Records & Results: June 2020 Fine Art Sales

A Full Month of Fine Art Sales at Swann Delivers Record Prices

Swann offered four sales of Fine Art this June, each one proving audiences are undeterred by the remote bidding format due to social distancing guidelines.

African-American Fine Art

African-American Fine Art was held on Thursday, June 4, 2020, with the auction surpassing its pre-sale high estimate totaling $3.5 million. The top lot in the sale was Richmond Barthé’s cast bronze sculpture Feral Benga, which earned a record for the artist at $629,000. The work, which was modeled in 1935 and cast in 1986, represents the culmination of Barthé’s study of the figure in sculpture, anatomy and dance in the 1930s, and his pioneering realization of an ideal male nude. Further notables included works by Ernie Barnes, Betty Blayton, LaToya Ruby Frazier and David Hammons.

Related Reading: Artist Profile: Ernie Barnes and The Elegant Sculptures of Richmond Barthé

Betty Blayton, Together, oil and collage on canvas, 1971. Sold June 4, 2020, in African-American Fine Art for $35,000, a record for the artist.

Fine Photographs

Michael Halsband, Andy Warhol and Jean-Michel Basquiat, silver print, 1985, printed 1997. Sold June 11, 2020, in our Fine Photographs sale for $27,500.

After a decades-long career at Swann, Daile Kaplan held her final auction with the house Thursday, June 11, 2020, with a sale of Fine Photographs as she steps down as the department director and Swann vice president. Highlights from the sale included Michael Halsband’s striking portrait of Andy Warhol and Jean-Michel Basquiat, shot for their joint show at Tony Shafrazi Gallery in 1985. The portrait led the sale at $27,500. Classics of photography by Edward Weston, Ansel Adams, Andre Kertesz and Henri Cartier-Bresson drew intense bidding from the various online platforms, along with New York images by favorites Berenice Abbott and Helen Levitt. Fine art photographs by pioneers of contemporary photography, among them Lucas Samaras and Diane Arbus, realized strong prices. Deborah Rogal will be stepping into the role of director, after working alongside Kaplan since 2006, and serving as the department’s associate director since 2014.

Related Reading: A Toast to Daile Kaplan, Swann’s Doyenne Emerita

Graphic Design / Modernist Posters

Charles Loupot, Ch. Philippossian Automobiles / Genève, 1920. Sold June 18, 2020, in Graphic Design / Modernist Posters for $137,000, a record for the artist.

The Thursday, June 18, 2020, sale of Graphic Design / Modernist Posters marked the house’s twentieth anniversary of offerings in the category and brought in $904,710, a record for the category at Swann. The auction garnered 10 records, including artist records for Charles Loupot with CH. Philippossian Automobiles / Genève, 1920, at $137,000, and Ladislav Sutnar with Vystava Moderniho Obchodu, 1929, at $16,250. Also of note was Wladyslaw Strzeminski’s circa-1928 gouache and pencil letterform study, which earned $60,000, and a propaganda poster issued by Kroger: Dear God, Keep Them Safe! / Buy War Bonds and Stamps, 1942, which brought $22,500.

Wladyslaw Strzeminski, letterform study, gouache and pencil, circa 1928. Sold June 18, 2020, in Graphic Design / Modernist Posters for $60,000.

Contemporary Art

Helen Frankenthaler, Southern Exposure, color screenprint, 2005. Sold June 25, 2020, in Contemporary Art for $13,750.

Swann’s June offerings of Fine Art concluded with a standout sale of Contemporary Art on Thursday, June 25, 2020. The auction garnered $1.5 million and saw an 85% sell-through rate by lot. Roy Lichtenstein’s Reverie, 1965—one of the artist’s first pop screenprints—led the auction at $75,000. Each of the acrylic works by street artist Richard Hambleton found buyers: Rodeo, 2003, at $50,000; Shadow Head, 2007, at $18,750; and Shadowman, 1994, at $12,500. Additional highlights included abstract works by Helen Frankenthaler, Agnes Martin and Julie Mehretu.

Related Reading: The Studio Assistant: Louise Nevelson & Teddy Haseltine

Julie Mehretu, Untitled (Pulse), color lithograph, 2013. Sold June 25, 2020, in Contemporary Art for $6,250.

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