Shepard Fairey Obama artwork has HOPE of earning $500K at Heritage, May 19
DALLAS – Heritage Auctions’ May 19 Modern & Contemporary Art Signature® Auction features a wealth of iconic names from the Postmodern and Contemporary Art movements, led by a scarce version of Shepard Fairey’s iconic HOPE poster, estimated at $300,000-$500,000. Absentee and Internet live bidding will be available through LiveAuctioneers.
Of the innumerable iterations of Shepard Fairey’s once-inescapable HOPE posters made in 2008 to support Barack Obama’s presidential campaign, there are three original large-scale, mixed-media stenciled collages made by the artist. One is in a private collection. Another resides in the permanent collection of the Smithsonian Institution’s National Portrait Gallery, just blocks from the White House. And the third, from the assemblage of a major American art collector, serves as the centerpiece of the May 19 auction.
HOPE is the work The New Yorker‘s Peter Schjeldahl called “the most efficacious American political illustration since Uncle Sam Wants You;” a work, wrote the critic, that provided “a thrill of concerted purpose, guarded against fatuity by coolly candid deliberation.” Wrote Schjeldahl of Fairey’s collage, its image of Obama infamously lifted from Associated Press photographer Mannie Garcia’s shot of the then-senator at a 2006 National Press Club event, “the effect is that of epic poetry in an everyday tongue.”
Fairey, of course, was a graphic-design star and revered activist long before his HOPE spread across the country. As his Obey Giant website notes, he has been “manufacturing quality dissent since 1989,” when he created the equally iconic Andre the Giant Has a Posse street art while a student at the Rhode Island School of Design. The sticker and graffiti campaign, born out of the skateboarding scene, gave rise to his Obey empire, and was intended as “an experiment in phenomenology” (which, per his website, “attempts to enable people to see clearly something that is right before their eyes but obscured; things that are so taken for granted that they are muted by abstract observation”).
Andre the Giant didn’t necessarily mean anything, Fairey often explained; indeed, his website notes that it was intended “only to cause people to react, to contemplate and search for meaning in the sticker.” But in a 2016 interview with The Creative Independent, Fairey spoke about the genesis of HOPE – and about “the optimism people felt about Obama, including me” – and how that aligned with the Obey ideology.
“I’m proud of the HOPE poster as a tool of grassroots activism, but I think it’s equally important for people to know about my Obey campaign and its aim to encourage people to question everything they are inundated with,” he told writer Brandon Stosuy. “HOPE was a very sincere endorsement, but when people know my Obey campaign, they have a better perspective on my overall philosophy to question things and therefore, they might understand that my sincere endorsement of Obama was based on a genuine and rigorous analysis of his policy positions.”
Another highlight of the May 19 auction is Marina Abramovic’s The Chamber of Stillness, estimated at $100,000-$150,000. It was created later in the artist’s career, when she experimented with bringing together previous phases and combined her 40 years of performance art. This reflection of time later became known as the “Abramovic Method.”
In The Chamber of Stillness, Abramovic allows the viewer to become the artist by participating in the sensory-deprived performance piece. The work incorporates quartz, which is known for its powers of protection and purification, to help the viewer meditate and achieve enlightenment.
Wayne Thiebaud’s oil on canvas Meat Counter, estimated at $100,000-$150,000, is a welcomed diversion from the artist’s more well-known subject matter consisting of cakes and other delectables. The owner of the painting inherited it from her father, who taught Thiebaud’s wife at Sacramento City College. Thiebaud’s wife, Betty, gave the painting as a token of gratitude to her beloved professor.
Created during his final artistic phase, Richard Diebenkorn’s Untitled is symbolic of the artist’s late style and composition. Part of Diebenkorn’s Ocean Park series, named for the artist’s residence at the time, Untitled features a heavy geometric composition that interacts with the medium to create a distinctly unique work. The graphite lines are straight and diagonal but reveal the artist’s process in the erasures that melt into the overall composition. It carries an estimate of $100,000-$150,000.
Also among the event’s highlights is Abstract Expressionist artist Robert Motherwell’s In Orange with Black (Moderne Enfin). It is a prime example of the movement toward creating artwork that separated itself from more so-called “traditional” painting, but included itself in the same canon. The Motherwell’s estimate is $100,000-$150,000.
The auction also includes works by a pair of important female artists of the Abstract Expressionist movement: Helen Frankenthaler’s Helen Frankenthaler (Collector’s Edition) from 1973, and Elaine de Kooning’s Basketball #11 from 1981, each of which carries an estimate of $10,000-$15,000.
The auction is rounded out by other modern and contemporary art luminaries, including Alexander Calder, Andy Warhol, Larry Rivers, Theodoros Stamos, Tom Wesselmann and a Blue Dog by George Rodrigue.
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