Outstanding Auction Results for Bay Area Consignors

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Amid the city’s rich museum culture and innovative art scene, Sotheby’s San Francisco office is an important resource for collectors, museums and consignors throughout Northern California. From an ancient Egyptian pharaoh sculpture to manuscipt notes by Chairman Mao, a range of remarkable artworks, jewels and objects sourced in the Bay Area have achieved impressive results at auction. Click ahead to read the stories behind our favourite works with San Francisco provenance. 

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Outstanding Auction Results for Bay Area Consignors

  • Zhang Ruitu, Eighteen Luohan. Sold at Sotheby’s New York for $2,230,000.
    Zhang Ruitu excelled in calligraphy. His figure paintings are especially rare. This album of twenty-eight leaves was once a treasured possession of the famous late Qing dynasty antiquarian Ha Shaofu (1856–1934) who pledged to neither lend nor sell the artwork within his lifetime. According to Yang Shoujing’s colophon inscription in the back of the album, "Japanese collectors once bid more than a thousand pieces of gold in exchange for the album but were rejected.” At auction Eighteen Luohan fetched more than three times its high estimate. 

  • Lucio Fontana, Concetto Spaziale, 1961. Sold at Sotheby’s New York for $8,986,000.
    Lucio Fontana’s Concetto Spaziale exemplifies the spirit of the 1960s space race and quest to travel to the moon. Indeed 1961, the year of this painting’s creation, was the year Russian astronaut Yuri Gagarin became the first human to travel into space. In the present work, a silver orb, reminscient of the moon, is suspended in sleek blackness and orbited by an incised triple halo. In many ways, this work is a philosophical response the humankind's liberation from the bounds of earth through technological advancement.  

  • A Fragmentary Egyptian Red Granite head of Amenhotep III. Sold at Sotheby's New York for $1,330,000.
    The 38 year-long reign of Amenhotep III produced a rich and stylistic variety of the sculptures. The present work is part of from a well-defined group of life-size sculptures of the king made in pink granite, which feature a distinct treatment of the eyes. Instead of the usual long extended eyebrow characteristic of representations of Egyptian kings, these heads have a more naturally treated, arched eyebrow. Similarly, the upper eyelid is depicted folding over the lower one at the outer edge of the eye, suggestive of aging skin. Exceedingly rare, this sculpture reached over five times its high estimate at auction in 2015. 

  • Bruce Nauman, Fox Wheel, 1990. Sold at Sotheby’s New York for $1,335,000.
    Simultaneously alluring and unsettling, Bruce Nauman’s Fox Wheel articulates the artist’s career-long investigation of existential dichotomies of life and death, pleasure and pain, beauty and perversion. Suspended in a counterclockwise circle of perpetual motion, the nine cast-bronze beasts of Fox Wheel are also among the artist’s series of animal sculptures based on taxidermy molds. 

  • Sapphire and Diamond Ring. Sold at Sotheby's New York for $975,000.
    This ravishing sapphire possesses the quintessential, richly saturated blue colour that distinguishes sapphires of Classic Kashmir origin. At auction, this emerald cut sapphire, offset by diamonds, more than doubled its high estimate in December of 2017. 

  • Mao Zedong, Autograph Manuscript Notes. Sold at Sotheby’s London for £704,750.
    This collection of historical notes reveal Mao Zedong's continued love of poetry and literature well into the last years of his life. A voracious reader, Mao also wrote poetry throughout his life. When Mao's eyesight began to fail him in his last years, Di Lu, a classical Chinese scholar from Mao's native Hunan, was brought to visit Mao and talk with him about poetry and classical literature. These unique manuscript notes are the fruits of those meetings and reveal valuable insights into Mao's thinking on literature and the intersection of poetry and politics. These unique papers fetched nearly ten times their high estimate at auction in 2017. 

  • Pieter Brueghel the Younger, Summer, 1600. Sold at Sotheby’s for $5,205,000.
    Pieter Brueghel the Younger's interpretation of Summer signed and dated 1600 is perhaps the best preserved and probably the earliest of all his twenty variations on the subject. In this work, Brueghel the Younger quotes from his father, Pieter Breugel the Elder, referencing bothThe Harvesters and a drawing of 1568 in the collection of the Hamburg Kunsthalle, Kupferstichkabinett. The effects of Brueghel the Younger's compositional choices imbue the picture with an overall feeling of calm, organised communal labor in an open and idyllic setting. Summer establishes the artist as a thoughtful and deliberate interpreter of his father's work and at auction nearly doubled its estimate. 

  • Maxfield Parrish, Two Cooks and a Haggis. Sold in Sotheby’s New York for $1,570,000.
    Maxfield Parrish began his career as an illustrator at age 25 and quickly realised substantial success in the profession. Parrish's skill and vivid imagination allowed him to work in a multitude of genres including magazine covers, advertisements, posters and book illustrations. The exquisitely detailed imagery he produced granted his work a lasting appeal that has endured for generations. At auction in 2015, the whimsical Two Cooks and a Haggis more than tripled its high estimate. 



     

  • Glenn Ligon, White #2, 1993. Sold at Sotheby’s New York for $2,530,000.
    Glenn Ligon’s monumental White #2 from 1993 is the second work from the artist’s series of White paintings. The present work borrows text from the film theorist Richard Dyer’s 1988 essay “White,” which investigated the invisibility of cultural representations of whiteness. As Ligon explained, “One of the claims that Dyer makes is that whiteness is very difficult to analyse because it operates as the norm, and so things that seem normal are very difficult to see, but that things that seem special or different seem glaringly visible." Engaging this very dichotomy of visibility and invisibility through process, Ligon used a plastic alphabet stencil to repeatedly paint over each letter of Dyer’s words, then rubbed over the text with a black oil stick, forcing the viewer to struggle to decipher the words. 

  • Richard Diebenkorn, Two Women At Table, 1963. Sold at Sotheby’s New York for $2,530,000.
    Richard Diebenkorn embraced the grand art historical tradition of figuration at the very moment when many of his generation disavowed representational art. In Two Women at Table of 1963, two female figures face each other, engaged in conversation. The features of the facing woman’s are blurred, as though in motion, and the figures are surrounded by an enigmatic darkness. Matisse’s influence is readily apparent here with Diebenkorn’s visual description of space harkening to iconic works such as French Window at Collioure (1914),  while the striped skirt of the central figure in Two Women at Table is a direct homage to Matisse’s Grande Odalisque à culotte bayadère (1925). Two Women at Table is exemplar of the artist's unprecedented marriage between the fundamentals of abstraction and figuration.  

  • Cartier, Platinum And Diamond Ring. Sold at Sotheby’s New York for $1,000,000.
    This stunning Cartier ring features a cushion-cut diamond weighing 15.04 carats and is flanked by diamond-set rows of round diamonds weighing approximately 1.25 carats. This luminous jewel from a San Francisco consignor inspired active bidding at auction in 2015, fetching above its high estimate. 

  • Arnold Lee
    Jiang Zhaohe, Flower Girl. Sold at Sotheby's Hong Kong for HK$4,780,000.
    Jiang Zhaohe played a leading role the development of Chinese figure painting during the 20th century. Born in Luzhou, Sichuan Province, Jiang Zhaohe moved to Shanghai in 1920 where worked in advertising and clothing design. Jiang studied with established masters including Xu Beihong and Qi Baishi, but independently set about studying Western Art. His incorporation of Western concepts to the tenants of traditional Chinese painting was influential to generations of artists that followed him.  

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