PHILADELPHIA — Freeman’s Oct. 29 auction of Modern & Contemporary Art features important examples from a wide range of artistic movements including Minimalism, Pop Art, Color Field Painting, Cubism, Op Art and Abstract Expressionism. Notable lots include significant and fresh-to-market examples by artists such as Helen Frankenthaler, Zao Wou-Ki, Ellsworth Kelly, M.F. Husain, Jules Olitski, Henri Matisse, Patrick Heron, Claes Oldenburg and Jules Pascin. Absentee and Internet live bidding is available through LiveAuctioneers.
Leading the sale is Helen Frankenthaler’s Red Hot, 2002 (above; $120,000-$180,000). Rendered in acrylic on paper, Red Hot is an excellent example of the artist’s work in this medium. Frankenthaler once famously asserted that “paper is painting,” and from 1992-2002 she painted exclusively on paper. Red Hot was executed during this important period and, with its rich tones and sumptuous surface, exemplifies the artist’s exceptional skill in this medium.
Another important example of Color Field painting in the auction is Color Flow from 1965 by Jules Olitski (Lot 51; $50,000-$80,000). It dates from an important moment in the artist’s career when he moved away from building up canvases with thick impasto paint and turned toward experimentation with all-over stains of color. This work, and a significant 1970 painting by British artist John Hoyland (Lot 48; $60,000-$100,000), come from the same private collection where they have been for over 30 years.
Another undoubted highlight of the auction is a 1955 watercolor by renowned Chinese-French master Zao Wou-Ki (below; $80,000-$120,000). Painted during the artist’s early years living in Paris, the work provides a graceful example of the integration of influences and cultural contexts that would inform Zao Wou-Ki’s work throughout his life. As he moved away from landscape and figural work into a more allover abstraction in the 1950s, he maintained his connection to traditional Chinese calligraphy and ink painting. This subtle work, created during what is often referred to as the artist’s “oracle bones” period, provides a window into his experimentation with a convergence of cultural expression that he made his own.
The sale also features an impressive selection of lots by Modern British masters, including pieces by Patrick Heron, John Piper and Graham Sutherland, whose Grasses Against Dark Sky (Lot 47; $30,000-$50,000) offers a unique portrait of the artist’s surroundings in Menton, in the south of France where he lived for a time beginning in 1955. Freeman’s brings this excellent work back to the market for the first time in nearly 60 years.
Additional highlights of the auction include two works on paper by Henri Matisse (Lot 9 and Lot 10; each $10,000-$15,000) created during the artist’s 1913 trip to Morocco, both of which were featured in the National Gallery of Art’s 1990 exhibition “Matisse in Morocco;” two late paintings by French artist Jules Pascin (Lot 11; $40,000-$60,000 and lot 12; $25,000-$40,000); two brightly colored gouaches by Turkish artist Fikret Mualla (Lots 19 and 20; each $18,000-$25,000); a 2002 work depicting the Hindu god Ganesha by Indian Modernist M.F. Husain (Lot 32; $80,000-$120,000); and two Op Art paintings from the Temple Series by Richard Anuszkiewicz (Lots 81 and 82; each $15,000-$25,000).
Freeman’s is pleased to present a selection of works from the Collection of Mr. & Mrs. Richard E. Oldenburg as part of this auction. Distinguished collector and art world power broker, Richard Oldenburg was a central figure of the elite cultural orbit of Manhattan in the second half of the 20th century. The younger brother of famed Pop artist Claes Oldenburg, Richard enjoyed a significant and influential career in the arts himself. He served as the director of the Museum of Modern Art between 1972 and 1994 and then as the chairman of Sotheby’s for North and South America until 2000.
Mr. & Mrs. Oldenburg’s interest in the arts extended beyond the professional and they built an impressive personal collection of international scope. Notable among these pieces are works by Mimmo Rotella, Roy Lichtenstein, Claes Oldenburg and Ellsworth Kelly. Kelly’s drawing, Lemon Branch  (Lot 68; $60,000-$100,000) is a particular highlight from the Oldenburg Collection. Gifted by the Museum of Modern Art to Richard upon his retirement from the museum in 1994, it has been shown in numerous museum exhibitions, including at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, The Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, the Smithsonian Institute, the de Young Museum and the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston.