There is no such thing as an average sale at Palm Beach Modern Auctions (PBMA). Each of the company’s events is carefully curated, with the tastes of today’s sophisticated art buyers kept firmly in mind as consignments are gathered.
Palm Beach Modern’s November 2nd auction will reveal just how broad the contemporary category has become, with a refined selection of abstract expressionist, outsider and street art; mid-century furniture, and superb minimalist sculptures from the estate of New York artist Larry Mohr (1921-2013).
The Mohr consignment is an important one. An accomplished sculptor whose figural and abstract works are housed in the collections of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Georgia Museum of Art, Vassar College and the Herbert F. Johnson Museum at Cornell University, Mohr was noted for his large-scale bronze and aluminum sculptures made of welded and bolted I-beams.
“Mr. Mohr passed away earlier this year, and much of his art was left to museums. We were allowed to pick five sculptures from his estate to offer at auction and chose some incredible abstracts that we felt would appeal to those who follow our sales,” said PBMA auctioneer Rico Baca.
Among the five Mohr artworks is a signed and dated 1999 stainless steel sculpture, 14 inches high by 36 inches wide, estimated at $1,500-$2,500. Also standing 14 inches tall, a star-like bronze is titled “CXC XXIII” and estimated at $750-$1,500. Each of the Mohr auction lots will be sold together with a catalog from the Georgia Museum of Art’s 1998 exhibition of Mohr’s sculptures.
Works by some of today’s most in-demand artists are entered in the 300-lot sale. Highlights include a Helen Frankenthaler signed 5-color screen print artist’s proof titled “Spoleto” (est. $1,000-$2,000), a Larry Rivers signed and dated (1968) mixed media cigar-box sculpture titled “Dutch Masters” (est. $4,000-$6,000), and a Paul Jenkins signed and dated (1971) abstract lithograph in blues and greens, 3/100 (est. $500-$1,000).
A dramatic pop art screen print by sought-after American artist Alex Katz is titled “White Hat” and depicts in close-up a stylish woman in a navy-trimmed white Panama hat. It is expected to make $3,000-$3,500.
One of the most exciting categories in the sale is street art, led by a monumental work by one of the movement’s true pioneers San Francisco’s Barry McGee (a k a “Twist”). After he participated in the 2001 Venice Biennale, McGee’s profile skyrocketed, and much of his street art was scavenged or stolen, said Baca. “You don’t often see his art at auction, and certainly never a work as large as the one we will be auctioning, which measures 85.5 by 105 inches.”
The McGee artwork is painted on US Army surplus canvas and “has that classic Barry McGee look, where there’s one dominant central figure and his trademark drips of paint in the background,” Baca said. “It’s a quintessential example of a new movement a sort of neo folk art that looks a lot like the hobo art seen on trains that run between San Francisco and Canada.”
The McGee canvas is estimated at $50,000-$80,000 and has a minimum opening bid of $44,000. Baca predicts there will be multiple bidders willing to step up to the plate and pay the price to own it, citing the (approx.) $40,000 price realized at a major international auction house in May for a smaller McGee artwork.
“The McGee piece in our auction has street-art history, as well as great provenance. It was exhibited at a boutique hotel in San Francisco in the 1990s,” said Baca. The artwork will be auctioned along with a copy of a 2010 photo of the consignor with Barry McGee at Art Basel.
Other hot-ticket street artists in the Nov. 2 auction include Danny Simmons (brother of hip hop impresario Russell Simmons and Joseph “Rev Run” Simmons of Run-DMC), Shepard Fairey, Purvis Young and Katsu. While not technically classified as “street art,” auction entries by Jamie Reid, known for his punk rock show posters; and Donald Roller Wilson, whose work falls under the “Lowbrow” art movement, are expected to appeal to street art fans, as well. Wilson’s 1996 painting on canvas of Cookie the baby orangutan in a party dress (est. $10,000-$15,000) recalls the New York Times’ description of Wilson’s style as “goofy, hallucinogenic…kitsch, but high-quality kitsch.”
A fine collection of Murano glass will be auctioned, featuring designs by many Mid-century masters, including Fuga, Toso, Scarpa, Barbini, Venini, Mendini, de Santillana and others. Within the grouping are seven “La Galleria dei 99” limited-edition vases by Giampaolo Seguso. Estimates range from $800 to $2,000.
“When art and sculpture come together, the result is sculptural design,” said Baca. “Some of the designers whose work falls under this category are Jacques Duval-Brasseur, Willy Daro, Paul Evans and Piero Fornasetti. All four, along with several other notables, are represented in our sale. In their studios, a design would begin as an artistic concept, but the finished product would emerge as a piece that doubled as a functional object.”
A pair of signed, marked and dated (1987) Fornasetti wood and metal trompe l’oeil graphic chairs is expected to make $1,500-$2,500; while a cherry-red Donald Knorr for Knoll Associates enameled-steel Model 132 “U” chair carries a $2,000-$3,000 estimate.
Palm Beach Modern’s Nov. 2nd auction will be held at the company’s exhibition center at 417 Bunker Rd., West Palm Beach, FL 33405, and will commence at 12 noon Eastern Time. Internet live bidding will be available through LiveAuctioneers or Artfact. Preview 10-5 Mon.-Fri. during the week prior to the sale; or from 9 am. till noon on auction day.
Visit Palm Beach Modern Auctions online. View the fully illustrated auction catalog on LiveAuctioneers or Artfact.