Malaysian modernist painting sets auction record in London

Abdul Latiff Mohidin (Malaysian, b. 1938-), Growth I, 1968, signed and dated ‘Latiff 1968,’ oil on canvas. Sold for £245,000. Lyon & Turnbull image

LONDON – A painting by Malaysian modernist artist and poet Abdul Latiff Mohidin (b.1938) sold at a record £245,000 ($275,000) at Lyon & Turnbull’s inaugural Modern Made auction in London on March 27.

Several artist records were broken at the sale of 270 lots of British and international postwar art, sculpture, design and ceramics, which posted a total of £1 million ($1,306,700) including premium.

Acquired by the north of England vendor in London in the early 1970s, Mohidin’s Growth I, signed and dated 1968, had a £30,000-£50,000 estimate. The 30-square-inch oil painting dates from the latter part of Mohidin’s so-called Pago Pago period that brought him his first wave of international recognition. Similar works had been included in an exhibition at the Pompidou Centre in Paris last year.

Selling for £71,250, another world auction record for an artist, was Untitled 1960 by American Abstract Expressionist Ray Parker (1922-90). This large oil on canvas of three black, aubergine and salmon pink cloud-like forms set against an off-white background, dates from a key period in the artist’s career that would lay the ground work for the Color Field and Minimalist movement in the later 1960s.

Ray Parker (American, 1922-1990), Untitled, 1960, signed and dated (to reverse), oil on canvas. Sold for £71,250. Lyon & Turnbull image

“There is a lot of energy behind Parker at the moment. It hit the market at the right time,” commented Philip Smith, Lyon & Turnbull’s associate director and head of sale.

International works rubbed shoulders with important names from the canon of modern British and contemporary British artists. Tracy Emin’s (b.1963) white and blue neon sculpture I Know, I Know, I Know (2007) from an edition of three (another was owned by singer-songwriter George Michael) took £50,000 while David Hockney’s (b.1937) print from the 1980 Paper Pools series (number 873/1000) made £25,000.

Sold at £12,500, Rags to Polyester, a playful 2014 reworking of a Penguin book cover by writer and artist Harland Miller (b.1964), led a group of 15 works consigned by one of London’s oldest charities, The House of St. Barnabas.

Mixing both British and international artists, the Modern Made auction also blended works across a range of mediums from studio ceramics to silver and jewelry design.

Historically, studio ceramics were seen as the poor cousin to fine art and sculpture. However, in the last five years a shift has taken place. “Slowly terms such as ‘fine art’ and ‘craft’ have dissolved and the medium of studio ceramics now appeals to a much wider and more international audience.” said Smith.

A sgraffito-decorated conical bowl, circa1972, in white, amethyst and manganese glazes doubled estimate when it sold for £35,000. It had been acquired by the vendor at the Primavera gallery in Cambridge in the 1970s.

There was a marked acceleration in the prices achieved by contemporary ceramicists living today.

Jennifer Lee (British, b. 1956-), ‘Papoose’ vessel, 1982. Sold for £8,125. Lyon & Turnbull image

The pottery of Jennifer Lee, winner of the 2018 Loewe Craft Prize, has reached new heights in the past year. Here an early work, the 8-inch-high Papoose Vessel, sold at £8,125. This piece, the clays colored using oxides and underglaze colors, was made in January 1982, while Lee was in the second year at the Royal College of Art.

New auction records were set for Julian Stair (b.1955) whose eight thrown colored porcelain cups and beakers on a pedestal took £3,750 and for Isle of Wight artist Matthew Chambers (b.1982) whose signature spiraling form Yellow Twist, 2014, took £3,250.

Through his work with the Madoura Pottery, Pablo Picasso, too, played an important role in the revival of the artisan potter. His Tete de chèvre de profil (Goat’s head in profile) a 16-inch dish designed for Madoura in 1952 sold to an online bidder for £13,750. Stamped and marked “Madoura Plein Feu, Empreinte Originale de Picasso,” it is from an edition of 100.

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