Los Angeles, CA — Before we say goodbye to Summer, John Moran Auctioneers is making one last splash with their Summer Modern & Contemporary auction, Tuesday, August 30, 2022, at 12:00pm PST. This sale will feature many exceptional artists, and their most impressive works, but one stands alone. Best known for his bravery, ruggedness, and True Grit. A legendary American icon. Moran’s is proud to present one of the most famous depictions of The Duke in Andy Warhol’s John Wayne.
Out of all the portraits ever produced by Andy Warhol, his depiction of Hollywood celebrities is among the most memorable. John Wayne was originally part of a ten-print portfolio titled Cowboys & Indians. This suite of screen-prints included portraits of other key figures in the mythology surrounding the American West — like Teddy Roosevelt, Annie Oakley, George Custer, and Geronimo.
This unique version of Warhol’s John Wayne, bringing an estimate of $70,000-90,000, comes from the estate of John Wayne, now owned by his daughter, Melinda Wayne Munoz. How it was acquired by the Wayne family back in the 1980s tells an interesting story; starting with the actor’s son, Michael Wayne, randomly spotting it in a New York Gallery.
As a reference for this screen-print, Warhol used a press shot from Wayne’s 1962 film The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance. Unfortunately, he never sought formal approval to use the image before releasing his Cowboys & Indians portfolio, so when the rights of the John Wayne name (and images) were transferred to the actor’s family after Wayne’s death in 1979, legal measures were taken against the artist.
After negotiations to license the image were unsuccessful, John Wayne’s children filed a lawsuit against Warhol to recover the profits from the artist’s unauthorized use of the image. In response to the lawsuit, all remaining examples of the print were recalled by the Factory — including prints that had already been purchased. These works had the edition number removed, and Wayne’s scarf or pistol were re-colored in one-off color variations before being inscribed “Unique” at the bottom right corner.
Although Warhol was ultimately unsuccessful in re-editioning every print in the John Wayne series, the transformation of the prints into unique objects meant that they could not legally be defined as a “product” which provided the artist with some protection against copyright infringement. In addition to re-numbering each John Wayne print from the Cowboys and Indians portfolio, the Warhol Foundation also gifted this work, along with several other prints, to the Wayne Family as part of a settlement regarding the artist’s unauthorized use of the actor’s likeness.
“This 1991 work, Painting of a dog in front of a print of a dog in front of a painting of a dog in front of a print. #1, with an estimate of $8,000-12,000, depicts a pair of dalmatians positioned in front of a print of dalmatians that is tacked to the wall behind them— a clever take on trompe l’oeil painting for the modern age. This French painting technique, which in English means “trick of the eye”, uses realistic imagery to create the optical illusion of depth with such verisimilitude as to deceive the viewer about the reality of the subject matter.”
Another artist known for his unique style and aesthetic featured in this sale, is the Santa Fe based Post-War and Contemporary painter, Dick Mason. Early in his career, Mason was garnered attention for creating paintings that captured the beauty of the New Mexico landscape. It was later, however, when Mason’s approach to painting took a dramatic shift towards a new style and aesthetic that remains highly prized by collectors today. This 1991 work, Painting of a dog in front of a print of a dog in front of a painting of a dog in front of a print. #1, with an estimate of $8,000-12,000, depicts a pair of dalmatians positioned in front of a print of dalmatians that is tacked to the wall behind them— a clever take on trompe l’oeil painting for the modern age.
This French painting technique, which in English means “trick of the eye”, uses realistic imagery to create the optical illusion of depth with such verisimilitude as to deceive the viewer about the reality of the subject matter. The major shift in Mason’s style occurred in response to difficult circumstances that the artist faced in his personal life. After contracting HIV at the height of the AIDS crisis, Mason adopted a pair of Dalmatians to keep him company. They quickly became the focus of his art, occasionally being portrayed in front of a drawing or painting of the New Mexico landscape. This example of trompe l’oeil exemplifies how Mason sought to bridge the gap between the “real” world and the imaginary.
Shifting the focus from the Southwest to the East Coast is Alice Baber’s Swirl of Sounds – The Ghost in the Banyan Tree, 1976. Having an estimate of $3,000-5,000, this example is painted in deep, rich hues that have been applied to the canvas as semi-transparent ovoids. Baber, who was briefly married to the artist Paul Jenkins during the 1960s, remains one of the lesser-known figures in the Abstract Expressionist movement that began in the late 1940s. Although her paintings were exhibited in New York during her lifetime, Baber remained distinctly untethered to The Big Apple in stark contrast to many of her contemporaries. Before her early death from cancer at the age of fifty-four, Baber spent her later years residing in her home state of Illinois. She continued to paint, exhibit her work internationally, and offer lectures on art in conjunction with the U.S. State Department.
The final, but most-noteworthy highlight in this sale is by the first American professional athlete to become an artist, Ernie Barnes, with his 1968 work, The Linemen. Following a career as an athlete, Barnes shifted his focus and became a highly successful artist. While his paintings were appreciated by members of the Black community since as early as the 1960s, the acknowledgment of Barnes’s historical significance by art historians and mainstream collectors is a recent development.
Between 2018 and 2019, Barnes’s work was the subject of major exhibitions in both Los Angeles and his home state of North Carolina which drew hundreds of thousands of visitors and brought an increased level of awareness to his work by the public. In May 2022, the sale of his work titled Sugar Shack, which was featured on the cover of a Marvin Gaye album in 1976, appeared for sale at auction in New York. The painting, widely considered to be Barnes’s masterpiece, sold for $15.2 million – more than 76 times its high estimate – after a prolonged bidding war.
The Linemen, as the work has been known to the family that initially commissioned the work, has been a treasured heirloom for three generations. Estimated at $40,000-60,000, this is the first time the work has appeared at auction, presenting a rare opportunity for collectors to acquire a fresh-to-market example of Barnes’s coveted football paintings.
This sale will offer over 75 lots and include Abstract Expressionist paintings from artists such as Hassel Smith, John Kacere, Sam Francis, Robert Motherwell, Raoul Middleman, Allan Hacklin, Terrence Syverson, and multiple works by the Croatian artist, Josko Eterovic. In addition, a landscape painting by the artist Tarmo Pasto, a prominent figure in the mid-1900’s Sacramento and Bay Area art scene, as well as two nude portraits by the Canadian/British artist, Andrew Salgado. The Summer Modern & Contemporary auction will also be the first sale of several to include fine and decorative art from an Important New York Corporate Collection. Many of these works, which were acquired as early as the 1960s, will be appearing at auction for the very first time. Additional highlights from this collection will be announced later this year.
—Hayden Hunt and Brenda Smith, John Moran Auctioneers
As we head into Fall 2022, John Moran Auctioneers will start the Autumn season with the Studio Fine Art auction, Tuesday, September 13th, followed by the Fine Jewelry sale on Monday, September 19th. Be sure to mark your calendars for these upcoming auctions so you don’t miss out on the action, and the treasures!
Studio Fine Art: Tuesday, September 13th | 10:00 am PST
Fine Jewelry: Monday, September 19th | 10:00 am PST
Traditional Collector: Tuesday, September 20th| 12:00 pm PST
Art of the American West: Tuesday, October 4th | 12:00 pm PST
For upcoming highlights, online catalogues, and more information on these sales, visit Moran’s website: www.johnmoran.com. Along with our website, bidding is now available online via Moran’s new mobile app, Moran Mobile, available on both iOS and Android operating systems. You may also choose to bid by phone or absentee.
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