Bonhams Made in California: Contemporary Art auction breaks four world records

. April 4, 2013

Bonhams’ Made in California: Contemporary Art auction, held April 2 in Los Angeles, and simulcast to San Francisco, was a resounding success, breaking four world records for works by Ronald Davis, Ed Moses, Hassel Smith and Jack Zajac, and achieving $1.35 million with 90% of lots sold and 94% sold by value.

Sharon Goodman Squires, Director of the Made in California: Contemporary Art department at Bonhams said of the sale’s results, “We are extremely pleased with the results of this sale. Contemporary California Art is a dynamic and growing area and Bonhams is proud to be the only international auction house with a dedicated sale category in the area.”

Robert IrwinRobert Irwin (born 1928) The Lucky U, 1959 oil on canvas 70 1/4 x 83 1/4in (178.4 x 211.5cm)

The auction’s top lot was Robert Irwin’s oil on canvas painting entitled The Lucky U, 1959, which brought $152,500 (est. $100,000-150,000). It was part of Irwin’s first show ‘Recent Paintings By Robert Irwin’ at the Ferus Gallery in 1959, and reveals the esthetic as well as philosophical musings popular at the time amongst many of the artists at Ferus, including Craig Kauffman, Billy Al Bengston and Ken Price (whose work was also featured in this auction).

John Register’s Purple Chair, 1987, in oil on canvas, also sold very well in the sale, bringing $86,500 (est. $30,000-50,000) – the second highest record for his work at auction.

Breaking the world record for a Hassel Smith painting at auction, the Untitled Yellow, oil on canvas from 1960, brought $53,750; this price more than doubling its high estimate of $25,000.

Ed Moses’ Untitled oil on canvas, from 1957, generated great interest during the sale and sold extremely well, bringing $50,000 and also setting a new world record price for this artist’s work at auction. This widely admired early piece achieved more than four times its high estimate of $9,000.

Of great interest in the sale was Ruth Asawa’s Untitled (S.454, Hanging Six Interlocked Double Trumpets with Two Extra Trumpets), c. 1957, a three-dimensional hanging sculpture of brass wire, which brought $80,500 (est. $50,000-70,000). The price achieved demonstrates the current market interest for works by Asawa.

Charles Arnoldi’s Untitled, 1982, a colorful, three-dimensional acrylic, sticks and plywood piece, sold for $57,500 (est. $20,000-30,000), continuing Bonhams successful track record of selling Arnoldi’s work.

Achieving a record high price for a bronze sculpture at auction by Nathan Oliveira was a rare, large-scale sculpture, entitled Figure Three, 1982, which sold for $62,500 (est. $50,000-70,000). In addition to this sculpture, Oliveira’s 1962 oil painting Nude Stepping from the Carpet sold for $43,750.

Two cel-vinyl acrylic and dry pigment on canvas paintings by Ronald Davis fared very well in the sale. His Vee Wave, from Snapline II series, 1987, brought $35,000 (est. $10,000-15,000), breaking a world record for Davis’ work at auction. Davis’ Leidy, from his Checkerboard series, 1978, brought $23,750, past an estimate of $8,000-12,000.

Jack Zajac’s bronze Ram Skull with Broken Horn IV, 1962, brought $20,000 (est. $5,000-7,000) – the world record for a piece at auction by this artist.

Achieving the second highest price ever paid for his work at auction, Joe Goode’s Ocean Blue Series #25, 1989, an oil on panel painting, brought $20,000 (est. $8,000-12,000).

Of additional note, beloved Bay Area artist Raimonds Staprans’ Sunshine Case with a Lonely Persimmon, 2000, in oil on canvas, brought a strong result of $43,750 (est. $25,000-35,000), and Joan Brown’s Untitled, 1961, in acrylic, tempera, charcoal, graphite, glue and collage on paper sold for $20,000, beyond an estimate of $6,000-8,000. Brown’s work was among several by female contemporary artists in the sale, such as Ruth Asawa, Jay DeFeo and Judy Chicago, to sell impressively.

The next Made in California: Contemporary Art auction will take place October 21 at Bonhams in Los Angeles, simulcast to San Francisco. Its illustrated catalog will be available online in the weeks preceding the sale, for review and purchase at

Category: Auction News

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