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“Phillips’ November auctions of 20th Century and Contemporary Art are a true reflection of the strategy that we have actively pursued in recent seasons,” said Robert Manley and Jean-Paul Engelen, Worldwide Co-Heads 20th Century and Contemporary Art at Phillips. “Highlighting the tremendous breadth and scope of the 20th century’s artistic movements, we are proud to present an extraordinary offering of Modern, Post-War, Contemporary, American, and Latin American art by artists who, just a few years ago, would not have been sold in the same sale.”
The Day Sale, comprised of 346 lots, includes striking works by Larry Poons, Robert Motherwell, Robert Indiana, Josef Albers, Yayoi Kusama, Barbara Kruger, Richard Prince, George Condo, among others. Highlights include Motherwell’s blue and white window-like form on canvas entitled Open No. 116: La France Open; Indiana’s famous sculpture entitled LOVE (Blue Outside Red Inside); Poons’ yellow “Dots” painting entitled Jessica’s Hartford; Austrian artist Maria Lassnig’s Competition III from 2000; Condo’s The Picture Gallery from 2002; Albers’ Homage to the Square: Silent Gray from 1955; and Warhol’s Four works: (i-iv) Man Ray from 1974.
“On the heels of MoMA’s highly anticipated reopening, the art world is now reevaluating silos that have come to define the art market and we are eager to break down the barriers that have long separated these collecting categories,” added Manley and Engelen.
The Evening Sale will be led by Jean-Michel Basquiat’s The Ring—a work from 1981 that depicts a boxer in a fighting ring, holding a spear above his head. Estimated to sell for between $10 and $15 million, the piece was inspired by legendary boxers like Joe Louis and Muhammad Ali. Basquiat grew up watching these boxers fight against racial discrimination, and with pieces like these, he played with the viewer’s perception of who the subject might be.
“There’s a clear similarity in his treatment of the figure’s hair, in particular, that really echoes his contemporaneous self-portraits. The figure could also certainly be an amalgamation of Basquiat’s heroes and the artist himself,” said Scott Nussbaum, Head of 20th Century & Contemporary Art, New York at Phillips.
“As in all of Basquiat’s work, semiotics tell an important story here. The halo, the spear and even the polka-dotted shorts all make repeat appearances throughout his work. To me, this painting reveals how Basquiat was working through the creation of his own visual language at that time, an approach that’s now considered a key tenet of his practice.”
The sale also features Pop Art, including Andy Warhol’s Late Four-Foor Flowers consigned from the collection of Miles and Shirley Fiterman. Latin American works follow, like Carmen Herrera’s Amraillo “Uno” from the artist’s early Estructuras series. Also of note are works like Smoking II by Philip Guston, Little Thinker by Yoshitomo Nara, and works from the Collection of Florence Knoll Bassett like Singing by Morris Louis and Cinco Rebanadas de Sandía by Rufino Tamayo.
And for the first time, Phillips will be presenting a painting by Norman Rockwell—Before the Shot, 1958. Since the date of its completion, it has remained in just two families’ private collections and has been on display at the Norman Rockwell Museum for the past 13 years. “Before the Shot is among Rockwell’s most iconic works,” said Elizabeth Goldberg, Senior International Specialist of American Art at Phillips.
“The painting has hung in the Norman Rockwell Museum for the past 13 years, a similar version served as the cover for The Saturday Evening Post, and prints of the work were hung in doctors’ offices across the country for decades. This is an image with which Americans were extremely familiar in the 1950s and 1960s, and as the subject matter is a universal experience, it continues to resonate today. Rockwell is a great visual storyteller, and this is one of the reasons we’re seeing international interest in an artist who has traditionally been thought of as All-American.”
Rockwell was meticulous in orchestrating even the work’s smallest details. Here, his own doctor is portrayed, furniture is carefully placed, and like an art director, everything was photographed before painting a single brushstroke.
“From there, he selected the ideal image of each, collaged them together, and created a large-scale charcoal drawing. Rockwell then photographed his drawing, reduced the size, and used it as a ‘color study’ to work out the palette. The immediacy of Before the Shot belies Rockwell’s extremely intricate process, leading the viewer to believe that they could have stumbled upon the scene by accident,” added Goldberg.
These works of 20th Century & Contemporary Art are now on view at 432 and 450 Park Avenue, where they will remain until the Day Sale on November 13 and the Evening Sale on November 14.