Elena Platonova is an art advisor, curator, and artist liaison in New York and London. Her Instagram handle is @ElenasArtAdventures.
This auction season, the art world talk revolves around a few typical speculations: the gold Stingels—the six-panel one at Sotheby’s and the one in four parts at Christie’s— and the potential records they might break; Phillips’ push to match the other two rivals in the pricey-masterpieces arena; and the guaranteed Basquiat skull painting at Sotheby’s. The sensationalism of the Evening Sales left aside, most artists’ output goes beyond large-scale, multimillion-dollar canvases and monumental sculptures.
Works on paper, for example, often constitute an integral part of an artistic production. They serve as a working laboratory where ideas and themes are developed or form an independent oeuvre in its own right. Thus, buying works on paper allows for a thoughtful and more affordable way to form a collection and to complement a selection of pieces in other media. To illustrate this premise, I highlight six contemporary works on paper—two at each house—coming up for sale this week. These pieces are mostly included in the less publicized Day, or Morning, Sales—the ones that rarely make newspaper headlines but still present ample opportunities to spot a masterpiece and to acquire a slice of history.
With its dynamism and technical bravura, this Sam Francis watercolor is strikingly similar to the artist’s larger, highly coveted, and often record-breaking, canvases of the late 1950s. Resembling a sensual, otherworldly flower sprinkling drips of color in the infinite space, the work amalgamates the effects of some major formative experiences in Francis’s career: the time the artist spent in Tokyo and his interest in Japanese calligraphy, his fascination with compositions resembling aerial views as a one-time pilot and his studies of botany as a Berkeley student. It is probable that the tremendous impression that Monet’s Water Lilies made on Sam Francis during an exhibition in Paris in 1956 also has reverberations in this work. Continue Reading