Contemporary Art at Swann: Heavy Hitters and Rising Stars

When you think about Contemporary Art, a few big names and images immediately come to mind: the iconic pop art of Andy Warhol and Roy Lichtenstein, the graffiti art of Keith Haring and Jean-Michel Basquiat, perhaps the strong shapes and colors of Richard Diebenkorn and Robert Motherwell. Our bi-annual sales of Contemporary Art feature a mix of works from these heavy-hitters alongside works by artists hitting their stride in the market. Below we take a look at some of these artists whose work is making a splash at auction.


Jesús Rafael Soto, Jai-Alai Series, Multiples I-V, groupf of five multiples with color screenprint, Plexiglas, metal and cords, 1969. Sold November 12, 2014 for $60,000.

Jesús Rafael Soto, Jai-Alai Series, Multiples I-V, group of five multiples with color screenprint, Plexiglas, metal and cords, 1969. Sold November 12, 2014 for $60,000.


Venezuelan artist Jesús Rafael Soto worked in multiple mediums, creating op and kinetic art. His works can be found in the MoMa and the Tate Modern, among other museums. 



Robert Longo, Study of the Capitol

Robert Longo, Study of the Capitol, charcoal and ink on vellum, 2012. Sold November 12, 2014 for $60,000.


Robert Longo has dabbled in a diverse array of media over the course of his venerable 30-year career. While his method was multidisciplinary throughout the 80s, often combining elements of drawing, sculpture, cinema and performance art, Longo’s oeuvre consists mainly of monumental charcoal drawings done in a hyperrealist style. This medium allows him to create the strong lines and rich chiaroscuro that help bring his drawings to life. His subject matter is varied, ranging from nature to seemingly banal objects to political imagery.



Christo, Wrapped Reichstag (Project for Berlin) Diptych

Christo, Wrapped Reichstag (Project for Berlin) Diptych, two-part collage with fabric, thread, color pencils, color crayons, charcoal and maps on paper, 1980. Sold May 16, 2013 for $66,000.


Bulgarian-born Christo is known for the environmental pieces he’s created along with his late wife Jeanne-Claude. The couple’s works are ephemeral, installed in public spaces for a limited time, and are survived only by photographs and the planning drawings that proceeded them, which provide insight into the often years-long process that goes into these monumental installations. 


Richard Hamilton, Sign

Richard Hamilton, Sign, enamel on steel plate, 1975. Sold November 14, 2013 for $35,000.


London-born Richard Hamilton is widely credited as one of the earliest Pop artists. His seminal, 1956 collage Just What is it that Makes Today’s Homes so Different, so Appealing?, showing a scantily-clad, gym-chiseled couple set in a 1950s living room, is considered by many scholars to be among the first Pop Art works. Hamilton trained during mid-century in London and had his first exhibition at the Hanover Gallery, London, in 1955. His early paintings, collages and projects reveal a deep influence from the Dadaists to modernists such as Kurt Schwitters and George Grosz. Hamilton also had a close association with the music industry. From the mid-1960s, he was represented by the London art dealer and socialite Robert Fraser, and produced a series of screenprints documenting the arrest of Fraser and Rolling Stones frontman Mick Jagger for possession of drugs, in 1967. Through his friendship with Paul McCartney, Hamilton came to design the iconic cover and poster for the Beatles’ White Album, 1968.



Vija Celmins, Untitled Portfolio

Vija Celmins, Untitled Portfolio, complete set of four color lithographs, 1975. Sold November 15, 2012 for $45,600.


Latvian-born American artist Vija Celmins creates photorealistic drawings, paintings and prints as well as sculptures of the natural world, ranging from the microcosm of a spider’s delicate web to the vast macrocosm of space. Her work asks the viewer to take a deeper, perhaps more abstract look at the familiar, calling attention to everyday objects and natural scenes in new ways. Celmins work is represented among the collections of the Art Institue of Chicago, the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the Whitney Museum of American Art


Harland Miller, Incurable Romantic Seeks Dirty Filthy Whore

Harland Miller, Incurable Romantic Seeks Dirty Filthy Whore, oil on canvas, 2007. Sold June 14, 2012 for $52,800.


Writer and artist Harland Miller blurs the line between the visual and literary arts, which showcase both his interest in literature and his sardonic wit. Born in England, Miller has exhibited extensively in both the United States and Europe, and has received acclaim for both his visual art works and his writing with the success of his first novel, Slow Down Arthur, Stick to Thirty



Carl Andre, Irregular Rectangle Composed of Four Unequal Parts, sculpture

Carl Andre, Irregular Rectangle Composed of Four Unequal Parts, steel sculpture in four parts, 1985. Sold November 12, 2014 for $25,000.


Carl Andre is one of the foremost Minimalist sculptors. After studying art at Phillips Academy in Andover, and serving in the U.S. Army, Andre arrived in New York in 1956, where he reconnected with his former classmate Frank Stella. Together with their contemporaries, Donald Judd, Sol LeWitt and Ellsworth Kelly, the artists departed from Abstract Expressionism, the dominated movement of the late 1950s, to pioneer a more objective, geometric aesthetic. Andre’s sculptures, consisting of separate pieces of unaltered material, are easily dismantled and rearranged, realizing their intentioned form only as an installation. 


Niki de Saint Phalle, Nana, sculpture

Niki de Saint Phalle, Nana, plaster with acrylic and gouache, 1968. Sold November 14, 2013 for $37,500.

French multi-disciplinary artist Niki de Saint Phalle‘s works are characterized by their bright colors, patterns and forms, many of which are feminist explorations of the roles of women and their struggles within society. 


Keep an eye out for more from these and other rising stars in the art market in our upcoming auctions of Contemporary Art. Our next Contemporary art auction will be held on May 12, 2016. We accept consignments of Contemporary Art on a rolling basis. For inquiries, or to consign material to an upcoming auction, contact the department