The Leslie & Johanna Garfield Collection: A Celebration of Prints Evening Sale
Live Auction: 18 October 2023 • 6:00 PM EDT • New York

The Leslie & Johanna Garfield Collection: A Celebration of Prints Evening Sale 18 October 2023 • 6:00 PM EDT • New York

S otheby’s is honored to present the Leslie & Johanna Garfield Collection of prints at auction across several sales in New York and London in 2023 and 2024. The Garfields’ devotion to amassing an in-depth survey of fine prints and their steadfast commitment to art-related foundations was exceptional.

Leslie & Johanna Garfield

By Heather Hess, Curator

These sales celebrate the extraordinary legacy of Leslie and Johanna Garfield’s obsession with prints. They had expansive eyes and were always open to new artists to complement their deep holdings of American woodcuts, British modernists, Jasper Johns, David Hockney, and British Pop. Over their lifetimes, they acquired more than 6,000 works on paper (plus a few paintings and sculptures), all because, as Jo once noted, “We just really liked them.”

Remarkably, their collecting adventure began by chance. Neither had familial nor professional connections to art: Leslie sold townhouses, and Jo was a writer. Jo explained, “This love of art— of prints— was completely spontaneous.” Leslie, then stationed in Germany, happened into a Munich shop, where he became entranced by a German Expressionist woodcut. He walked away, only to return the following weekend to remedy that mistake, unable to shake the object’s hold and prompting what he described as his "unbridled love of works on paper.”

The hunt continued in New York, as Leslie traversed galleries uptown and down looking for the next addition. Upon finding one potential new acquisition, he jotted in a diary, “Must show Jo!” Liking the prints was crucial, because they never bought anything with the intention of storing it away, although their later holdings exceeded what the walls of any New York apartment could accommodate, no matter how many sliding panels or shaded nooks for sheltering works on paper they devised.

They did not keep their discoveries to themselves, and shared their excitement with each other, with museum directors and curators, and with everyone they encountered in the print world, at parties, dinners, and fairs. Sometimes Leslie would see a print at the IFPDA Print Fair and buy one for himself and another for a museum. Sometimes, museums needed convincing. They spent twenty years championing the likes of the Provincetown printmakers (one of Jo’s discoveries, spotted when Leslie had his eye on something else) and Grosvenor School linocutters. They went on research trips to track down heirs and learn as much as they could about artists then ignored by both scholarship and the market. They bought voraciously and delighted in having multiple impressions and unique color variants that meant they were never truly finished collecting those artists. The Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, and the Metropolitan Museum of Art eventually took troves of those prints, but even then, Leslie could not resist buying some again. They cost a bit more the second time around.

So much of their collecting was driven by pure instinct. Their love of Johns came to Leslie like “a revelation” after seeing Flags I in the printer’s studio. With Richard Hamilton, which spawned their extensive collection of British Pop, an exhibition at the British Museum prompted them to look at each other “and there was a smile—a ‘yes.’” Sometimes, it was as simple as seeing a thumbnail in an auction catalog.

In that spirit, maybe this catalogue will spark others to start or deepen their own collection of prints. Jo and Leslie would have liked that.

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David Hockney

Flying over Los Angeles, most travelers are mesmerized by the glimmering boulevards of Hollywood and its environs. However, it was the kaleidoscopic light refracting from California’s ethereal swimming pools which captured a young David Hockney’s attention. “California did affect me very strongly, “ he recalled of his first visit in 1963, “As I flew over San Bernardino and [looked] down and saw the swimming pools and the houses and everything and the sun, I was more thrilled than I’ve ever been arriving at any other city…” [1] For someone accustomed to the cloudy skies of West Yorkshire, California’s sun-drenched coastal highways, lined by split-level homes with glistening sapphire pools, were a revelation.

Both man-made and natural sources of water inspired Hockney for decades to follow – swimming pools especially as they represented the tranquility and recreation which he so relished in American life. Sometimes placid, and sometimes rippling, often with sensuous curves and plunging depths, Los Angeles’ private pools offered interesting challenges for the artist. Upon moving to California in 1964, Hockney thoroughly studied each body of water he encountered. For instance, the 1964 lithograph Water Pouring Into Swimming Pool, Santa Monica (Scottish Arts Council 38; M.C.A.T. 38) depicts four different spouts, recording water’s role in both leisure and irrigation in Hockney’s new, semi-arid home. This accomplished lithograph, one of his first after a ten-year hiatus from the medium, corresponds with a 1965 painting, Different Kinds of Water Pouring into a Swimming Pool, Santa Monica (sold Sotheby’s London, March 2019, for £2,715,000). The painter-printmaker was constantly re-interpreting water on both paper and canvas, grappling with light, transparency, and reflection.

According to Hockney, “Water in swimming pools changes its look more than in any other form… But the look of swimming pools is controllable – even its colour can be manmade – and its dancing rhythms reflect not only the sky but, because of its transparency the depth of water as well. So I had to use techniques to represent this. If the water surface is almost still and there is a strong sun, then dancing lines with the colours of the spectrum appear everywhere”.[2] These rhythmic properties are best conveyed in the pulsing lines which comprise Lithographic Water Made of Lines and Crayon (M.C.A.T. 211) and Pool Made with Paper and Blue Ink for Book (M.C.A.T. 234). In each of these later prints, dated 1978-80, water makes up nearly the entire composition, allowing viewers to experience what Hockney referred to as the “language” of ripples and splashes.

[1] As quoted in: Walker, John Albert, Cultural Offensive: America’s Impact on British Art Since 1945,’ United Kingdom, Pluto Press, 1998.

[2] Nikos Stangos, Ed., David Hockney by David Hockney, London 1976, p. 104.

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The Grosvenor School

Founded in 1925, during a most turbulent period in Britain’s history, the Grosvenor School of Modern Art revived the country’s interest in printmaking. The School’s distinctively vibrant, dynamic views of everyday life in frenetic London and its environs, greatly inspired by Futurism, Cubism, and Vorticism, delighted the British public during the Interwar years. Led by lecturer Claude Flight, students and staff members of the Grosvenor School, including Sybil Andrews, Cyril Power, and Lill Tschudi, favored the color linoleum cut print, considering it the perfect mode of expression. They found the punchy graphics rendered by this technique ideal for depicting the utopian, modernized country Britain was striving to become.

Jeff Koons’ Gazing Ball Series

In his Gazing Ball series from 2017, Jeff Koons pairs masterworks from art history with a mirrored, cobalt blue gazing ball, making tangible the transcendental exchange that occurs between artwork and viewer.

In conceiving the Gazing Ball print series, Koons imagined the prints’ reflective element as being perfectly flat and almost imperceptibly thin. To meet these criteria, he collaborated with the research lab at Corning, a 166-year-old company with unparalleled expertise in glass science and optical physics. The result, produced by the Corning Specialty Glass Plant in Bagneaux sur Loing, France, is a custom-poured, optically perfect, one-millimeter thick circle of mirrored cobalt blue glass.

The cobalt orbs serve a hypnotic purpose as they reflect the onlookers’ physicality, superimposing the present-day onto art historical icons. According to Koons, the gazing balls are “devices of connecting. I want to participate, I always just wanted to be involved in a dialogue with the avant garde. This is my family, these are the artists that I have interest in, the joy that has enriched my life.” This juxtaposition of past and present guides the viewer into these masterpieces, all while making the viewer’s own role in engaging in and experiencing them unavoidable.

Koons’s intervention thus invites a dialogue about the meaning of time and how we can transcend it. “This experience is about you,” says Koons, “your desires, your interests, your participation, your relationship with this image.” In the Gazing Ball series, the act of viewing these pieces is as essential to understanding them as their own objective histories.

Jeff Koons quoted in "‘These are Works That I Enjoy’: Jeff Koons On His Amazing Blue Balls, M. H. Miller, ARTnews, 9 Nov 2016

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Contemporary British Printmakers

Jasper Johns

Together, 1st Etchings and 1st Etchings, 2nd State provide a remarkable glimpse into the prolific draftsmanship and conceptual vision that have characterized Jasper Johns’s titanic career for over six decades. Executed in 1967 and 1967-1969 respectively, the two portfolios lay bare the mastery that has cemented Johns’s place alongside Dürer, Rembrandt, Goya, Munch, and Picasso as one of the greatest printmakers of any era.

Consistent throughout 1st Etchings and 1st Etchings, 2nd State are careful renderings of some of Johns’s most recognizable motifs: the flags, ale cans, numbers, and paint brushes that form his signature visual lexicon. Referred to as “things the mind already knows,” Johns’s found objects were carefully chosen because of their ubiquity in everyday life, thus allowing him to perform controlled examinations on form and meaning [1]. The objects that are presented here as early print versions have also been explored by Johns in other media, be it sculpture, painting, or drawing. These variations on a theme speak to the curiosity and precision that are integral to Johns’s approach to printmaking. Careful changes to ink tonalities, paper formats, and plate placements reveal a relentless pursuit of experimentation with recognizable iconography.

Embodying the Duchampian spirit of appropriating and recontextualizing forms, 1st Etchings and 1st Etchings, 2nd State are rich surveys of Jasper Johns’s influential oeuvre. Johns’s repeated manipulations of found objects epitomize an innovative style of representation that helped to usher in the Pop, Minimal, and Conceptual Art movements. Across the two present portfolios, Johns tests the visual possibilities of printmaking; the resulting close studies are achievements that are demanding and rewarding in equal measure.

[1] Jasper Johns quoted in Leo Steinberg, "Jasper Johns: The First Seven Years of His Art", in Other Criteria (New York: Oxford University Press, 1972; first pub'd in Metro, Nos. 4 /5 , 1962, and by George Wittenborn, New York, 1963), pp. 31

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Derrick Adams

"I feel more than ever that it is essential for artists to make work that celebrates Black culture. As a Black man, I am aware of my vulnerability and susceptibility to trauma and oppression on a daily basis...there are images that are less important for us to see than images of joy."
– Derrick Adams, quoted in Salon 94 Style Variations exhibition text/press release Derrick Adams | Style Variations

Mel Bochner

The son of a sign painter, Mel Bochner’s precise yet unconventional approach has cemented his place as a pioneer of Conceptual art. His interrogation of the linguistic breaks down the barriers of public discourse in order to shed light on language’s capacity for rage and disingenuity. For Bochner, printmaking is how he makes tangible the fickleness of meaning and the mercurial nature of speech: “I thought of prints as a way of disseminating ideas. A lot of the work I was doing at the time was ephemeral. Prints were a way to help ideas survive the world.” (Mel Bochner, quoted in ‘Pushing the Boundaries: A Conversation Between Mel Bochner and Jan Howard’ from Amazing!: Mel Bochner Prints, p. 239)

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