Auction PR Publicity Announcements News and Information
Auction PR Publicity Announcements News and Information

Artwork from Peter Howard’s bookstore to highlight Bonhams Made In California auction

Bonhams is pleased offer several artworks from the Serendipity Bookstore in Berkeley, CA on May 21 during its ‘Made in California: Post-War & Contemporary Art’ auction. Highlights from the collection will include “Untitled (Magic Mountain),” 1955 (est. $10,000-15,000) by noted San Francisco artist, Jess (Collins).

Peter Howard [1939-2011] of the landmark Bay Area Serendipity Books has been eulogized as “one of the most imaginative booksellers of his generation.” Howard stocked not only individual titles but entire collections. The bookstore on University, for those who never crossed its threshold, was a warren of rooms filled to the roof with titles from the mundane and popular to the erudite and obscure. Howard wanted people to search for their books, looking carefully and hopefully finding not only what they were looking for, but far more. The noted store was also filled with works of art, memorabilia and pop culture from legendary artists and prominent figures of the 20th century.

Known simply as Jess, the artist is known for his heavily laid-on paint in a paint-by-number style, use of illustrations and comic strips as well as themes that include alchemy, chemistry, the occult and male beauty.
Born in Long Beach, CA, in 1923, Jess was drafted into the military during WWII. He worked on the Manhattan Project until his discharge in 1946. Following this, Jess continued his career at the Hanford Atomic Energy Project, Richland, WA. In his spare time he painted and eventually left the field of atomic energy to pursue the arts.

Beginning in 1949, Jess began to study at what is now the San Francisco Art Institute. Shortly following this, he met poet Robert Duncan and began a lifelong relationship. Over the course of his career, Jess opened a venue for alternative art in San Francisco called the King Ubu Gallery.
Leading the Serendipity offering in the ‘Made in California: Post-War & Contemporary Art’ auction are four works by Jess including “Untitled (Magic Mountain),” 1955, a paper collage in the original artist’s frame (est. $10,000-15,000); “Aurora,” c. 1955, a gui crayon on paperboard on metallic paper in the artist’s frame (est. $3,000-5,000); “On Corbett’s Dismissal,” an oil on canvas in the original artist’s frame (est. $5,000-7,000) and “Arising at Dawn,” 1955, an oil on canvas work (est. $15,000-20,000). This painting features a handwritten note by Jess affixed to the reverse which reads: “You are not forgot, O plunder of lilies, honey is not more sweet then the salt stretch of your beach.” “The Shrine,” Sea Garden, H.D. [Hilda Doolittle].

Additional property from Serendipity Books will be offered by Bonhams throughout 201d2 in the following auctions: Fine Photography in New York on May 8, Period Art & Design in San Francisco on April 15 and May 20, Fine Books and Manuscripts in New York on June 19 and Entertainment Memorabilia in Los Angeles on June 24.

The illustrated auction catalog for this sale will be available online for review and purchase at in the weeks preceding the sale.

San Francisco Preview: May 11-13
Los Angeles Preview: May 18-20
Auction: May 21, Los Angeles, simulcast to San Francisco