Made in New York

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In the drama of postwar art, there is no greater stage than New York City. From the bravura days of Abstract Expressionism to the movements that followed – Pop, Minimalism, Conceptualism and beyond, New York has been the de facto destination for generations of driven, talented people. For a taste of the vibrant diversity of artists whose work New York helped foster, click ahead to the featured works from Sotheby's upcoming Evening and Day sales of Contemporary Art.

Contemporary Art Evening Auction
11 November | New York

Contemporary At Day Auction
12 November | New York

Image: Keith Haring. Photograph by Nick Elgar © CORBIS ©The Estate of Keith Haring

Made in New York

  • Frank Stella, Untitled, 1961. Estimate: $500,000–700,000.
    Inspired by his New York School heroes, Stella moved to the city immediately after graduating from Princeton; he quickly garnered a level of acclaim uncommon for such a young artist. Untitled , 1961, displays his quintessential style, its compositional energy surging toward the centre of the canvas. A career retrospective is on view through 7 February at the Whitney Museum.

  • Louise Bourgeois, Spider, 1994. Estimate: $4,000,000–6,000,000.
    In her art, Bourgeois drew from her childhood in France, but she spent much of her long life in New York, where she immigrated in 1938 and lived until her death in 2010. With her American husband, she bought a town house on West 20th Street in 1961; widowed in 1973, Bourgeois transformed it into her studio, where she conceived of her psychologically charged works such as Spider , 1994, in which three egg-shaped forms nestle in a maternal, cage-like embrace.

  • Jackson Pollock, Number 17, 1949, 1949. Estimate: $20,000,000–30,000,000.
    Pollock, who headed east from California in 1930 to study at the famed Art Students League, personifies the brashness of the midcentury artist in New York, where, he said, “living is keener, more demanding,” than in the West. This heady atmosphere nurtured the radical ideas that helped birth an entirely new way of painting. With its webs of paint woven in intricate layers, Number 17, 1949 , displays spontaneity and mastery – typical of Pollock at his best.

  • Willem de Kooning, Sagamore, 1955. Estimate: $3,000,000–4,000,000.
    Part of de Kooning’s Abstract Urban Landscapes series, Sagamore , 1955, references the name of a downtown coffee shop not far from the artist’s studio. The work displays de Kooning’s vigorous ambition in tackling the abstract possibilities of the landscape after completing his now-iconic Woman series the same year.

  • Jean-Michel Basquiat, Hannibal, 1982. Estimate: $8,000,000–12,000,000.
    Brooklyn-born Jean-Michel Basquiat’s distinctive hand-lettering once widely adorned the gritty blocks of downtown New York in the late 1970s, when he was a part of the graffiti group SAMO. Those signature enigmatic word fragments fill the orange background of Hannibal , 1982, which is framed by extended black supports, lashed together at each corner.

  • Andy Warhol, Flowers, 1964. Estimate: $2,200,000–3,200,000.
    Few artists made an impact on New York's art scene like Warhol. Whether it was partying with his Superstars at Studio 54, or creating his iconic silkscreen paintings, such as the Flowers series, in his Factory on East 47th Street, Warhol's every action was in and of the city.

  • Helen Frankenthaler, Cloister, 1964. Estimate: $200,000–300,000.
    The gentle curving shape at the centre of Frankenthaler’s Cloister , 1964, derives its form from a New York institution: The Cloisters, whose medieval arched stone windows came from a disassembled European abbey imported to the city just before World War II. Frankenthaler’s subtle, luminous washes of paint were a significant precursor to Color Field painting.

  • Keith Haring, Untitled, 1983. Estimate: $80,000–120,000.
    Haring’s graffiti-inflected work first appeared in the New York subway system in the 1980s, and he quickly became one of the city’s most visible public artists. His simplified figures are often surrounded by kinetic, radiating lines, making them instantly recognisable. Untitled , 1983, features a common motif of his work: Human silhouettes merging with an alligator-like creature.

  • Richard Estes, Times Square at 3:53 P.M., Winter, 1985. Estimate: $300,000–400,000.
    Throughout his multi-decade career Estes has remained committed to Photorealism with New York as his constant muse. In Times Square at 3:35 P.M., Winter , 1985, he meticulously renders one of the Manhattan’s most hectic public places as eerily serene. Fascinating in their verisimilitude, Estes’s paintings also function as historical documents of a constantly evolving city.

  • Sol LeWitt, A Photo of Central Manhattan with The Area Between Herald Square, Madison Square, Washington Square and Union Square Cut Out, 1977. Estimate: $10,000–15,000.
    With his commitment to geometric forms, it's not surprising that pioneering conceptual artist Sol LeWitt responded to the structure of Manhattan's grid system. For this 1977 work , he started with an aerial photograph of Manhattan, excising the area between four landmarks: Herald Square, Madison Square, Washington Square and Union Square. A bit of a geometrical joke, the artist has thus managed to form a trapezoid out of four “squares.”

  • Lucas Samaras, Box #13, 1964. Estimate: $100,000–150,000.
    As a young artist in the late 1950s, Samaras participated in Happenings, live events organised by his former teacher Allan Kaprow. He evolved into a maker of personal, intimate but no less theatrical art, from his Polaroid self-portraits to his Surrealist inspired Box sculptures, often using everyday materials with uncanny results. Box #13 , 1964, features colourful textile scraps filling a drawer and a green-tinted photograph of a face, partially visible through a Plexiglas top.

  • Mickalene Thomas, Come With Me, Now I Need You, 2007. Estimate: $60,000–80,000.
    Thomas studied art at the Pratt Institute in Brooklyn, where she still lives and works. Come With Me, Now I Need You , 2007, which glitters with rhinestones affixed to the painted surface and featuring a glamourous female surrounded by patterned textiles, wood paneling and other hallmarks of 1970s interior design, has the look of a still from a Blaxploitation film – movies often set in New York City.

  • Cy Twombly, Untitled (New York City), 1968. Estimate Upon Request.
    Although Cy Twombly spent most of his life in Italy, the American-born artist travelled frequently to New York for extended periods in the late 1960s and early 1970s. The cool gray tones and repetitive gestures of Untitled (New York City) suggest the influence of Minimalism and Conceptualism, then the prevailing styles of the New York avant grade.



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