Richard Diebenkorn, View from the Porch (1959), oil on canvas
Last week, Sotheby’s announced that it will sell a trove of major postwar works sourced from the storied collection of California art collectors, the late Harry “Hunk” and Mary Margaret “Moo” Anderson, slated with a pre-sale total estimate of $55m. The works will be sold in the Sotheby’s New York contemporary art evening and day sales in mid-May.
Featured in the collection sale is Richard Diebenkorn’s View from a Porch (1959), which carries an estimate of $9-12m. The West-Coast mid-century painter, who drew from the artistic legacies of Willem de Kooning and Henri Matisse has been an Evening sale staple for several years. Works from his iconic Ocean Park series, created over the span of two decades from 1967 to 1988, abstract pastel studies of Santa Monica light and landscape have mesmerized contemporary collectors and represent a stylistic marker of American postwar history.
View from a Porch is an earlier work which precedes the artist’s move into geometric abstraction. This painting coming up for sale is striking in its embodiment of the painter’s seminal transition towards layered gestural mark-making that established him as a key innovator between the movements of postwar American abstract expressionism and bay area figuration in the 1960s. The historic work also signifies the artist’s gaze turning towards his exterior surroundings in both California and New Mexico. In the late 1940s to early 1950s, Diebenkorn was making highly abstract works in a darker palette. In the following years, he completed his expressionistic Berkeley series between 1953 and 1955; pieces from which show an early fixation on horizon-oriented landscapes and warmly-lit views of Northern California.
Ocean Park 126 (1984) set the artists’ current auction record in May 2018, selling for $23.9m at Christie’s in the New York contemporary evening sale. In the artist’s recent market, two 1950s abstracts sold at Phillips in the November 2019 New York Evening Sale. The first, a 1956 yellow-toned and gestural work titled Berkeley #66 sold for $3.5m at its low estimate; the second, a larger green and red abstract landscape titled Albuquerque #7 from 1951 sold for $1m, solidly within its estimate of $900,000-1.2m. Interest in Diebenkorn’s early period thus seems to be healthy. The chance for View from a Porch to contend at Sotheby’s for the first time at public auction will likely be impactful on the artist’s long-term presence as a market-leader.