Last month, we linked to a story in the Seattle Times that explained the disposition of Merce Cunningham’s assets which were mostly art that he received from friends. Today, Carol Vogel follows up with the news that Christie’s will be selling Cunningham’s works–with a $3-5m estimate range–in the November sales. Of course, none of the art Cunningham owned was meant to be an asset. Much of it was acquired as gifts and Vogel ends her story with the charming anecdote provided by Laura Kuhn who is a trustee of the Cunningham Trust and the Executive Director of the John Cage Trust:
Neither Cunningham nor Cage must have thought their art was particularly valuable, just a familiar part of their visual landscape. Ms. Kuhn, the trustee, said that around 1988 their accountant asked them about insurance. “And when he discovered they had none, he asked, ‘What would happen if there was a fire and it was all destroyed?’ ” Ms. Kuhn recalled. “And Merce replied, ‘Our friends would paint us new ones.’ ” […]
Besides Mr. Johns, Cunningham’s circle included other great American artists of the 20th century, like Robert Rauschenberg, who in the 1950s was also an adviser to Cunningham’s company, and Philip Guston.
Guston gave Cunningham an abstract black-and-white ink drawing from 1953, which is also in the auction and is estimated at $150,000 to $200,000. “It has the full range of the markings he was using in his paintings, so it’s a very active, beautiful surface,” said Laura Paulson, international director of postwar and contemporary art at Christie’s.
Some of the gifts were specifically for Cage. A Rauschenberg work on paper from 1961, for instance, features watches and clock faces and is inscribed on the front, “for John C.” “Bob gave it to John in 1964 or 1965 after John had given Bob a lecture on the importance of time,” said David White, the curator of Rauschenberg’s studio. “Bob was notoriously late, and John had bawled him out.”
That drawing, which Christie’s estimates will sell for $100,000 to $150,000, was one of several works that Rauschenberg gave Cage and Cunningham over the years. Another, “No. 1,” is an example of Rauschenberg’s black paintings, which Christie’s expects to fetch $800,000 to $1.2 million. It has a particularly rich history in Cunningham’s circle.
Art Among Friends Is Up for Sale (New York Times)