The auction houses aren’t done yet. Catalogues have just been released online and Christie’s has revealed that it is offering a rare and sought after Frank Stella Black painting with a low estimate of $25m. Since Stella’s retrospective at the Whitney in 2015, the artist’s market has been making big gains. Christie’s has three works by the artist in the Evening sale but the Black paintings are in a category by themselves. Limited to 28 canvases, four of which were first exhibited at the Museum of Modern Art in 1959 when Stella was only recently graduated from college, the Black paintings have particular appeal to institutions and collectors.
Painted when Frank Stella was just 23 years old, Point of Pines is a remarkably accomplished painting for an artist who was only just beginning his career. Stella’s Black Paintings were the artist’s first major series of work. In 1958, less than a year after graduating from Princeton University with a degree in art history, he began working on these canvases while also earning a living painting houses, using his house painter’s brushes and paint to map out these large-scale canvases. Along with the other twenty-eight canvases in the Black Paintings series, this work established Stella as one of the most innovative artists of his generation. When they were first exhibited, the Black Paintings—with their flat, monochromatic surface—were diametrically opposed to the prevailing gestural excess of Abstract Expressionism. These early works, along with his shaped Aluminum Paintings (1960) and Copper Paintings (1960 – 1961), also marked a turning point in the history of the painted canvas, away from the illusionary and towards a new—totally revolutionary—role. Taller than most humans and measuring more than nine feet across, the imposing scale of Point of Pines is as vital to the overall presence of the painting as the painted surface. Point of Pines is expected to set a new world auction record for the artist, surpassing the previous record established by Delaware Crossing, when it sold for $13,690,000 in November 2015.