LOS ANGELES — John Moran Auctioneers will present its bi-annual Modern & Contemporary Fine Art sale on Tuesday, June 13, starting at noon Pacific time. This auction features works by important artists of the 20th and 21st centuries, including paintings, prints and multiples, photography and sculpture by Alice Baber, Jacques Lipschitz, Karl Benjamin, Joan Miro, Damien Hirst, Mary Lovelace O’Neal and Herb Ritts. This sale will also feature a capsule collection of works from the estate of the esteemed New York gallerist Howard Wise, including pieces by Charmion von Wiegand, Takis, Nam June Paik, Laszlo Moholy-Nagy and Peter Hujar. Absentee and Internet live bidding will be available through LiveAuctioneers.
Howard Wise (1903-1989) was a significant American art patron and gallerist who left an indelible mark on the American art scene. After beginning his career as an industrialist, Wise sold his family business to pursue his interests in the arts. He opened his first gallery in his hometown of Cleveland, Ohio in 1957, where he exhibited works by prominent contemporary European artists that proved to be unpopular with his Midwestern audience. In 1960, Wise made the decision to relocate his business to New York City and opened his gallery on 57th Street to great acclaim.
During the next several decades, the Howard Wise Gallery became a hub for the international avant-garde art scene. Howard’s second wife, Barbara Wise (1929-2011), played a huge part in the gallery’s success, as she helped cultivate the growing social scene at the gallery and was a strong advocate for many actors and artists throughout her life. Although the gallery was a for-profit business, Howard and Barbara Wise ran the gallery more as a museum exhibition space than as a business and wanted it to be used as an experimental showcase. After the gallery closed in 1971, the Wises established a foundation known as the Electronic Arts Intermix (EAI), which helped artists and organizations working within the emerging video art movement. Moran’s will bring works from the collection of the late Howard and Barbara Wise to auction for the very first time.
Alice Baber (1928-1982) is enjoying growing international acclaim and recognition as a major woman figure of the Abstract Expressionist movement. In August of 2022, Moran’s achieved a new world auction record for the artist for her 1976 work Swirl Of Sounds – The Ghost In The Banyan Tree, which achieved $187,500. Then, in Moran’s February Art + Design auction, her 1966 piece Axe In The Grove sold for $275,000, earning the artist a new world auction record. Now, on the heels of this momentum, collectors have another chance to acquire a Baber in the form of her paintings The Sound of the Summer Hermit and The Key of Sound and Light from 1976, together estimated at $50,000-$70,000; and Light Ladder, dating to 1966 and estimated at $20,000-$30,000.
La Meneuse de Lune (The Moon Leader) from 1975 will be one of five works on offer by the Spanish artist Joan Miro (1893-1983). In La Meneuse de Lune, estimated at $30,000-$50,000, Miro explores his distinctive artistic style and combines it with a mystical theme often associated with the moon. The print showcases a fantastical scene that invites viewers into a world of imagination and whimsy. His use of bold colors adds vibrancy and intensity to the work through a rich palette of blues, oranges, reds and greens, creating a harmonious interplay of hues. The juxtaposition of warm and cool colors enhances the dreamlike quality of the artwork, evoking emotions and a sense of wonder.
One of the highlights from the Howard Wise capsule collection is Charmion von Wiegand’s The Lotuses, dating to 1960. Von Wiegand (1896-1983) was an American artist and journalist who played a significant role in the development of abstract art and the promotion of spiritual philosophies in the 20th century. With an estimate of $30,000-$50,000, The Lotuses hails from a period in the artist’s career when she found herself immersed in a rapidly changing artistic landscape. She moved away from strict geometric abstraction and began incorporating more organic and fluid forms in her work, reflecting the broader artistic movements of the time, such as Abstract Expressionism and the Color Field movement.
Other noteworthy selections from the Wise collection are Untitled (#222), a 1959 oil on canvas by Ernest Briggs, estimated at $25,000-$30,000; and a circa-1967-71 electrified sculpture, Signal, by Panayiotis “Takis” Vassilakis, which has a $15,000-$20,000 estimate. Briggs (1923-1984) was a second-generation Abstract Expressionist painter known for his expressive brushwork, geometric compositions, and revolutionary abstract painting that secured New York City’s position as the art capital of the world in the post-World War II period. Takis (1925-2019) was a prominent Greek artist known for his groundbreaking contributions to the fields of kinetic art and sculpture. Throughout his career, he 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.
Karl Benjamin (American, 1925-2012) played a significant role in the development of abstract art in Southern California. He rose to fame as one of four Los Angeles-based Abstract Classicists in 1959 and subsequently developed a rich vocabulary of colors and hard-edge shapes in masterful compositions of tightly balanced repose as seen in FS #8 from 1962. Estimated at $20,000-$30,000, this work comes from his Free Style series, hence the “FS” in the title.
This auction will also feature four works by the Southern California native Josh (SHAG) Agle (b. 1962-). Known professionally as SHAG, Agle is a contemporary artist widely recognized for his distinctive style that captures the essence of Mid-century Modernism and retro pop culture. With his vibrant colors, bold designs and playful characters, as seen in the 2005 work L.A. Modern (Day), estimated at $5,000-$7,000, SHAG has become an icon in the world of modern art.
Additional examples of the variety of sculpture offered in the sale includes contributions from Jacques Lipchitz (1891-1973) and Bruno Romeda (1933-2017). The 1971 piece Melancholia comes directly from the private collection of French American Cubist sculptor Jacques Lipchitz with a $15,000-$20,000 estimate. Inspired by primitive geometric forms, as seen in the 1986 work Untitled #13 (Circle Sculpture), estimated at $12,000-$18,000, Bruno Romeda is considered a complete artist because all his work begins by joining twigs, rods and sticks. His art is an example of technical perfection, harmonizing proportions and bronze work.
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