Los Angeles, CA— As fall quickly approaches, John Moran Auctioneers concluded their summer line-up with the Summer Modern & Contemporary Art auction on Tuesday, August 30, 2022. While having just 56 lots, the strategically curated selection included some heavy hitters, a few even being new-to-market. The results of the sale well exceeded expectations, so much so that there were not one, not two, but THREE world-auction records achieved!
The highest world-auction record was made by lot 47, a work from Alice Baber titled, Swirl of Sounds – The Ghost in the Banyan Tree, 1976. Formally known as the ex-wife of American abstract expressionist painter, Paul Jenkins, Baber’s previous auction record was $10,000 (buyer’s fees not included) achieved back in December 2021 on two of her paintings, The Green Reed, and The Blue Drum Path to the Open Coast. The big, bright, and bold Baber presented in this sale started with an estimate of $3,000-5,000, but after a prolonged bidding war with dozens of collectors both online and, on the phone, the price realized was an incredible $187,500 (including buyer’s premium). This result, which more than doubled Jenkin’s own auction high of $93,750, represents a seismic shift in the market for works by both artists. This new auction high is but one of many changes in the market for women artists of the Post-War period.
Another mid-century artist who has gained notoriety in recent years is the athlete-turned-artist, Ernie Barnes. While Barnes is widely known for African American figure and genre paintings, like Sugar Shack, selling at auction in May 2022 for $15.2 million, his sports paintings paved the way for his success as a professional artist. Named the first “Sports Artist of the Year” in 1985 by the United States Sports Academy, Barnes sports works include hockey, boxing, tennis, gymnastics, basketball, and of course, football. Lot 50, The Linemen, 1968, a fresh-to-market commissioned work, has a pre-sale estimate of $40,000-60,000. Collectors showed major interest in the work, earning this painting a whopping $237,500 (including buyer’s premium). The previous record for a Barnes football painting took place in March of this year for his work, The Red Wall with a price realized of $63,000 (including buyer’s premium).
Continuing the world-auction record excitement, Andy Warhol’s, John Wayne from “Cowboys and Indians,” 1986. Originally a gift to the family from Warhol himself, this work came from the estate of John Wayne, now owned by his daughter, Melinda Wayne Munoz. Lot 16, with an estimate of $70,000-90,000, was sure to be a favorite and did not disappoint. The previous record for a John Wayne dates back to 2015, selling for $106,250 (including buyer’s premium). After rounds and rounds of bids, Moran’s version of the work ended at $150,000 (including buyer’s premium).
Within the generous selection of abstract art was lot 30 by Hassel Smith. His work, Untitled, 1949, was one of five Smith paintings to go up for auction since 2021, and just earned the second place slot in this artist’s recorded auction results. Estimated at $8,000-12,000, this colorful creation left the auction block for $118,750 (including buyer’s premium).
A couple of paintings from the Russian landscape artist, Andre Alexevevich Jawlensky created quite a stir among bidders. After not having any (recorded) auction sales of Jawlensky’s work since 2019, collectors were pleasantly surprised to find two of his pieces included this sale. Lot 32, Sommermorgen, 1958, had an estimate of $2,000-3,000, but ended with a $21,250 (including buyer’s premium) winning bid. Then, lot 37, Interieur, 1960, was hammered in at $12,500 (including buyer’s premium), with an estimate of $2,000-3,000.
Another well-known artist offered in this auction was the Spanish surrealist, Salvador Dali. Lot 8 presented his 1947 work, St. George And the Dragon. This etching of a warrior slaying a dragon while riding horseback surpassed its $10,000-15,000 estimate and ended with a price realized of $16,250 (including buyer’s premium).
“The highest world-auction record was made by lot 47, a work from Alice Baber titled, Swirl of Sounds - The Ghost in the Banyan Tree, 1976.”
The third and final world-auction record achieved in this sale was for the American artist, Tarmo Pasto. Known for his modernist-leaning landscapes, lot 31 showcased Mountain Climber’s Dream, 1963. Estimated at $1,000-1,500, this majestic mountain masterpiece more than doubled Pasto’s previous auction record of $3,175, selling for $8,125 (including buyer’s premium).
There were also a group of works from the abstract painter, Jay Milder. All four lots presented earned above their estimates, but lot 58, Untitled, performed the best bringing in $5,938 (including buyer’s premium) – almost tripling it’s $1,500-2,000 estimate.