Published: October 4, 2022
Review by W.A. Demers, Photos Courtesy Abell Auction Co.
LOS ANGELES – Abell Auction Co. presented Modern art and California estates material on September 25 in a sale totaling $3.6 million. Sell-through rate was 85 percent. “We had some exceptional estates highlighted with highlights from multiple estates,” said the firm’s vice president Todd Schireson. These included the estate of Mace Neufeld, the estate of David Karpeles, the Richard Kelton collection, the estate of Juliet McIver and the estate of Herbert Mayer Berk.
The online sale featured the most important work by Yaacov Agam (b 1928) ever offered at auction, a stunning 20-foot stained glass window that once adorned the famed Spreckels Theater in San Diego, Calif. It surpassed its $300,000 high estimate, finishing at $362,500. Created in 1985, the window comprised 16 panels composed from triangular prisms, black lead and steel; two panels were signed and dated “Agam 11-18-1985”; each panel measured 60¼ by 29¼ inches, 5 inches deep.
“Pool Hall” and “The Comedian” are two oil paintings by American artist Ernie Barnes (1938-2009), celebrated for his unique stylized painting style and his innovative portrayal of the African American community. This auction offered both works. Catalog notes refer to Barnes’s kinetic approach to artmaking and his characteristic elongated figures, the latter of which have been described as “neo-mannerist.” The artist painted every day and nightlife scenes and often created many variations of the same theme.
In “Pool Hall,” which sold for $276,000, well above its $150,000 high estimate, Barnes portrays a group of people hanging around a billiard table, successfully capturing the tense atmosphere of a smoky pool hall. A player leans on the table holding the cue stick, about to make his next shot. According to catalog notes, Barnes revisited this pool hall theme in different artworks, many of which have a similar brown color palette and layout in which the pool table, constructed with linear perspective, adds depth to the composition. In this version, a dog sleeps in the foreground and a man appears to be dozing off with his mouth wide open. Signed lower right, the 24-by-48-inch oil on canvas came from a private collection, purchased at Abell Auction in 1983.
A 1981 acrylic on paper mounted to canvas by Jean Dubuffet (1901-1985) titled “Site Avec 3 Personnages” realized $237,000, surpassing its high estimate. Signed and dated lower right, the 10¼-by-14-inch painting had provenance to Pace Gallery, New York (partial label verso) and came from a California estate.
Another painting that outperformed was Martha Walter’s (American, 1875-1976) impressionist “Day at the Beach.” Estimated just $5/7,000, the oil on canvasboard did much better, finishing at $66,000. It was signed lower left, with provenance from Hammer Galleries, New York City via a stamp verso and measured 13¾ by 18 inches. Lauded in her early career for her “intimate portrayal of little children” in paintings, Walter studied art at the Pennsylvania Museum and School of Industrial and at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts. She was taught by William Merritt Chase.
Fetching $84,000 was Pop artist Ed Ruscha’s (b 1937) “Made In California,” 1971, a lithograph in colors on Arches paper, framed floating under acrylic; pencil-signed, dated and numbered 52/100 lower left. Published by Cirrus Editions, it came from a California estate and measured 20 by 28 inches.
From 1975, Spanish artist Joan Miró’s (1893-1983) “Beluga” etching, aquatint and carborundum in colors on wove paper landed at $51,000. It was matted and framed under acrylic, pencil-signed lower right, numbered 15/50 lower left and measured 37¼ by 51½ inches.
A sculpture highlight in the sale came from Harry Bertoia (1915- 1978), whose “Bush,” circa 1966, a perfect spherical arrangement of bronze wires with added patina, 9½ inches in diameter, went to $50,000. Unsigned, the piece bore a Harry Bertoia Foundation certificate of authenticity and had originally been purchased at Fairweather Hardin Gallery, Chicago, in 1966 by James Pick.
There were jewelry lots to note as well. An Audemar Piguet 18K yellow gold Royal Oak watch was bid to $162,500, and a Rolex 18K rose gold GMT Master II found a buyer at $48,000.
“We were very pleased with the response from this auction,” concluded Schireson. “Active bidders and participants were extremely high with phone bidders from 11 different countries. We had amazing prices throughout the day, and we are pleased to see that our family’s 106-year-old auction house can achieve prices that our corporate competitors sometimes cannot. Cars, jewelry, original works, decorative arts, and prints and multiples all had wonderful results. We have many planned auctions coming on the horizon, highlighted by a wonderful Modern auction coming in late November.”
Prices given include the buyer’s premium as stated by the auction house. For more information, www.abell.com or 323-724-8102.
September 26, 2023
September 26, 2023
September 26, 2023
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