The first of the season’s big estates has been announced at Christie’s where Chicago’s Mayer family will be selling $125m in Pop art led by Robert Rauschenberg’s Buffalo II (1964) with an estimate of around $50m:
One of the largest of Robert Rauschenberg’s iconic Silkscreen Paintings, Buffalo II is a blockbuster painting, which unites the worlds of art and politics. At over eight-feet-tall this imposing canvas is filled with an ostensibly incongruent range of images ranging from the iconic to the mundane. Dominated by a large photograph of the then Senator John F. Kennedy, Rauschenberg assembles an eclectic range of motifs that, for him, define America; famous politicians, the space race, the military, iconic consumer products and patriotic symbols of America are interspersed with more innocuous images of the urban landscape and more personal objects. A pioneer of the silkscreen technique (along with Andy Warhol who had begun using the technique just a couple of months earlier), Rauschenberg appropriates images he collected from newspapers and magazines—along with his own photographs—to produce a portrait of a country during the social and political upheaval of the 1960s.
Yet this painting is much more than an historical snapshot of the 60s, it also marks a pivotal point in Rauschenberg’s development as an artist and bears witness to his own investigations in what it means to be an artist. By bringing together pre-existing images from popular culture with an array of drips and painterly gestures, Buffalo II also acts as a bridge between the now declining dominance of Abstract Expressionism and the new burgeoning world of Pop. Many smaller examples of the artist’s Silkscreen Paintings are included in major museum collections, making this one of the last major examples to remain in private hands. Exhibited at the XXXII Venice Biennale in 1964, Buffalo II was part of group exhibition of young American painters for which Rauschenberg was awarded the coveted International Grand Prize in Painting.