Contemporary Art

Remarkable Provenance Lends Sparkle to Pivotal Rauschenberg Combine

By Lucius Elliott

O ver the course of 50 years, from 1941 to 1991, Victor and Sally Ganz built one of the greatest collections of twentieth century art on the planet. Anchored by a selection of exquisite works by Pablo Picasso, including Les Femmes d’Alger, the current auction record for a work of art, the Ganzs were courageous and incisive in their acquisitions, buying works by such artists as Eva Hesse, Dorothea Rockburne, Mel Bochner and Richard Tuttle very early in their careers. However, the core of their post-war collection was comprised of works by Jasper Johns and Robert Rauschenberg, the first contemporary artists the Ganzs collected, with their first acquisitions in 1961 and 1963 respectively. These two artists, along with Frank Stella, reflect the Ganzs’ preference for works of astonishing austerity and power. They considered art at its best to be a challenge to the viewer, and so it was these artists, rather than the tradition progenitors of the American avant-garde, the Abstract Expressionists, that they chose to collect in depth.

ROBERT RAUSCHENBERG, RIGGER, 1961. ESTIMATE: $8,000,000–12,000,000.

Rigger (1961) in this May’s Contemporary Evening sale, was one of the great Combines in the Ganz collection. Merging the collage elements of Cubism with the gestural painterly style of the Abstract Expressionists, the weighty hanging element lends the disquieting potential for movement to an otherwise static work. A masterpiece from Rauschenberg’s most significant series, this work perfectly exemplifies Victor and Sally’s taste and style, and most importantly, their relentless desire to acquire the very best of a great artist’s work. A highlight of the Contemporary season, Rigger is not only one of the greatest works by Rauschenberg still in private hands but serves as an homage to the taste of two of the greatest collectors of the twentieth century.

 

LEAD IMAGE: PORTRAIT OF AMERICAN ARTIST ROBERT RAUSCHENBERG AS HE READS A NEWSPAPER IN A VACANT LOT NEAR HIS STUDIO, NEW YORK, NEW YORK, 15 JANUARY 1961. PHOTOGRAPHY BY FRED W MCDARRAH/GETTY IMAGES.

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