DALLAS – Every year, November marks a high season for the modern and contemporary art market, and on Thursday, November 17, Heritage Auctions presents a lavish selection of works that tell the story of the art world’s favorite back-and-forth volley: figuration to abstraction and back again. Absentee and Internet live bidding will be available through LiveAuctioneers.
These days, collectors who favor figuration find themselves perpetually in luck, and so do those who love the openness of abstraction. Often, a single work embraces both. Heritage’s event reflects a bounty of abstraction, figuration and all the points in between. Collectors will be delighted by works by Alexander Calder, Fernand Leger, Bernard Buffet, Gunther Forg and David Hockney.
On the abstraction front, Gunther Forg leads the charge in this auction with an untitled 1990 acrylic on canvas, estimated at $150,000-$250,000, which epitomizes the German artist’s color-laden middle period. Forg was recently the subject of a major retrospective, Gunther Forg: A Fragile Beauty, co-organized by the Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam, and the Dallas Museum of Art.
The multimedia artist William Anastasi has five abstract works in this event, all made between 1988 and 1990. Two come from his most famous long-running series, Subway Drawings, both of which are estimated at $20,000-$30,000. The story of these paneled works on paper is part of New York art-world lore. Via the Foundation for Contemporary Arts: “In the late 1970s, Anastasi reinvestigated his Subway Drawings of the early 1960s while riding on the subway to and from daily chess games with FCA co-founder John Cage. In these drawings Anastasi surrendered to the movement of the train to transform lines onto paper. As Cage once said of Anastasi’s work, ‘It’s not psychological; it’s physical.’”
Works in this auction that hit the sweet spot between the abstract and the figurative encompass some of the giants of the modern and contemporary art world. Three works on paper by Fernand Leger are here, each one alive with the artist’s playful intersections between figures and their environments, including the charming Les six plongeurs, composition en largeur from 1941, estimated at $40,000-$60,000.
In 1982, the already-beloved painter David Hockney famously started experimenting with photo collage to great effect. These compositions have a distinct feel of Cubism and are among his most recognizable works. Heritage will present an especially dynamic Hockney photo collage from that seminal year: The Metropolitan Opera House #6. The photos, which layered together capture a faceted portrait of the famous venue, are in turn configured into the shape of a singer – perhaps a great tenor. The large work is signed, titled and dated, and in terms of Hockney’s work, it does not get any more delightful than this. It carries an estimate of $20,000-$30,000.
Moving into the realm of more concrete figuration: Bernard Buffet is a real sleeper in this auction. The French painter, printmaker and sculptor has enjoyed intense renewed interest in recent years; his first major retrospective in France opened in 2016 at the Musee d’Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris, and since then collectors and institutions have come back around to this successor to Picasso. Patron–la salle de lecture from 1959, estimated at $30,000-$50,000, is a maquette for the stage set of the play Patron by Marcel Ayme for the Roland Petit Ballets.
Completing the highlights is Box (Small), a 1999 bronze by Tony Cragg, number six from an edition of six, estimated at $100,000-$150,000.
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