Made in California – Bonhams & Butterfields Announces Inaugural Sale for May 22, 2007

Auction Spotlights the Golden State’s Creativity

Auctioneers Bonhams and Butterfields present a new sale in May of 2007 showcasing the exceptional creativity of California’s leading artists. “Made in California” is Bonhams’ first sale dedicated to modern and contemporary California art –from the modernist painting of the mid-20th century to the genre-defying work of today, the sale features a wide range of media that illustrate the state’s distinctive contribution to the nation’s visual culture.

As the West Coast’s oldest and largest auctioneer, Bonhams & Butterfields has long been considered the preeminent source for Californian works of art. The California and American Art Department has consistently set record prices for artists from the early 20th century. Due in part to a robust art market, artists from the second half of the century are commanding exceptionally strong prices and surpassing auction records as well.

“The influence that the state has had on the rest of the art world goes beyond California Impressionism,” says specialist Holly Sherratt. “While our California and American Art Department does a great job of presenting more traditional landscapes and Western paintings, we see demand for a sale that includes the state’s modern, surrealist, abstract and conceptual artists.” Following on the heels of a successful 2006 auction season, Made in California strives to pick up where the California and American Art Department leaves off — giving the state’s modern and contemporary artists their due recognition.

With specialists in Los Angeles and San Francisco, the Modern and Contemporary Art Department has amassed an extraordinary collection to offer in the inaugural May 22nd sale. The auction will feature several key Bay Area Figurative artists including Joan Brown, Roland Petersen, Paul Wonner, Nathan Oliveira, William Theophilus Brown and Manuel Neri.

Manuel Neri’s sculpture from Prieta Series V, 1993 (est. $100/120,000) is one of the sale highlights. The bronze nude retains the characteristics of Neri’s early work, with abstract gestural brushwork on a mutilated bronze surface giving the figure an uncanny sense of power and energy. The sale also features two figurative paintings by the artist that were created with the same degree of energy and passion: Majic Act VIII, 1963, is an early mixed media work on masonite (est. $15/20,000) and JoIII, 1995, (est. $10/15,000) is a later mixed media work on paper.

Figures in a Golden Land, 1965, by Roland Petersen (est. $50/70,000) is another star lot of the auction. With thick impasto, brilliant colors, and slashing expressive brushstrokes, Petersen’s paintings are instantly recognizable yet consistently innovative. The solitary women in Golden Land are set in a colorful picnic scene that merges abstraction, figural and landscape elements in a sophisticated geometric composition. The California sunshine is masterfully captured on canvas in sharp contrasting colors.

Made in California includes the work of many important Southern California artists. Long a center of art production, Los Angeles has been home to numerous important West Coast artists and movements. Included in the sale is a signature late synchromous work by Stanton MacDonald Wright from 1962, Cockfight #2 (est. $10/15,000).

The Los Angeles County Museum of Art’s ground-breaking 1959 exhibition Four Abstract Classicists: Karl Benjamin, Lorser Feitelson, Frederick Hammersley and John McLaughlin garnered national attention for Los Angeles’ hard edge painting. The style is represented in the sale with a signature random sequence work from Karl Benjamin TG # 19 (est. $8/12,000). Also included are works by fellow artists of the period: Lorser Feitelson’s Still Life with Pears and Apples, 1957 (est. $3/5000), and Helen Lundeberg’s signature landscape from 1945, Rock (est. $3/5000).

X Sign for a Crucifixion, 1962 (est. $60/80,000), an early mixed media assemblage on panel, represents the work of conceptualist John Baldessari. Baldessari’s influence on several generations of Los Angeles artists, many now well-known in their own right, comes from the example of his innovative work, as well as his famous decades-long tenure as a teacher at the California Institute of the Arts and at UCLA.

The sale also highlights the work of later generations of Los Angeles artists including Claire Falkenstein, Ynez Johnston, Ron Davis, Peter Alexander, Billy Al Bengston, Ed Moses, Robert Graham and Ken Price, among others.

On May 22nd the auction will be simulcast in Los Angeles and San Francisco following the Modern and Contemporary Art auction that begins at 10am. Property from both sales will be on view in San Francisco on May 12-14 and in Los Angeles on May 18-21. The catalogue will be available online at in the weeks preceding the sale.