Deborah Solomon opens her New York Times story on Frank Stella’s upcoming retrospective at the Whitney with an odd statement suggesting that Stella’s work has been overlooked by the art market. Odd because 9 of Stella’s top 20 prices were seen at auction in the last three years. All of his top 30 prices were achieved in the last dozen years with a flurry of benchmark-setting sales, according to Artnet’s database, during the heights of the last boom in 2007 and 2008. Compared to his contemporaries (meaning living artists whose careers began in the 1950s and 60s) Ellsworth Kelly and Alex Katz, Stella’s prices are many multiples of Katz and on par with Kelly. So instead of thinking of Stella as the outlier, perhaps we should be looking at Jeff Koons as the anomaly:
What does it mean, for instance, that Frank Stella, 79, the champion of abstract art, has been tapped for the inaugural retrospective at the new building? Perhaps abstract painting is hot again, or perhaps the Whitney has entered a mature phase, celebrating not just the rise of art stars but the feat of staying artistically elevated over the years.
“It’s an accident,” Mr. Stella said recently, when asked about his show, which opens at the Whitney on Oct. 30 and was organized with the Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth. “I’m old. I’m not controversial anymore.”
Mr. Stella has done more than any other living artist to carry abstract art, the house style of modernism, into the postmodern era. Yet his passion for form, for contemplating weight and balance, has made him an outlier in an age of nutty auction prices and art that adopts the global economy as its very subject. By his own admission, Mr. Stella does not keep up with the current scene. “In all honesty,” he said, “I never got beyond Julian Schnabel and that generation. He was the ’80s, right?” Photo
The Whitney Taps Frank Stella for an Inaugural Retrospective at Its New Home (The New York Times)