Los Angeles, CA— On Tuesday, June 13th at noon PDT, John Moran Auctioneers presented their bi-annual Modern & Contemporary Fine Art auction. It was filled with phenomenal work by many important arts of the 20th and 21st centuries and included paintings, prints and multiples, photography, and sculpture. Headlining the sale were outstanding results achieved by Alice Baber, Panayiotis “Takis” Vassilakis, and multiple new world auction records, the highest being Ivan Picelj! This sale also featured an impressive capsule collection of works from the estate of the esteemed New York gallerist, Howard Wise.
Howard Wise (1903-1989) was an important American art patron and gallerist who left an indelible mark on the American art scene. He is most known for his gallery on 57th Steet in New York City. From 1960-1971, the Howard Wise Gallery became a hub for the international avant-garde art scene. Moran’s was pleased to offer these incredible works and collectors from all over the world turned out for this fresh-to-market, twelve-piece collection. Having an estimate of $130,000-139,200, the collection brought in $279,062*, nearly 150% of the high estimate!
“There was a ton of buzz swirling around Basel about these pieces, as the fair and the Takis sale lined up perfectly. Dealers, art advisors, and institutions from New York, Belgium, France, Greece, and London all vied against each other to take home these important works from the Howard Wise Gallery of New York,” says Jennifer Wilson, the Fine Art Director at Moran’s. Hayden Hunt, cohead of sale and the Postwar and Contemporary Art Specialist said, “We, at Moran’s, are proud to have been entrusted with a number of important collections that brought strong bidding and high prices realized as a result of interest from collectors around the world. This sale was a great example of the continued resilience of the modern and contemporary art market.”
Leading the auction were two works by one of the major female figures of the Abstract Expressionist movement, Alice Baber (1928-1982). Coming into the sale, Moran’s held the top-two world auction records for the artist. Lot 142, having an estimate of $50,000-70,000, “The Sound of the Summer Hermit,” 1976, hammered in a staggering $150,000* — securing them the third slot! Then, lot 143, “Light Ladder,” 1966, sold for $75,000*, more than doubling its $20,000-30,000 estimate. “It was exciting to see Alice Baber’s work sell once again for six figures. A year ago, the artist’s highest price achieved at auction was only $12,000. We’ve seen continued interest in both Baber’s work and that of other women working in abstract styles from collectors internationally,” said Hunt.
Coming from the Howard Wise collection, lot 69 presented the Ivan Picelj’s work, “Mithos I,” 1960, estimated $3,000-5,000. Known for his specific style of reducing shapes to geometric elements, this example from the Croatian painter sold for a whopping $68,750*, achieving a new world auction record for the artist!
Another artist featured in the Wise collection was, Panayiotis “Takis” Vassilakis. Recognized for his groundbreaking contributions to the fields of kinetic art and sculpture, this Greek artist challenged conventional artistic practices and explored the relationship between art, science, and technology. His innovative works, characterized by their use of magnetism and motion, established him as a leading figure in the international art scene. Lots 74-77 presented four examples from the artist and brought in an impressive $138,750*. Estimates for these pieces ranged from $6,000 to $20,000.
Along with the Howard Wise collection, this auction included works from a private Palm Springs estate which overall did exceedingly well. Lot 90 was by the Southern California native, Josh (SHAG) Agle. Known professionally as SHAG, this contemporary artist is widely recognized for his distinctive style that captures the essence of mid-century modernism and retro pop culture. Collectors took notice of “L.A. Modern (Day),” 2005 (estimated $5,000-7,000) with bids going all the way up to $20,000* — giving the artist a new world auction record! Another work from this collection was “FS #8,” 1962, by Karl Benjamin. Lot 155 sold for $33,750*, just exceeding its estimate of $20,000-30,000.
Lots 105-108 presented paintings by the French artist, Henri Hecht Maik. This selection from the self-proclaimed “Primitive painter” of dream-like jungle scenes achieved an exciting $74,375*, originally estimated $13,000-20,000.
Rounding out the sale were some favorites such as Peter Max, Joan Miró, Margaret Keane and a sculpture by Ulrikk Dufossé. Lot 96 was “Better World,” 2002, by Peter Max. This bold-colored acrylic quintupled its $3,000-5,000 estimate, hammering in $27,500*! La Meneuse de Lune, 1975, was one of five works offered by the Spanish artist Joan Miró, estimated $30,000-50,000. This work, lot 43, went for $40,625*, selling at fair price. Lots 100-103, estimated $14,000-22,000, offered works by the “Big Eyes” artist, Margaret Keane, which brought in a total of $32,188*. Then, adding another world auction record to this sale was lot 124, a huge hand-woven mesh wire sculpture by Ulrikk Dufossé. This piece started with a $3,000-5,000 estimate but left the block for $8,125*.
(* – price includes buyer’s premium)
—Brenda Smith, John Moran Auctioneers
“Leading the auction were two works by one of the major female figures of the Abstract Expressionist movement, Alice Baber (1928-1982). Coming into the sale, Moran’s held the top-two world auction records for the artist. Lot 142, having an estimate of $50,000-70,000, “The Sound of the Summer Hermit,” 1976, hammered in a staggering $150,000* — securing them the third slot!”
John Moran Auctioneers will continue their 2023 lineup with the ReDesigned auction, Tuesday, July 11th, followed by the California Living sale, Tuesday, August 1st. Be sure to mark your calendars for these upcoming auctions so you don’t miss out on the action, and the treasures!
ReDesigned: Tuesday, July 11th | 12:00pm PDT
California Living: Tuesday, August 1st | 10:00 am PDT
Art & Design: Tuesday, August 29th | 12:00 pm PDT
Art of the American West: Tuesday, September 12th | 12:00 pm PDT
Fine Jewelry: Tuesday, September 26th | 10:00am PDT
The Traditional Collector: Wednesday, September 27th | 10:00am PDT
For upcoming highlights, online catalogues, and more information on these sales, visit Moran’s website: www.johnmoran.com and follow us on social media: @johnmoranauctioneers. 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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