Published: January 23, 2021
NEW YORK CITY— Christie’s January 21 sale of Outsider Art totaled over $2.1 million, led by a Bill Traylor work, “Two Dogs Fighting; Man Chasing Dog,” which realized $293,750. It is the fifth highest record for a Traylor at auction.
The circa 1939-1942 work was created using tempera, graphite and colored pencils on white paper-faced card and measured 18 by 25¾ inches. Provenance on the piece lists Gael and Michael Mendelsohn, who purchased the work in 1994 from Ricco/Maresca Gallery. It was then sold to the consignor by Giampietro Gallery in 2004.
The work had been included in the 2000 release of The Intuitive Eye: The Mendelsohn Collection, as well as Valerie Rousseau and Debra Purden’s 2018 release, Bill Traylor. It had also been exhibited at the American Folk Art Museum in the 2013 show “Traylor in Motion: Wonders from New York Collections.”
Christie’s specialist, Cara Zimmerman, wrote, “’Two Dogs Fighting’ is a large, exceptional work, revealing the artist’s mastery over space, his subject matter and his media. The energetic unevenness of the repurposed card is highlighted by the active rearing dogs and kicking man, and Traylor masterfully positions the red dog’s head to acknowledge and engage the uppermost arced area of the card, making the surface itself an integral part of the composition. . .Traylor’s signature, rarely included in his works, is embedded in the central section of the image, situating the artist actively amidst his subjects.”
Rising to $187,500 on an $80,000 high estimate was Martin Ramirez’s “Untitled (Tunnels and Trains),” a 1950s graphite and crayon on two sheets of joined brown paper measuring 67 by 38 inches. That work had provenance to dealer Phyllis Kind and had extensive exhibition history at museums around the Untied States. Time art critic Robert Hughes described “Untitled (Tunnels and Train)” in 1988 as “so grand in its architecture of repeated curves that it deserves a place in any anthology of American drawing.”
Artist auction records were set for Judith Scott, Laura Craig McNellis and Raymond Matterson.
Watch for a full review of this sale in a forthcoming issue.
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