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Displaying items by tag: abstract expressionism

Christie’s Post-War and Contemporary Evening Art Auction on May 15, 2013 in New York garnered $495 million – the highest total in auction history. Packed with masterpieces from an array of important art movements including Abstract Expressionism and Pop, many of the works offered were from lauded private collections and institutions. Brett Gorvy, Chairman and International Head of Post-War and Contemporary Art, said, “The remarkable bidding and record prices set reflect a new era in the art market, wherin seasoned collectors and new bidders compete at the highest level within a global market.”

The top lot of the night was Jackson Pollock’s (1912-1956) Number 19, 1948 (estimate: $25 million - $35 million). A prime example of Pollock’s drip paintings, the work sold for $58.3 million and set the record for the artist at auction. The influential art critic, Clement Greenberg, singled our Number 19 as the painting that offered enough proof to justify calling Pollock one of the most significant painters of our time.

Other highlights include Roy Lichtenstein’s (1923-1997) iconic work of pop art, Woman with Flowered Hat (1963) (estimate: approximately $30 million), which sold for $56.1 million and set the record for the artist at auction; Jean Michel-Basquiat’s (1960-1988) Dustheads (estimate: $25 million - $35 million), a neo-expressionist work from the 1980s, which sold for $48.8 million, an auction record for the artist; and Mark Rothko’s (1903-1970) color field painting, Untitled (Black on Maroon) (1958) (estimate: $15 million-$20 million), which sold for $27 million.

Out of 70 works offered at last night’s auction, only 4 failed to find buyers.

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Sotheby’s evening sale of Contemporary Art, which took place on Tuesday, May 14, 2013 in New York, saw a number of exceptional works sell for record-breaking prices. The night’s top lot was Barnett Newman’s (1905-1970) Onement VI, an iconic Abstract Expressionist painting, which garnered $43.8 million. The work exceeded its high estimate of $40 million and set an auction record for Newman. The dark blue canvas, which measures 8 ½ feet x 10 feet and is sliced down the middle by a pale blue streak, is a remarkable example of Newman’s association with abstract expressionism as well as color field painting.

Other highlights from the sale included Gerhard Richter’s (b. 1932) oil painting of Milan’s cathedral square, Domplatz, Mailand (estimate: $30 million-$40 million), which sold for $37.1 million and set a record for Richter as well as for any living artist at auction; a sculpture by Yves Klein (1928-1962), which sold for $22 million and broke the record for the artist at auction; and Clyfford Still’s (1904-1980) PH-12, which was estimated to sell for $16 million to $20 million and ended up going for $20.9 million.

Although there were a number of high-profile sales, the auction was not without some failures. Francis Bacon’s (1909-1992) Study for Portrait of P.L., which was expected to bring $30 million $40 million didn’t find a buyer. Two works by Jeff Koons (b. 1955) also failed to sell.

The auction happenings will continue in New York at Christie’s, where Post-War and Contemporary sales will be held through the afternoon of Thursday, May 16, 2013.

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Sotheby’s Contemporary Art Evening Sale on May 14, 2013 in New York will include one of the most important paintings by Barnett Newman (1905-1970) ever to appear at auction. Onement VI (1953) is a seminal work by the American artist and one of the most significant pieces from the Abstract Expressionist movement. The painting, which measures 8 ½ feet x 10 feet, is expected to garner anywhere from $30 million to $40 million. The canvas will go on view at Sotheby’s on May 3, 2013 until it appears at auction later that month.

Newman, one of the foremost artists of the 20th century, was a pioneer of color field painting as well as a key Abstract Expressionist. As an exhibitions organizer at the Manhattan-based Betty Parsons Gallery in the 1940s, Newman played a fundamental role in the careers of many of his friends including Mark Rothko (1903-1970), Jackson Pollock (1912-1956), and Clyfford Still (1904-1980).  

Onement VI, a massive canvas consumed by rich blue paint and sliced down the middle by a light blue streak, was a gift from the artist to his wife, Annalee. The painting remained in her collection for almost a decade and was acquired in 1961 by the well-known collectors Frederick and Marcia Weisman. That same year the painting appeared in an exhibition titled Abstract Expressionists Imagists at the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum that helped define the modern art movement.

Onement VI is the final work in a series of six paintings by Newman. Four of the paintings are held in major art institutions including the Museum of Modern Art in New York, the Wadsworth Atheneum Museum of Art in Hartford, CT, and the Allen Memorial Art Museum in Oberlin, OH. Onement V currently resides in a private collection.

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For another week and a half, visitors of the Gagosian Gallery in New York will be able to view a major exhibition dedicated to Helen Frankenthaler’s (1928-2011) paintings from the 1950s. Frankenthaler, one of the few female artists involved in the Abstract Expressionist movement, was a major force in 20th century American art. Nevertheless, Frankenthaler has not had the lasting adulation that her male Ab-Ex counterparts such as Jackson Pollock (1912-1956) and Mark Rothko (1903-1970) have enjoyed. In fact, the Gagosian exhibition is the first show in three decades devoted to Frankenthaler’s work.

Painted on 21st Street: Helen Frankenthaler from 1950 to 1959, which was organized in cooperation with the Estate of Helen Frankenthaler, brings together nearly 30 paintings, many of which have rarely been seen. The show was curated by John Elderfield, the Chief Curator Emeritus of Painting and Sculpture at New York’s Museum of Modern Art and author of the foremost monograph on Frankenthaler’s, and includes paintings from Frankenthaler’s estate as well as private and public collections. Highlights from the exhibition include Painted on 21st Street (1950-51), Mountains and Sea (1952), and Jacob’s Ladder (1957). The Gagosian exhibition spans the considerable range and diversity of Frankenthaler’s paintings and illustrates how she synthesized certain aspects of her counterparts work to create an entirely new approach to Abstract Expressionism.

Painted on 21st Street will be on view through April 13, 2013.

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After bursting on the art scene in the late 1940s, Abstract Expressionism dominated American art, criticism, and commentary throughout the 1950s. Artists of the revolutionary Abstract Expressionist School rejected the widely accepted values that ruled post-war America and looked to emotion, rebellion, spontaneity, and movement for inspiration.

AB-EX / RE-CON: Abstract Expressionism Reconsidered, which is now on view at the Nassau County Museum of Art in Roslyn, New York on Long Island, explores both the best-known and less familiar artists of the Abstract Expressionist movement. Organized by the museum’s director, Karl Emil Willers, AB-EX features over 80 works by 50 artists including those readily associated with Abstract Expressionism such as Richard Diebenkorn (1922-1933), Hans Hofmann (1880-1966), Helen Frankenthaler (1928-2011), Franz Kline (1910-1962), Robert Motherwell (1915-1991), Willem de Kooning (1904-1997), and Mark Rothko (1903-1970).

However, it is the inclusion of the lesser-known Abstract Expressionists that sets AB-EX apart. The exhibition features the works of Jon Schueler (1916-1992), a student of Diebenkorn who explored landscapes through the lens of abstraction; Fritz Bultman (1919-1985), who studied under Hofmann and favored bold, gestural forms; and often overlooked female Abstract Expressionists such a Grace Hartigan (1922-2008), Perle Fine (1908-1988), and Judith Godwin (b. 1930). The comprehensive exhibition illustrates the breadth and diversity of a single movement that is often reduced to a handful of artists and stylistic approaches.

AB-EX / RE-CON: Abstract Expressionism Reconsidered is on view through June 16, 2013.

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The Phillips Collection in Washington, D.C. will unveil its first permanent installation in over 50 years. Founded by the art collector and critic Duncan Phillips (1886-1966) in 1921, the Phillips Collection is the United States’ first modern art museum.

The new addition to the institution is a room made entirely from beeswax titled Wax Room. The experimental piece is the work of Wolfgang Laib (b. 1950), a conceptual German artist who is well known for his sculptural works made from natural materials. Laib has been making his beeswax chambers for over 25 years using hundreds of pounds of melted beeswax to coat walls and ceilings. The otherworldly spaces he creates are warmly lit by single hanging light bulbs.

The Phillips Collection’s other permanent installation is its Rothko Room, which holds four paintings by the abstract expressionist painter Mark Rothko (1903-1970). The intimate presentation of Rothko’s works was added as a permanent exhibit in 1960, six years before Duncan Phillips’ death. Phillips worked closely with Rothko, deciding which walls to hang each painting on and the kind of lighting and furniture that would best suit the room. The Phillips Collection was the first American museum to dedicate a space to Rothko’s work and it remains the only one designed in collaboration with the artist himself.

Laib’s progressive work is a welcomed addition to the Phillips Collection. While Phillips’ holdings consisted of many Impressionist paintings and other mainstream works, he also had a taste for the unconventional. Phillips was one of the earliest patrons of American modernists including John Marin (1870-1953) and Arthur Dove (1880-1946) and also harbored great admiration for Abstract Expressionism before it became a respected art movement.

Laib’s Wax Room will be unveiled on March 2, 2013.

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Thursday, 15 November 2012 13:19

Pioneering Artist, Will Barnet, Dies at 101

A printmaker and painter, there is a quiet, striking quality that pervades all of Will Barnet’s art. Best known for his portraits of women, children, animals, family members, and friends, Barnet passed away at his home in Manhattan on November 13. He has lived at the National Arts Club building on New York City’s Gramercy Park since 1982. Barnet was 101.

A native of Beverly, Massachusetts, Barnet studied at the School of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston and then, starting in 1931, at the Arts Students League in New York. It was here that Barnet studied briefly with the early Modernist painter Stuart Davis and became acquainted with Arshile Gorky, a major influence on Abstract Expressionism. Four years after joining the League, Barnet was named the official printer and went on to work for the Works Progress Administration Federal Art Project. He also made prints for well-known artists such as the Mexican muralist Jose Clemente Orozco and the painter and cartoonist William Gropper.

Barnet started out as a Social Realist printmaker and had his first solo exhibition in 1935 at the Eighth Street Playhouse in Manhattan. Three years later, he had his first gallery show at the Hudson Walker Gallery. It was during this time that he married Mary Sinclair, a painter and fellow student. They had three sons.

In the 1940s Barnet was inspired by Modernist inclinations and his paintings became more colorful and fractured, depicting family scenes and young children. By the end of the decade Barnet moved towards complete abstraction after becoming involved with the Indian Space Painters, a group that created abstract paintings using forms from Native American art and modern European painting.

In the 1950s Barnet divorced Sinclair and remarried Elena Ciurlys with whom he had a daughter. It wasn’t until the 1960s that Barnet returned to representational painting, often using his wife and daughter as subjects. Barnet’s style had evolved and the portraits from this time are flatter and more exact. He also made a number of portraits of the architect Frederick Kiesler, the art critic Katherine Kuh, and the art collector Roy Neuberger during this time.

Barnet never stopped painting and continued to experiment and evolve stylistically, returning to abstraction in 2003. In 2010 he was the subject of the exhibition Will Barnet and the Art Students League at the Phyllis Harriman Mason Gallery in Manhattan. He was awarded a National Medal of Arts in 2011, which he accepted from President Obama at a ceremony at the White House. The subject of many museum retrospectives, Will Barnet at 100, which took place at the National Academy Museum in 2011, was the last.

   Besides his work as an artist, Barnet was also an influential instructor. He taught graphic arts and composition at the Art Students League in 1936 and went on to teach painting at the school until 1980. Barnet also taught at Cooper Union from 1945 to 1978 and briefly at Yale, the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts, and other schools.

Barnet is survived by his wife, three sons, one daughter, nine grandchildren, and three great-grandchildren.

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When was the last time an expert from a top auction house dispensed with longtime allegiances and joined forces with someone from the enemy camp? In the fiercely competitive world of Sotheby’s and Christie’s, such an occurrence is rarer than a prized Vermeer.

But for months now there have been rumors that a new powerhouse partnership was in the works, one that would replace Giraud, Pissarro, Ségalot, the superprivate superdealer that pulled off so many big transactions and whose business began winding down soon after Franck Giraud, one of its partners, announced that he was leaving to “explore options inside the art world and out.”

The players making up this new venture, however, had been something of a guessing game.

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What kind of pop artist “does battle at the border of life and death”? Yayoi Kusama (b. 1929), who so described her art-making in 1961, suggests a Japanese Andy Warhol in terms of sheer energy, protean endeavors and fixation with publicity. But Warhol would never have professed such high purpose.

Indeed, the Kusama revealed by the current Whitney retrospective defies any single label. Despite her friendships forged in the ’60s with Warhol, Donald Judd, Claes Oldenburg and Joseph Cornell, her work leapfrogs categories like pop, minimalism and conceptual, revealing an honest vulnerability seldom seen in her male colleagues.

The museum’s front windows, crammed with the giant, bobbing spheres of her “Dots Obsession” (2009/2012), offer an instant dose of her signature polka-dotted installations. It’s only a foretaste, though, of the six decades of painting, sculpture, collage, film, performances, installations, fashion design and writing displayed or documented on the fourth floor.

Kusama’s “Infinity Net” paintings, her early nod to abstract expressionism, fill one gallery with countless swirls of white, subtly tightening and expanding across wide surfaces. She shifted gears with the “Accumulation” sculptures that appeared in some of the first exhibitions of pop art. These monochromatic works encrust various items—chairs, shoes, rowboat, ladder, hat, suitcase—with multitudes of stuffed fabric phalluses. The fidgety, potato-like protuberances have an awkward intimacy very foreign to pop and minimalism. A variation of these “Sex Obsession” sculptures, dubbed by Kusama the “Food Obsession” works, covers objects with macaroni.

Also on view is Kusama’s Self-Obliteration, her 1967 film showing her fiercely applying polka dots to animals and naked, carousing humans. But it took her “Anatomic Explosions” to put the self-styled “Priestess of Nudity” on the front pages. For these public performances, the artist hastily painted spots on nude dancers until the police showed up. The press releases and flyers combine ’60s breeziness with equal dollops of hucksterism and galactic purpose: “Become one with eternity. Obliterate your personality…take along one of our live bikini models.”

On a more poetic level, colorful mixed-media works on paper from the 1970s combine images of faces, insects and flowers with surprising delicacy. By this point, though, museum visitors may be wondering: How long can a soul publicly obsess about its own obsessions? Only so long, it seems; having returned to Japan, Kusama voluntarily entered a mental hospital in 1977, where she resides to this day.

Thankfully, it has been a nourishing environment. The vaguely biological forms of her large canvases and soft sculptures from the ’80s and ’90s glow with asexual sensuousness. Though frankly decorative, the seething, micro-dotted tentacles of “Yellow Trees” (1994) mesmerize. On the first floor, standing in for the enclosed installations produced since the ’90s is “Fireflies on the Water” (2002), from the Whitney’s own collection. Its coolness factor—with lights seeming to shimmer infinitely in all directions—-is not to be missed.

Pacing the exhibition are numerous photographs of the artist posed next to her work in matching attire. Apparently, notions of art and celebrity were as inseparable for Kusama as they were for Warhol. But Kusama’s motifs seem purer, and her emotional life—with joys and mortifications strangely fused—more accessible. One senses that when she appropriated, it was not for ironic effect but simply to cope. Hence her exploitation of the gestalt of the ’60s, and later, perhaps, of stylistic aspects of Cornell, Nevelson and Eva Hesse.

Today, Kusama is as much life force as artist—if we still distinguish the two—and uncannily predictive of the ascendancy of younger artists like Takashi Murakami. But her triumph illuminates a certain diminution, too, of our expectations of art.

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