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THE COLOR OF BEAUTY: PAINTINGS FROM THE COLLECTION OF HOWARD AND SARETTA BARNET

Agnes Martin
UNTITLED #12
Estimate
Irrevocable Bids
Lots with this symbol indicate that a party has provided Sotheby’s with an irrevocable bid on the lot that will be executed during the sale at a value that ensures that the lot will sell. The irrevocable bidder, who may bid in excess of the irrevocable bid, will be compensated based on the final hammer price in the event he or she is not the successful bidder or may receive a fixed fee in the event he or she is the successful bidder. If the irrevocable bidder is the successful bidder, the fixed fee (if applicable) for providing the irrevocable bid may be netted against the irrevocable bidder’s obligation to pay the full purchase price for the lot and the purchase price reported for the lot shall be net of such fixed fee. If the irrevocable bid is not secured until after the printing of the auction catalogue, a pre-lot announcement will be made indicating that there is an irrevocable bid on the lot. If the irrevocable bidder is advising anyone with respect to the lot, Sotheby’s requires the irrevocable bidder to disclose his or her financial interest in the lot. If an agent is advising you or bidding on your behalf with respect to a lot identified as being subject to an irrevocable bid, you should request that the agent disclose whether or not he or she has a financial interest in the lot.
Guaranteed Property
Guaranteed Property. The seller of lots with this symbol has been guaranteed a minimum price from one auction or a series of auctions. If every lot in a catalogue is guaranteed, the Conditions of Sale will so state and this symbol will not be used for each lot.
3,000,0004,000,000
LOT SOLD. 2,775,000 USD
JUMP TO LOT
57

THE COLOR OF BEAUTY: PAINTINGS FROM THE COLLECTION OF HOWARD AND SARETTA BARNET

Agnes Martin
UNTITLED #12
Estimate
Irrevocable Bids
Lots with this symbol indicate that a party has provided Sotheby’s with an irrevocable bid on the lot that will be executed during the sale at a value that ensures that the lot will sell. The irrevocable bidder, who may bid in excess of the irrevocable bid, will be compensated based on the final hammer price in the event he or she is not the successful bidder or may receive a fixed fee in the event he or she is the successful bidder. If the irrevocable bidder is the successful bidder, the fixed fee (if applicable) for providing the irrevocable bid may be netted against the irrevocable bidder’s obligation to pay the full purchase price for the lot and the purchase price reported for the lot shall be net of such fixed fee. If the irrevocable bid is not secured until after the printing of the auction catalogue, a pre-lot announcement will be made indicating that there is an irrevocable bid on the lot. If the irrevocable bidder is advising anyone with respect to the lot, Sotheby’s requires the irrevocable bidder to disclose his or her financial interest in the lot. If an agent is advising you or bidding on your behalf with respect to a lot identified as being subject to an irrevocable bid, you should request that the agent disclose whether or not he or she has a financial interest in the lot.
Guaranteed Property
Guaranteed Property. The seller of lots with this symbol has been guaranteed a minimum price from one auction or a series of auctions. If every lot in a catalogue is guaranteed, the Conditions of Sale will so state and this symbol will not be used for each lot.
3,000,0004,000,000
LOT SOLD. 2,775,000 USD
JUMP TO LOT

Details & Cataloguing

Contemporary Art Evening Auction

|
New York

Agnes Martin
1912 - 2004
UNTITLED #12
signed and dated 96 on the reverse
acrylic and graphite on canvas
60 1/8 by 60 1/8 in. 152.7 by 152.7 cm.
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Provenance

PaceWildenstein, New York
Acquired by the present owners from the above in February 1997

Exhibited

New York, PaceWildenstein, Agnes Martin: Recent Paintings, January - February 1997 

Literature

Exh. Cat., Venice, XLVII Esposizione Internazionale d'Arte: La Biennale di Venezia, 1997, p. 390, illustrated in color 
Tiffany Bell, ed., Agnes Martin Catalogue Raisonné: Paintings, New York, 2017 - Ongoing, no. 1996.012, illustrated in color

Catalogue Note

Conflating a delicate mark-making, Modernist grid and serene color palette, Untitled #12 is an exemplary work that characterizes the ineffable glory and luminescence of Martin's canvases from the 1990s. Unseen for over two decades since its exhibition at PaceWildenstein in New York in 1997, the present work has been in the collection of Howard and Saretta Barnet since its acquisition. Howard and Saretta Barnet possessed a voracious appetite for art, passionately collecting the highest quality works across categories, including African & Oceanic sculpture, 18th Century French drawings and Contemporary Art. 

Untitled #12 is a skillfully articulated execution of the artist’s signature style, in which imperceptibly thin lines of graphite demarcate six equal and minimally painted horizontal bands of incandescent powder blues and pale yellow in a consistent and repetitive pattern. From a distance, the subtly varied tones of paint only faintly assert their singularity, but as the viewer approaches the canvas, the colors separate into distinct bars of luminous pastel color humming in harmony. The visibility of the graphite overlaid on the lustrous paint structures the color into clear delineated bars, while also revealing the slight irregularities and inconsistencies of line, a calculated move on the artist’s part to evoke the human and man made quality of her paintings. Although Martin eschewed the impassioned gesticulative painting of her peers in New York City, she no more easily fit into the mold of Minimalist artists such as Sol Lewitt, Donald Judd or Dan Flavin, who sought to strip art of its human element and remove the signature of the artist’s hand. Whereas Sol Lewitt, for example, sought to erase the artist from the equation altogether, Martin retained her artistry in a graphite signature.

Martin began her artistic career as a student at Columbia University in New York City, producing the first phase of her output, which was developmental in nature. While in New York, Martin exhibited with Betty Parsons who, at the time, was also representing artists such as Mark Rothko, Jackson Pollock and Barnett Newman. In 1967, Martin left New York and temporarily abandoned painting until 1972, a year when she once again took up her brush and began the second phase of her career. This later body of work is non-developmental, in that Martin had settled on the motif of the grid, which she would continue to draw, paint and probe in various nuanced palettes until her death in 2004. Although Martin’s work visually aligns with an abstract sensibility in its insistence on materials and denial of representational or figurative subject matter, her works also reject the exaltation of the male gesture, a core tenet of many of the Abstract Expressionist artists with whom she is often compared. In response to their fevered action painting, Martin adopted a more meditative approach to non-representational painting, an exercise that led her to the adoption of the grid. In 1989, Martin remarked, “Well, when I first made a grid I happened to be thinking of the innocence of trees [laughs] and then this grid came into my mind and I thought it represented innocence, and I still do, and so I painted it and then I was satisfied.” (Agnes Martin, interview conducted 15 May 1989 by Suzan Campbell, transcript in Archives of American Art, The Smithsonian Institution, Washington, D.C.)  Untitled #12 belongs to the latter half of Martin’s career, a pinnacle phase, in which, after decades of experimentation, she solidified her visual vernacular into the now instantly recognizable grid. As beautifully embodied in Untitled #12, Martin’s geometric logic in her best known works allowed for an infinite exploration of subtle nuances in line and color palette, as well as represented a unique collapsing of the mediums of painting and drawing.

Between 1996, when Untitled #12 was executed, and her death just eight years later, Martin received numerous awards and accolades, including the Golden Lion for Lifetime Achievement Award, the Distinguished Artist Award for Lifetime Achievement from the College Art Association, the National Medal of Arts from then President Bill Clinton, among many others; her work was also exhibited by several important galleries and museums including The Whitney Museum of American Art, the Anthony d’Offay Gallery and PaceWildenstein, where Untitled #12 was purchased by Saretta Barnet. Untitled #12 is an archetypal work from this final decade of Martin’s life, when her trademark style became canonized by various art authorities and institutions worldwide. This work’s inclusion in the collection of Howard and Saretta Barnet, discerning collectors and endlessly generous philanthropists, underscores its status as a true object of beauty.

Contemporary Art Evening Auction

|
New York