LOS ANGELES — On June 13, John Moran Auctioneers presented its bi-annual Modern & Contemporary Fine Art auction to a strong reception that propelled it to a total in excess of $1 million. It was filled with phenomenal works by many important arts of the 20th and 21st centuries and included paintings, prints and multiples, photography and sculpture. Outstanding results were achieved by Alice Baber and Panayiotis “Takis” Vassilakis as well as multiple new world auction records, the highest earned by Ivan Picelj. This sale also featured a capsule collection of works from the estate of the esteemed New York gallerist Howard Wise. Absentee and Internet live bidding was facilitated by LiveAuctioneers.
Howard Wise (1903-1989) was an important American art patron and gallerist who left an indelible mark on the American art scene. From 1960-1971, the Howard Wise Gallery, located on 57th Street in New York City, became a hub for the international avant-garde art scene. Having an estimate of $130,000-$139,200, the Howard Wise collection brought in $279,062, nearly 150% of the high estimate.
Leading the auction were two works by one of the major women of the Abstract Expressionist movement, Alice Baber (1928-1982). Coming into the sale, Moran’s held the top two world auction records for the artist. Her 1976 work The Sound of the Summer Hermit, estimated at $50,000-$70,000, achieved $150,000, and a 1966 piece, Light Ladder, sold for $75,000, more than doubling its $20,000-$30,000 estimate.
Coming from the Howard Wise collection, Ivan Picelj’s 1960 work Mithos I, estimated at $3,000-$5,000, earned $68,750 and a new world auction record for the artist. Picelj is known for his specific style of reducing shapes to geometric elements.
Another artist featured in the Wise collection was Panayiotis “Takis” Vassilakis. Recognized for his groundbreaking contributions to the fields of kinetic art and sculpture, this Greek artist challenged conventional artistic practices and explored the relationship between art, science and technology. His innovative works, characterized by their use of magnetism and motion, established him as a leading figure in the international art scene. Lots 74-77 presented four examples from Takis and together brought in $138,750. A particular standout was his piece Signal, dating between 1967 and 1971, which realized $50,000. Estimates for these pieces ranged from $6,000 to $20,000.
Along with the Howard Wise collection, this auction included works from a private Palm Springs estate that overall did exceedingly well. Lot 90 was by the Southern California native Josh Agle, who is known professionally as SHAG. This contemporary artist is widely recognized for his distinctive style that captures the essence of Mid-century Modernism and retro pop culture. Collectors took notice of the 2005 work titled L.A. Modern (Day). Estimated at $5,000-$7,000, bids went all the way up to $20,000 — giving the artist a new world auction record. Another work from this Palm Springs collection was FS #8, a 1962 piece by Karl Benjamin. It attained $33,750, just exceeding its estimate of $20,000-$30,000.
Lots 105-108 presented paintings by the French artist Henri Hecht Maik. This selection from the self-proclaimed “primitive painter” of dream-like jungle scenes achieved $74,375 against a collective estimate of $13,000-$20,000. Worthy of special mention was his 1977 work Paysage Au Bord De L’eau, which earned $20,000.
Rounding out the sale were pieces from favorites such as Peter Max, Joan Miro and a sculpture by Ulrikk Dufosse. Better World, a 2002 acrylic by Peter Max, quintupled its $3,000-$5,000 estimate to realize $27,500. La Meneuse de Lune, dating to 1975, was one of five works offered by the Spanish artist Joan Miro. This piece, estimated at $30,000-$50,000, went for $40,625. Adding another world auction record to this sale was a huge hand-woven mesh wire sculpture by Ulrikk Dufosse. This piece had an $3,000-$5,000 estimate but ultimately went for $8,125.
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