MONROVIA, Calif. – There was plenty of excitement at John Moran Auctioneers in the days leading up to two of our most successful sales of the year, Postwar & Contemporary Art + Design and Prints & Multiples. Not one, but two auction world records were set at the sale and the first belonged to the Hans Jorgensen Wagner AT-33 sewing table, from circa 1960. The teak oak table that boasted drop-leaf sides and a pull-out inset basket was estimated at $1,000-$1,500, but sold for $3,125. The second world record was set with the citrus orange Made In California screenprint by revered Los Angeles artist, Edward Ruscha. The well-known print, produced in an edition of only 100, incited fierce bidding from online auction goers, as well as from nearly every phone available. Estimated at $50,000-$70,000, the stunning 1971 Ruscha piece sold for $100,000.
The first of the two-part sales that took place on June 9, featured 200 plus lots from two separate private collections: The collection of the Dharam Damama’s, an internationally acclaimed dealer-collector duo, and the Blake Byrne collection. The selection proved to be exactly what buyers were looking for with high sell-through rates, competitive bidding, and auction records broken.
There was a strong start to the modern and contemporary sale and the first three highlights all involved men in hats. The first featured a unique watercolor by German born artist George Grosz. His move from Berlin to New York in 1932 was a timely transition since he was not happy with current German politics and did not hesitate to voice his disdain. When the opportunity arose to teach in New York City, Grosz happily accepted. New York, Downtown Manhattan captures the movement and color of the Big Apple, as well as the bustling street sounds generated in the mind. The urban scene on paper was estimated at $18,000-$25,000, but sold for $31,250.
Despite his melancholy expression, the next gentlemen in a hat, painted by artist Duilio (Dube) Barnabe, was thrilled to be featured. Man Seated with Pipe is in a deep teal suit that perfectly complements the copper tones in the background. Barnabe was an Italian-French artist who was greatly influenced by Picasso, as evidenced by the geometric shapes that complete the subject’s physique. Many of the figures painted by Barnabe are void of facial features, making the subject’s countenance even more impactful. The painting was diligently pursued and sold at five times its $6,000 estimate for $31,250.
Ces Messieurs by French artist Jacques Vache, also did well on the block. The drawing made with both colored pencil and ink featured five men, four of which are wearing hats associated with their professions or activities. Vache was an important influence for Andre Breton, who is considered the father of Surrealism. The drawing originated from Andre Breton’s personal collection and more than doubled its estimate when it sold for $46,875.
There were plenty of stand-out paintings and sculptures with bold saturated colors to be found in the sale, but a couple of black and white drawings also commanded the attention of buyers. Spatial Displacement, Series (A) by British artist William Scott depicted three imperfect squares, each appearing as characters in an abstracted geometric narrative. Another graphically striking image was Black Lemon by American artist Donald Sultan. A lemon floated towards the top of the 50 inch drawing but was solidly weighted in the blackest tone that can be produced with charcoal. Both drawings performed exceptionally: the William Scott, estimated at $2,000-$4,000 sold for $12,500, and the Donald Sultan, estimated at $6,000-$8,000 sold for $15,000.
Sculptor Joseph Havel chooses to employ everyday domestic objects as his subject matter. Clothing, sheets, and books are cast in bronze and resin and literally put on a pedestal. The result is an elevation of the mundane and an open-ended investigation of materiality that has been referred to as visual poetry. Havel’s 1999 bronze sculpture Table Cloth exceeded its $7,000-$9,000 estimate when it sold for $17,500. Another great example of material use in the sale was a pair of carbon steel Rocker chairs by artist Rico Eastman. Primarily known for his massive public art sculptures, Eastman managed to transfer his signature curved geometric aesthetic into furniture that is equally elegant. The Rocker chairs sold for $4,225 against an $1,000-$1,500 estimate.
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