In Celebration of the Beat Generation – William S. Burroughs Gunshot Paintings Highlight Property from the Estate of Steven Harrison Lowe at Bonhams & Butterfields in October

. October 20, 2007

A collection of original paintings, drawings, manuscripts and photographs by William S. Burroughs and other Beat artists from the Palm Springs area Estate of Steven Harrison Lowe are to be exhibited this weekend at Bonhams & Butterfields in Los Angeles, a press preview opens Thursday, Oct. 18, 2007 prior to their offering at the auction of Fine Books & Manuscripts on Tuesday, October 22, 2007.

From the early 1970s until 1997, Steven Lowe was an assistant to and collaborator with author, artist, cultural phenom and outcast William S. Burroughs. The two men enjoyed a long friendship and created art pieces, many of which were shown in the 1980s and 1990s at Casa Sin Nombre, Lowe’s art gallery in Santa Fe. The October 22 auction features more than 60 lots of books, manuscripts, and artwork from Lowe’s collection, which, until his untimely death this year, had been on exhibit in his boutique hotel in Desert Hot Springs, CA, the Beat Hotel.

Featured highlights from the Estate of Steven Harrison Lowe include: several ink, paint and bullet hole works, such as Shotgun Portrait 38 Special by Burroughs and Steven Lowe (est. $1,200/1,800); Grief, an acrylic on canvas with Burroughs’ inscription on the reverse (est. $700/900); an interesting device called a Dreamachine designed and created by Burroughs and alleged to induce a trance-like state in the user when operational (est. $2/3,000); several large format works on canvas – some mixed-media pieces considered provocative by Burroughs; and an original photograph of Allen Ginsberg by Burroughs, with a lengthy inscription by Ginsberg (est. $2,500/3,500).

William S. Burroughs was born in the Midwest, and graduated from Harvard with an art degree in 1936. He was often a rascal, notorious for his addiction to heroin, and the shooting of his wife at a party in Mexico (the so-called “William Tell” incident). He’d worked and played in Vienna, Paris, London, Tangiers, Chicago, Mexico, and New York before finally retiring to Lawrence, Kansas in the 1990s, where he died. He stood the literary establishment on its ear in 1959 with the publication of his Beat classic Naked Lunch.

During the 1980s, Burroughs combined his predilection for firearms with his desire to paint. His “gunshot paintings” were nearly as controversial in the art world as Naked Lunch had been in the literary world decades earlier. “Burroughs’ artwork is as dark and challenging as his fiction,” says Dr. Catherine Williamson, director of Fine Books & Manuscripts at Bonhams US. “It’s always interesting—and occasionally disturbing—to see how writers create and manipulate images rather than words to create art.”

Also on the auction block is a collection of Mickey Spillane’s original typed manuscripts, including the pages for his first novel, I, The Jury. Though vilified during his writing career for his use of gratuitous sex and violence, Mickey Spillane’s literary reputation has recently undergone a critical overhaul, his work taking its rightful place in the canon of American detective fiction. The Sid Graedon Collection on offer features manuscripts of 14 Spillane novels, plus page proofs, galley proofs, correspondence, and material dating from Spillane’s early writing career.

Sid Graedon was a marketing executive at New American Library, Spillane’s paperback publishers. The two men enjoyed a lasting friendship, and over many years, Spillane gifted these original manuscripts to his friend—which, no doubt, is the reason they still exist, as during his lifetime Spillane lost one home to fire and another to Hurricane Hugo.

A highlight of the collection is Spillane’s original manuscript of his first novel, I, The Jury, introducing Mike Hammer (est. $15,000/20,000) and his manuscripts of Vengeance is Mine! (est. $15/20,000); The Big Kill (est. $10/15,000); Kiss Me Deadly (est. $5/7,000) and others should attract collector interest.

Also on preview and to be offered on Oct 22: a copy of Gone With the Wind signed by nearly the entire speaking cast of the feature film, as well as its producer David O. Selznick and director Victor Fleming (est. $40/60,000); historical documents signed by John Hancock appointing a Revolutionary War naval captain who would later be court-martialed; multiple first editions of classic literature, typed and signed JFK letters from his term in Congress and rare hand-corrected pages from Ayn Rand’s screenplay for The Fountainhead (est. $5/7,000).

Category: Auction News

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