NEW YORK AND LONDON - The downtown Manhattan art scene of the early 2000s spawned a variety of brash young talents, and several of them made a splash this past year at Sotheby’s New York’s Contemporary Art Evenings.
Dan Colen's 53rd & 3rd (2008) sold for $1,085,000 in May at Sotheby’s.
Dan Colen started 2013 with a one-man exhibition of fantastical art inspired by Disney’s Fantasia and British Fairy Painting at the Lower East Side Oko Gallery; he was also featured in group shows at the Gagosian Galleries in London and Hong Kong. One of his iconic chewing-gum paintings, 53rd & 3rd (2008), went for $1,085,000 in May at Sotheby’s, which then sold the genre-jumping artist’s graffiti-esque painting on plywood, Holy Shit (2006), in November for $341,000.
Nate Lowman had a good year too, beginning with a one-man show at collector Peter Brant’s private museum in Greenwich, Connecticut. In May Black Escalade (2005), a major exemplar of the bullet-hole imagery Lowman employed early in his career to spotlight America’s penchant for violence, brought $665,000 at Sotheby’s. Lowman, who once shared a studio with Colen, also shares his old friend’s pop culture aesthetic; in recent paintings he’s been ringing bemused changes on the ubiquitous smiley-face emoticon.
The Bruce High Quality Foundation's Hooverville (2012) sold at Sotheby’s for $425,000.
The Bruce High Quality Foundation, a Brooklyn-based collective of artists who prefer to remain anonymous, often takes erudite satirical aim at high-art institutions – which didn’t deter the Brooklyn Museum from hosting a retrospective of their work this past summer. The Bruces (as they’re informally known) opened a new show, a series of riffs on Greek and Roman antiquities titled “Meditations,” at two Manhattan locations on November 8, just five days before the ghostly silkscreen Hooverville (2012) sold at Sotheby’s for $425,000. All this and a full-page feature in the Sunday New York Times too!
Of course the New York Contemporary Art Evening sales weren’t all about artists under 40. Another important work featured in November was by Sherrie Levine, who made the transition from “emerging” to “established” way back in 1981, when her solo show, After Walker Evans, announced Levine as the most intellectually challenging of the young photographers exploring appropriation and recontextualization as an artistic strategy. Levine has been creating sculptures in recent years, and her cast bronze Caribou Skull (2006) sold at Sotheby’s for $725,000.
The emergence of young artists to the Evening sale was also apparent in London. Multiculturalism comes as naturally to today’s artists as experiments in multiple media and genres, a fact that was underscored by some of the most striking works in the 2013 Contemporary Art Evening auctions at Sotheby’s London.
Born and educated in Romania, Adrian Ghenie divides his time between Cluj and Berlin. His art often explores grim moments in European history, spilling, scraping, and layering paint over archival sources to create expressionistic images combining figuration and abstraction. Dr. Mengele 2 (2011), which sold at Sotheby’s in February for £121,250, is a characteristic, multi-textured portrait from a series exploring the Nazis’ perversion of science. Ghenie had solo shows in 2013 at New York’s Pace Gallery and the Denver Museum of Contemporary Art.
Hurvin Anderson's Untitled Beach Scene (2003) sold for £302,500 at Sotheby’s in June.
Hurvin Anderson was born in the U.K. to parents of Jamaican descent, and his vibrantly colored paintings mingle those two cultures, depicting both English and Caribbean interiors and landscapes with the sense of dual identity so common in the modern world. A fine example of his unique perspective – Untitled Beach Scene (2003), painted after a trip to Trinidad – went for £302,500 at Sotheby’s in June. Anderson closed out 2013 with simultaneous exhibitions at the Thomas Dane Gallery in London and at IKON in his native Birmingham.
Oscar Murillo's Champagne (2011) sold at Sotheby’s for £212,500 in October.
Even when his subject is as closely associated with the high life as Champagne (2011), Colombian-born Oscar Murillo favors rough-hewn canvas and such humble materials as spray paint and dirt from his London studio – which didn’t keep this energetic collage from being hammered down at Sotheby’s for £212,500 in October. A recent exhibition at the South London Gallery spotlighted Murillo’s multimedia zest, mingling paintings with drawings, sculptures, films, and even (artist-designed) lottery tickets; he will have another one-man show in spring 2014 at the David Zwirner Gallery in New York.