Masterpieces of Abstract Expressionism From a Distinguished American Collection


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By the time Sidney and Dorothy Kohl decided to form a collection of Abstract Expressionism, the paintings they set out to find were not more than 25 years old. It is as if a collector today was looking for the best of the 1990’s. New York by 1970 had seen Pop Art, Minimalism and Conceptualism but it also retained an acute consciousness of the heroes of the earlier years. Such shows as Henry Geldzahler’s New York Painting and Sculpture: 1940-1970 at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in 1969-1970 only encouraged that interest.

At the same time, prominent collectors such as Robert Scull and Gov. Nelson Rockefeller started to sell some of their AbEx holdings at Parke Bernet Galleries (lots 7 and 8) and prices were being established on the public market. Even Clyfford Still and his wife consigned a painting to auction which found its way, via the Marlborough Gallery, into the Kohl collection (lot 14).  So for the alert and astute collector, there were many opportunities to find major works. What is interesting to note is that these paintings were no longer easy to buy. Police Gazette by Willem de Kooning made $180,000 in the Scull sale in October 1973 and when we reviewed the invoices of the Kohl collection, it became evident that they had to pay comparable amounts to acquire works of great quality. They also enlisted John Lloyd (Jack) Taylor, director of exhibitions at the Milwaukee Art Museum from 1967-1972 and an expert on Abstract Expressionism, to help them locate prime examples of the artists that they were looking for. They bought from the major dealers at the time such as Martha Jackson, Marlborough, Allan Stone and André Emmerich as well as many works directly from the artists.

This selection of eight paintings from the still extensive Kohl collection represents a brilliant panorama of the power and cohesiveness of American Abstract Expressionism.

The collection will be on exhibition in New York starting 1 November 2012, and the works will be offered in the Contemporary Art Evening Auction in New York on 13 November 2012.