Kathryn Widing, Head of Sale, Midseason & Online Sales, Post-War and Contemporary Art spoke to us about her $20.9m sale in New York.
You put two works by Mary Bauermeister at the front of the sale and they did well. What was the story behind that strategy?
I have always admired Mary Bauermeister’s work — she has a wholly unique style that is difficult to categorize or label. I have been consistently surprised by the gap between her primary and secondary prices on the market, and sought to close that gap. The placement of these two works at the beginning of the sale was a two-pronged approach; it was an educational placement as we introduced many clients to her work who were not previously familiar with her output, and it was a strategic placement as the works were estimated conservatively to generate competitive bidding and achieve standout results.
Jean-Paul Riopelle’s Rondo No. 10 did very well. Riopelle’s works have sold very well in Canada for several years. He was once considered a global Contemporary artist (as opposed to a Canadian one) Is your sale a reflection of his emerging from the national category?
Riopelle certainly deserves to be considered as a global contemporary artist. We have consistently sold his works very well in Paris and London, in addition to New York. The example in our sale was a true gem as it was in very good condition for its age as a 50s painting, and the intensely layered, punchy and colorful surface of the painting was one of the best we have seen. The estimate was also extremely conservative for works from this period. These factors fused together to create a successful result.
Beauford Delaney’s Abstraction Number 4 doubled the estimates. Is this a harbinger of interest in late Delaney abstract works? Delaney too has been sold mostly in African American art sales in recent years. Is his emergence a parallel to Sam Gilliam and thus driven by his abstract works?
We are in an opportunity-driven art market. Delaney’s works have long been undervalued, and clients responded to this realization in the sale. I strongly believe in Delaney as an artist and in his market, which is underscored by the work’s placement towards the front of the sale. I was glad to see this successful result, and believe that his works will continue to achieve high prices going forward, both abstract and figurative, with exposure internationally.
Can you tell us a little about the difference between the two Warhol flower paintings. Were the prices a function of the difference in size?
Certainly. Warhol Flowers are estimated depending on size using recent comparables, as well as by their color palettes (a green background is preferred to a white background, as an example). Warhol was quite prolific in producing the Flowers, as he often gave them out to friends and family as Christmas gifts.
A Tom Otterness bear similar to the Barney Ebsworth’s sold well? Is that the explanation?
Otterness’ bear sculptures have always performed well — both Melva Bucksbaum’s medium scale example and Barney Ebsworth’s large scale example performed extremely well against their pre-sale estimates. The bear’s saddened expression is infectiously endearing — everyone who sees the work smiles. It is that attraction that results in competitive bidding for these works, and these results are outliers from the general market for Otterness.