Monday, July 07, 2014

Last Week's Auctions Report: Part I

It's been almost a week since the Christie's evening auction of Post-War/contemporary art in London, perhaps too short a period to reflect fully on the importance of the art in the event, but the pulse of today's news cycle demands quicker-than-ideal reporting, so.... The 75 works of art auctioned last Tuesday had been on view at Christie’s King Street location from 28 June – 1 July 2014, providing a short but impressive survey of works by some of the most influential Post-War and Contemporary artists, along with a few newcomers we'll be watching to see how they develop.

Among the highlights of the exhibition was Untitled (Concave and Convex Beds) (1992; by a British artist, 1963-present), a work its seller had only owned since 1993, suggesting perhaps an urgent emergency of sorts had led to its inclusion in the corresponding evening sale, but a relatively collectible work compared with this particular artist's well-known monumental public sculptures. The influential development popularized by this artist in the early 1990s was to use traditional casting methods and materials that are more commonly used in the preparation of sculptures rather than for the finished object, such as plaster, rubber and resin. This artist is known for creating sculptures of the spaces around (under or in or on) ordinary objects, such as chairs or, in this case, mattresses, surprising the viewer with their often revealing physicality of formal relationships in forms that were right there in front of us all the time, but unnoticed because of their object's ordinariness. Blending formal methods developed by Minimalist artists with concerns more associated with Conceptual art, this artist's work, by removing the actual objects and presenting only the space that had been around them, tends to convey profound notions of absence and loss.

Another standout in the exhibition was Untitled (1998; by a German artist, 1941-2010), a painting created using artificial resin, acrylic, spray enamel and fabric mesh on polyester fabric, in artist’s frame. This complex composition of unusual materials, with its mysterious imagery of what looks like a computerized framing of a woman's body, next to a column of women's faces (perhaps as options for the full figure that the artist leaves to the viewer to complete), was apparently owned by a remarkable collector who had somehow absorbed enough of its formal and conceptual intrigues to let it go after only 8 years of ownership. This is all the more astonishing given how the semi-translucency of the painting's ground plays with light in a way that the work changes quite a bit in different types of lighting, leaving us to imagine its owner frantically moving it from location to location in order to study and fully appreciate it so quickly. How influential this artist's work has been for literally thousands of other artists around the world, many of whom are even now returning again and again to view the major retrospective of this innovative, some would say genius, master up at a major New York museum, again, makes one imagine the seller
unfortunately must have had some horrific tragedy occur in their life to ever need to part with such a treasure.

Another painting that caught our eye in the exhibition was Loving Love (by an American artist, 1912-2004). Painted in 2000, this wonderfully rhythmic working of broad horizontal bands in subtly alternating hues of blue and pink was rendered in acrylic and graphite on canvas. Known for how they evoke the sublime, this artist's paintings require the most careful study, but reward the patient viewer with gorgeous, illuminating, seemingly endless variations within what at first seems a uniform field of geometric simplicity. Described best perhaps as "meditative," this artist's paintings stand out among contemporary works for how commandingly they slow down the viewer, making the fact that this particular painting had been sold at Christie's in New York as recently as 2007 a somewhat stupefying evolution in its provenance.

Painted in 1991-1992, the smaller oil on panel titled Waterfall (by a British painter, 1932-present) is an excellent example of this artist's "semi-abstract" works. While its title loosely confirms the subject matter, whose rendering in bold blue gestures threatens to cascade out and over the orangish-red rectangular border that defines the picture space, it is the masterful interplay of color and form that confound any conclusions about the otherwise seemingly swift production of this painting. Owned by its seller for only 20 years, this clear and brightly colored gem brushes up against Pop Art, while also harkening back and updating the innovations of Matisse, and stands perhaps as a solid link between the artist's simpler and more complex, later compositions. 

A lack of print space and time will unfortunately force me to end my summary here, so I'll conclude by noting that of the 75 works of art in the evening sale, some sold to new owners, whereas some were "bought in," as they say, and returned to their current owners. Still, the overall business outcome of the event was reportedly satisfactory enough that Christie's auction house remains committed to their Post-War/contemporary art exhibitions, which, even as short as they are, is welcome news.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Why are you making us work Edward?

I have to go to Christies website and play detecive.

You like Rachel Whiteread and Agnes Martin? never would have figured that.

Fright Wig and the Bacon were the ones I would have bought for my fantasy collection.

7/07/2014 12:33:00 PM  
Blogger Edward_ said...

"Why are you making us work Edward?"

I realized, too late, that I could have included images of the works without changing the intent of the exercise...sorry about the extra work :-)

"You like Rachel Whiteread and Agnes Martin? never would have figured that."

Hmmmm...I wonder why. They're both pretty amazing.

7/07/2014 12:36:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I am not sure about Rachel Whiteread. I like her small work. I need to see the Big work in person to do a proper reading.

Agnes Martin is a lock , she lived in the desert and drove a truck.

seems like the auction was b and c lvl stuff from some great artist.

7/07/2014 12:49:00 PM  
Blogger Human Being said...

Seems the term "Post War Contemporary" covers a wide swath of the artArt world...

7/22/2014 06:40:00 AM  

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