwiliger explained, there’s no single specific factor that outweighs all others. “What we’ve seen is that buyers will determine their own priorities from among this list of criteria,” he said.

During their years of serving consignors and collectors, Palm Beach Modern Auctions has done well with icons of different art movements, according to Terwiliger. They include a number of market- and time-tested artists, including these five luminaries of the contemporary art realm:

Keith Haring, “Apocalypse I” silkscreen, signed edition, circa 1988. Sold for $4,880, Feb. 4, 2017. Palm Beach Modern Auctions image

Keith Haring (American, 1958-1990) – Haring tapped into his ability to draw at an early age, observing and learning from his father, who drew cartoons for entertainment. This early influence is evident in much of his work, which often has cartoon-like imagery. However, the themes and topics addressed in his work were not always light-hearted subjects about life and love, but also serious matters such as apartheid, AIDS, and drug addiction.

Haring’s work appeals to all age groups, Terwiliger said. Collectors can obtain at auction pieces from Haring’s Pop Shops operation, such as tote bags, for less than $1,000. Limited edition prints can be had for $3,000-$5,000 at auction. At the upper end of the spectrum, a print of “Three Lithographs: One Plate” signed, circa 1985, sold for $40,000 during a February 2017 auction at Palm Beach Modern Auctions.

“While his original works sell in the millions, it’s incredibly exciting that a print from the same artist can be accessible and affordable,” Terwiliger said.

 

Ellsworth Kelly, “Colored Paper Image XVII” from the “Colored Paper” series, hand-made paper with colored pulp, signed limited edition. Sold for $12,000 + buyer’s premium, Nov. 22, 2017. Palm Beach Modern Auctions image

Ellsworth Kelly (American, 1923-2015) – At one time, Ellsworth Kelly was considered an artist beyond definition, in that he produced works in a variety of disciplines. He was a painter, sculptor and printmaker, and left his mark on the development of Minimalism, Hard-edge painting, and Pop Art.

During World War II, Kelly served as a member of the “Ghost Army,” a unit tasked with using inflatable tanks to misdirect enemies. His works have appeared in exhibitions around the world, and in permanent commissions such as a mural in Paris, and a memorial for the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum.

“If you have a bigger budget or are advancing your collection, Ellsworth Kelly prints are worth considering, but they are in high demand,” Terwiliger said. “His works are very appealing to collectors, as they are colorful, pure, and though seemingly simple, always absorb the viewer into an unexpected experience.”

 

Collecting Tip: “It is essential not just for a beginning collector, but for all collectors, to deal with someone – a gallery, auction house or dealer – that you feel comfortable with. Whether you are buying online or in person, you are making an investment, and that should involve, to some degree, having a relationship of trust in place with the seller.”

 

Bridget Riley, “Untitled (Fragment 7),” silkscreen on plexiglass, circa 1965, signed limited edition. Sold for $25,000, May 6, 2017. Palm Beach Modern Auctions image

Bridget Riley (British/American, b. 1931) – Like the other artists discussed here, Riley identified a love of and ability to create art at an early age. Deeply involved in the Op-Art movement, Riley reportedly had a childhood fascination with observing cloud formations and the interplay of color and light.

“Specifically, Riley’s graphic black and white geometric-form artworks are most appealing to collectors and are solid market performers,” said Terwiliger, citing the recent sale of “Untitled (Fragment 7)” from an edition of 75 for $25,000 at a May 6, 2017 Palm Beach Modern Auctions event.

 

Takashi Murakami, “Flower Ball (3D) – TURN RED!,” offset lithograph in colors with cold-stamping on high varnish paper, circa 2013, part of the Flowerball series. Sold for $800, May 6, 2017. Palm Beach Modern Auctions image

Takashi Murakami (Japanese/American, b. 1962) – “Murakami is current, and his works are full of life…a younger generation’s Warhol or Haring,” Terwiliger noted. “We have a young staff who just love him. The recurring characters in his work draw you into a narrative.”

Described by Interview magazine as operating a “multi-tentacled enterprise,” Murakami – in addition to creating paintings and sculptures that fuse Japanese traditions with pop culture images – founded a company that manages and promotes artists, hosts art festivals, produces art-related merchandise, runs a gallery for young Japanese artists, and has collaborated with musicians and designers.

 

Roy Lichtenstein, “Mermaid” lithograph, signed edition, circa 1978. Sold for $8,500, Feb. 4, 2017. Palm Beach Modern Auctions image

Roy Lichtenstein (American, 1923-1997) – Lichtenstein is an artist with universal appeal. It is reported that, as a child, he was a fan of science-fiction radio programs, and thought his life observed and extensively studied nature. He also served in the army, and later as an art instructor at the university level.

Although he is credited with creating various pieces that incorporated elements of Surrealism and Cubism, it is Lichtenstein’s eye-filling, pixelated pop art that is most recognizable. The breadth of Lichtenstein’s work also provides opportunities for a collection to evolve along with the interest and investment of collectors, Terwilliger explains.

“What I like about Lichtenstein is that he spans a number of collecting ranges, from $500 to $800 to prints that sell for $40,000. A collector could start with a poster in the low to mid hundreds and work their way up to $2,000 to $3,000, such as the “Crying Girl” mailer and from there to the $5,000 to $8,000 range, such as “Pyramids” or “Mermaid.”

 

Collecting Tip: “For works over several thousand dollars, I’d recommend buying prints that have provenance and, if possible, accompanying documentation. Your standards may require a line of provenance that dates back to the artist’s studio, or to a reputable gallery, but be sure to gather such information and keep it on file for all the prints in your collection.”

“Contemporary art challenges us…it broadens our horizons. It asks us to think beyond the limits of conventional wisdom.” – Eli Broad, American entrepreneur, philanthropist and co-founder of the Eli and Edythe Broad Foundation