THE PAINTINGS WILL CARRY THEIR OWN FIRE When Clyfford Still offered this fiery comment, he was certainly thinking of paintings like Untitled, 1948-1949, which Phillips will be offering in our November 16 Contemporary Evening sale in New York. The luscious, impastoed surface, created with deep cuts of palette knife and brush, dramatically brings the flame-like forms to life. Formerly in the collection of the artist’s friend and student, the painter Edward Dugmore, the painting has been off the market for decades and has never been to auction. David Anfam, Senior Consulting Curator of the Clyfford Still Museum wrote about Untitled, 1948-1949, stating “its chromatic heat and concomitant luminosity has more than a touch of hell fire and uplift to it”. Estimated at $12-18 million, it will be one of a number of top vintage paintings coming for sale. Stay tuned. #clyffordstill #1948 #abstractexpressionism #phillipsauction @royalacademyarts @phillipsauction #hellfire #fire
Instagram is the new press release as Robert Manley takes to the social network to announce his latest offering for Phillips’s Evening sale of 20th Century art. The Clyfford Still shown above is estimated at between $12m and $18m.
A very savvy art trader, from a long line of private dealers, once said that a clear sign a work was for sale was one when a collector showed him around the house and would stop in front of particularly good piece. Without being asked, the collector would praise the picture and then add, ‘Of course, I would never sell it.’
That story comes to mind after reading Bloomberg’s nice piece promoting Emmanuel Di Donna’s show inaugurating his new gallery on Madison Avenue in New York. The show features works that are not for sale from several private collections, including a Clyfford Still painting, 1945-R, owned by Len Riggio:
“We look at it long term,” Riggio said. “I can tell you right now that my piece is not for sale.”
Sotheby’s has released the four Clyfford Still paintings being sold by the City of Denver to fund the Still museum there. The estimates exceed the guaranteed $25m for all the paintings. The question remains whether the rarity of Still paintings on the market will work in favor of the lots or against them. The vast majority of Still’s artistic output will be housed in this one museum. Though scarcity creates value, the current market era prizes works that widely disseminated and represented in important collections and institutions. Still’s work is not.
It seemed like the worst of the deaccessioning debates had passed when this bizarre example from the Clyfford Still museum came up recently in The Art Newspaper. Still was a notoriously prickly artist which is one reason his estate contains the bulk of his artistic output. In keeping with his strict views, the new museum to be built in Denver will have no distracting cafe or auditorium. But in an apt irony, the project has had to sell 4 works before the museum officially acquires them to pay for the cost of building home for the collection and establishing an endowment.
In other words, without a transaction that turns some of the art into capital, the artist’s wishes would be impossible to carry out. It should also be added that without the backing of substantial collectors of Still’s work, there’s no one to provide the money that must now come from the sale of the estate’s four works.
The Art Newspaper offers this striking catalogue:
The Patricia Still Estate donated 400 works to Denver in 2005 following a gift the year before of 2,000 works from the Clyfford Still Estate: roughly 96% of the abstract expressionist’s work. The gifts came with the condition that Denver build a museum by 2014 to house them.
Denver Can Sell Works from the Still Estate (The Art Newspaper)