20th and 21st Century Masters Lead Phillips’ First New York Sale of the Season

  • NEW YORK, New York
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  • September 13, 2019

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Sam Francis EVIII, 1971 Estimate: $350,000-450,000

Phillips is pleased to announce highlights from its first New York auction of the season. Featuring over 220 lots, the New Now sale on 24 September will offer works of art by 20th century masters and contemporary market leaders, alongside auction newcomers. Leading the auction are examples by Keith Haring, Sam Francis, Louise Nevelson, Yinka Shonibare, and Yayoi Kusama. Phillips is proud to feature property from several prominent private collections, including works by Frank Stella and Alexander Calder from The Miles And Shirley Fiterman Collection, following the collection’s success at Phillips this past Spring.

“The September New Now sale marks an exciting moment for Phillips, as we kick off the fall season,” said Sam Mansour, Head of New Now, New York. “On 24 September, we will offer works from both blue-chip artists whose markets are time-tested and those whose works are just being sold on the secondary market for the first time, offering collectors a wonderful opportunity to build their collections with interesting and exciting material. With this sale debuting our new and refined catalogue format, we aim to offer our collectors the accessibility and ease that they have come to expect from a 21st century auction house. This new format more closely elides with the more engaging manner in which our clients consume content in all aspects of their lives.”

Ed Ruscha High-Speed Gardening, 1989 Estimate: $180,000-250,000

Leading the auction is Keith Haring’s Untitled (Three Dancing Figures), Version A. Executed in 1989, just one year before his death, this aluminum sculpture embodies the energy of an era influenced by activism for gay-rights and by the invigorated artistic community that was Haring’s orbit. The work shows a group of uniquely hued, faceless figures circled in energetic movement. Garnering inspiration from break-dance culture and electronic music, Haring appreciated the coordination required by dancers who weave between and around one another with swift, animated movements. Haring intended for these large-scale works to be accessible and readily discernible depictions of bubbling vivacity to all who encounter them. Untitled (Three Dancing Figures), Version A hails from an important private collection in New York; seven additional works from the same collection will also be featured in the New Now auction, including George Rickey’s Space Churn with Cams VI (illustrated page 4), Tom Wesselman’s Belt Still Life, and Friedel Dzubas’ Far Land.  

Sixteen works from The Miles and Shirley Fiterman Collection, which Phillips first began offering in the Spring, will also be included in the sale. The Fitermans began collecting in the 1960s, assembling one of the most comprehensive collections of works by American post-war artists ever to come to market.  Sam Francis’s EVIII (illustrated page 1) is being offered for the first time at auction, having remained in the Fitermans’ collection for forty-five years. Executed in 1971, the work represents the artist’s love of color, light and travel. Francis renders spontaneous clouds of exquisite color to the corners of the work. In contrast, the vast negative space that spans across the large-scale canvas, central to Francis’ style after the mid-1960s, embraces the sharp energy of New York Minimalism. The bursts of pigment framing the work evoke an edgeless nature that pulls the dynamic abstraction off the canvas. Also hailing from The Miles and Shirley Fiterman Collection are Frank Stella’s Narwola II, 1971 (illustrated right), Alexander Calder’s The Pub, 1972, and Jim Dine’s A Boot Bench #1, 1965.

Nicolas Party Portrait, 2014 Estimate: $40,000-60,000

Ed Ruscha’s High-Speed Gardening (illustrated left) is a wonderful example from the artist’s renowned word paintings and one of the highlights of the auction. Moving from Oklahoma to Los Angeles in the late 1950s, Ruscha worked temporarily as a commercial sign-painter. Inspired by his previous occupation, the artist found particular interest in the use of words, the infiniteness to them and their unique ability to construct and confound meaning. Ruscha’s use of language is poetically paradoxical and playfully random. The salience of the de-contextualized phrase “High-Speed Gardening” is a visual enigma for the viewers – surprisingly absent of an underlying message. His words are a humorous dichotomy that encapsulates a typical Los Angeles lifestyle; simultaneously bustling and tranquil.

Phillips has seen tremendous demand for works by Nicolas Party and has retained his auction record for the past year as his market continues to grow. This season, Phillips is pleased to include three works in the New Now auction – Portrait, 2014 (illustrated left), Landscape, 2013, and Blakam's Stone (Orange), 2016. Portrait, while inspired by the idealism of Classical Greek sculpture, depicts an androgynous subject donning blue eyeshadow and bright red lipstick. Highlighted by these superbly unexpected accents, the figure’s bulbous features evoke little more than a hollow shell, intentionally lacking individualistic characteristics and contextual social status, making it a superb example from the artist’s oeuvre.

Yinka Shonibare’s Dressing Down (illustrated below) exemplifies the artist’s commentary on history and politics through his unique use of textiles. Born in England and raised in Nigeria, the present work makes use of a printed cotton that has a complex cultural story. Though commonly associated with West Africa, it is actually a Dutch fabric inspired by Indonesian batiks and sold through the African market to benefit the Europeans that colonized Africa.

On 19 September, Phillips will host a cocktail reception in celebration of the New Now view in collaboration with Bottega Veneta.

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