Sotheby’s to auction an important abstraction by Philip Guston

Sotheby's to auction an important abstraction by Philip Guston

Sotheby’s to auction an important abstraction by Philip Guston

Philip Guston — Nile — 1958

Next May, Sotheby’s will offer Philip Guston’s “Nile” (1958), a painting carrying a pre-sale estimate of between $20 million and $30 million, the highest ever assigned to a work by the artist.

G. Fernandez · Image: Philip Guston, “Nile,” 1958.

Much modern art has only itself as a subject. I don’t mean that it’s abstract or not. I never felt that mattered. What could be more abstract than Goya? But a lot of contemporary art, whatever might be claimed for it, is made simply to create a pleasant environmentPhilip Guston, 1980. Published by Hauser & Wirth

“Nile” has been in the collection of Peter and Edith O’Donnell for more than forty years, and the May sale marks not only the first time the painting has come up for auction, but also the first time it has been on public display in these past four decades.

Despite being one of the most important painters of the American Abstract Expressionism, prices for the works of Philip Guston (1913–1980) are far from not only those of the “holy trinity” of Abstract Expressionism (Pollock, De Kooning and Rothko), but also from those of the artists we could place in a second step -like Barnett Newman, Cy Twombly and (perhaps) Clyfford Still. The record price for the artist was achieved 9 years ago by “To Fellini” (a work by date and scale comparable to “Nile”), sold at Christie’s for $25.9 million.

Sotheby’s includes a somewhat curious statement in its press release: “Of the 29 works produced by Guston between 1956 and 1960, the pinnacle of his abstract expressionist output, there are 10 which stand above the rest as unquestioned masterpieces. Nile is one of these ten exemplary canvases, and one of only three remaining in private hands. The additional seven works are held in the collections of The Museum of Modern Art, New York; Whitney Museum of American Art, New York; Mildred Lane Kemper Art Museum, St. Louis; Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Washington, D.C.; San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (promised gift); The Phillips Collection, Washington, D.C.; and The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston” Understanding that the “promised gift” to the SFMOMA is the excellent “The Street” auctioned in 2005 for $7.9 million (in my opinion a better work than “Nile” and “To Fellini”). Personally, I find it somewhat sad to see “Beggar’s Joys” (the very strong 1954–55 painting auctioned for $1.7 million in 1996 and for $10.2 million in 2008, in both cases a record for the artist) excluded from this “peak period”.

In addition to this important abstract painting, the auction at Sotheby’s will also include two figurative works by Guston, “Remorse” and “Studio Celebration.” #2022 #ArtMarket #PhillipGuston #Sothebys #theartwolf



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