Phillips is seeking a record price for Carmen Herrara next month with Blanco y Verde, a work that has not been exhibited in five decades. Each November for the last three years, Phillips has set a new auction record price for Carmen Herrera. In 2015, they scored with Basque, a 1965 work that made $437k over a much lower estimate. In 2016, Cerulean from the same year was sold for $970k. Last year, it was Untitled (Orange and Black) from 1956 that pushed the record to $1.179m. If Blanco y Verde follows the previous pattern of selling near the high estimate (here it’s $1-1.5m) we will see yet another record fall for Herrera.
Here’s Phillips’s release on the painting:
On 15 November, Carmen Herrera’s Blanco y Verde will be offered in the New York Evening Sale of 20th Century & Contemporary Art. Painted in 1966 and unseen to the larger public for more than 50 years, this painting is one of only 14 known extant works from Herrera’s seminal Blanco y Verde series, exemplifying her pioneering artistic achievements. Created from 1959 to 1971, this coveted series is recognized as Herrera’s most significant body of work in her nearly 80 year career, with such revered institutions as the Tate, London, the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, the Smithsonian American Art Museum, Washington, D.C. and the Museum of Fine Arts Boston, acquiring examples for their permanent collections in the past seven years. Estimated at $1-1.5 million, the work is poised to break the auction record for a work by Carmen Herrera.
Kaeli Deane, Phillips’ Head of Latin American Art. “As a woman in the male-dominated New York art world, Herrera was sidelined throughout most of her career, but in recent years she has finally received long-overdue, widespread critical acclaim, both institutionally and in the marketplace. Since her 100th birthday in 2015, Herrera has been featured in major exhibitions at the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York and the K20 Kunstsammlung NRW, Dusseldorf, as well as solo exhibitions at Lisson Gallery in New York and London. Demand for her work has thus exploded, with Phillips achieving of record-breaking prices three times in three years. As a pioneering masterpiece of geometric abstraction, we look forward to showcasing Blanco y Verde alongside other artworks that play an equally impressive role in the art historical canon.”
A perfectly calibrated force field of pure form and color, Blanco y Verde exemplifies how Herrera broke ground at the same time as artists like Frank Stella and Ellsworth Kelly. The series presents the culmination of Herrera’s “process of purification” that she had commenced 16 years earlier, with her decisive move to geometric abstraction in 1950. Born in Havana in 1915 and spending much of the 1930s and 40s between Paris and Cuba, Herrera settled permanently in New York in 1954 where she continued to hone her distilled geometric compositions. While she had been highly respected in the cosmopolitan Parisian milieu, exhibiting alongside Theo van Doesburg, Max Bill and Piet Mondrian, she worked in relative isolation upon returning to New York, where she has lived and worked ever since. Despite this, she did draw the attention of certain tastemakers of the day; art critic Hilton Kramer notably pointed out in 1968 upon seeing a work from Herrera’s Blanco y Verde series in New York, that it “is quite the best picture she has yet exhibited” (Hilton Kramer, “Art: Beckman in Black and Black and White”, The New York Times, January 6, 1968, online).
More than 50 years later this series is now widely celebrated, particularly as it relates to Herrera’s lifelong fascination with three-dimensional structures. Subtle variations in the shape, scale and placement of green and white triangular forms pervade the series, with the compositions wrapping around all four edges of canvas. While demonstrating Herrera’s goal of focusing the viewer’s attention on the materiality of the painting-as-object, the triangular forms also appear like cuts in the canvas – suggesting a three-dimensionality that projects outside the confines of the picture plane.
Remaining in Herrera’s personal collection for over four decades, Blanco y Verde made its public debut at the K20 Kunstsammlung NRW, Dusseldorf, in 2017 as one of the major highlights within Herrera’s watershed retrospective organized by the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York. The artist currently has an exhibition at Lisson Gallery in New York, titled Carmen Herrera: Estructuras, and will be featured in Epic Abstraction: Pollock to Herrera at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York opening December 17.
In early 2018, Phillips made the decision to formally integrate Latin American Art within the company’s auctions of 20th Century & Contemporary Art amid an increasingly globalized market for the category. As part of a commitment to celebrating artists from this region alongside their international peers, Phillips looks forward to showcasing Blanco y Verde amongst other artworks that have played an equally impressive role in the art historical canon.