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Art Market

10 Standout Auction Lots on Artsy This Week: May 13, 2021

Cornelia Smith and Beatrice Sapsford
May 13, 2021 6:17PM

In this series, our Curatorial and Editorial teams offer a look at the auction lots we’re currently watching on Artsy. This selection includes hidden gems, popular works with the most bids, and promising lots from the latest auctions. Browse all of the auctions on Artsy, including lots by artists you follow, here.


Toyin Ojih Odutola, Birmingham (triptych) (2014/2015)

Toyin Ojih Odutola’s Birmingham (triptych), a limited-edition lithograph available in the latest Artsy x Rago / Wright “Post-War and Contemporary” sale, features portraits of the artist’s brother. Ojih Odutola frequently explores the nuances of the Black subject in her work, and uses simple materials such as ballpoint pen, pencil, and charcoal to create layered drawings in which narratives are pieced together. She continues to garner international acclaim for her work. Ojih Odutola’s touring solo exhibition “A Countervailing Theory” is currently on view at the Kunsten Museum of Modern Art in Aalborg, Denmark; the major show first appeared at the Barbican in London and will travel to the Hirshhorn in Washington, D.C., this fall.

Browse available works by Toyin Ojih Odutola.


Theaster Gates, Little Man Caught Between Genres (2017)

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This past winter, artist and social innovator Theaster Gates mounted his first solo exhibition in New York with Gagosian, where he showcased a wide selection of paintings, sculptures, sound, and performance pieces, with clay works featured prominently in each gallery. Though Gates has long worked with ceramics, his creation of masks are few and far between, making this piece an exceptional lot in the latest Artsy x Rago / Wright “Post-War and Contemporary” sale.

Browse available works by Theaster Gates.


Mahari Chabwera, Under Maya’s Bloom (2019)

Described by Mahari Chabwera as “ancestor reverence,” this intimate tapestry painting depicts three women embracing one another as snakes slither below their feet and flames lick the air around them. Flowers rain upon their glowing red bodies, which stand tall and strong amid the commotion. Chabwera’s careful use of oil, acrylic, and silver and gold foil makes this large-scale work wholly engaging to the viewer. The piece is available for purchase in the Washington Project for the Arts’s “40th Annual Collectors’ Night” benefit auction with a starting bid of $7,500.

Browse available works by Mahari Chabwera.


Ed Ruscha, Zoot Soot (2019)

Inspired by his 2015 homage to Richard Duardo, Ed Ruscha created this ambitious and remarkable silkscreen print with 35 layers of color—nearly triple the amount of color layers Ruscha has employed in previous prints. His detailed process beautifully mimics the texture of handmade paper. This edition of Zoot Soot is one of a limited set of 10 artist’s proofs, and is now available through P.S. ARTS’s 2021 benefit auction. Bids for this work are climbing and are expected to surpass the $6,000 estimate.

Browse available works by Ed Ruscha.


Kehinde Wiley, Louis XVI, The Sun King (2006)

Although Kehinde Wiley is primarily known for his painted portraits of Black Americans set against a colorful backdrop of florals or textile prints, his figurative works also extend beyond the canvas. His bust Louis XVI, The Sun King, available through Rago Auctions’s current sale of post-war and contemporary art, exemplifies Wiley’s ability to transform traditional motifs into contemporary subject matter. Cast in marble dust and resin, this bust has been attracting a wealth of attention, with the number of bids increasing threefold in a single day.

Browse available works by Kehinde Wiley.


March Avery, Sleeping Nude (1967)

There is a certain tranquility in March Avery’s minimalist paintings that lulls the viewer into a quiet space. From a distance, this particular painting looks like a landscape, the sloping curves of the figure resembling a snow-capped mountaintop. The closer one looks, however, the clearer the composition becomes. Subtle hints of blue outline the body and illuminate the head, and the scarlet field below becomes a blanket of crushed velvet. Sleeping Nude is currently available through Rago Auctions’s latest sale of post-war and contemporary art.

Browse available works by March Avery.


Cy Twombly, Triumph of Galatea May 1961 (Focene) (1961)

Cy Twombly often drew inspiration from Greek and Roman mythology. With this drawing, Twombly references a Raphael fresco of the same name, which portrays the apotheosis of the sea nymph Galatea. The red garments of Twombly’s Galatea are scratched in red crayon, abstracting Raphael’s portrait of the nymph standing atop a shell being pulled by two dolphins. The layered references to antiquity and Renaissance Italy embedded in this drawing demonstrate just how complex marks on a page can be, affirming Twombly’s enduring legacy in the art historical canon. This work, with an opening bid of $60,000, is available in Il Ponte’s “Modern and Contemporary Art” auction.

Browse available works by Cy Twombly.


Michèle Christine Colburn, Pyroclastic Surge (2020)

Michèle Christine Colburn’s explosive work has already exceeded its $1,800 estimate in the Washington Project for the Arts’s “40th Annual Collectors’ Night” benefit auction. Part of a larger series of gunpowder paintings, Pyroclastic Surge is representative of Colburn’s abstract landscapes. The artist’s mixed-media works center on themes of global and domestic violence.

Browse available works by Michèle Christine Colburn.


Robert Mapplethorpe, Bill T. Jones (1985)

This portrait of acclaimed dancer and choreographer Bill T. Jones is available with a starting bid of $20,000 in Artsy and Forum Auctions’s “Photographing People and Places” sale. The work reflects Robert Mapplethorpe’s ability to capture the idiosyncrasies of individuals who were fixtures in the New York arts scene of the 1980s. Mapplethorpe portrays Jones’s full body in all its glory, striking a delicate balance of light, movement, and shadow.

Browse available works by Robert Mapplethorpe.


Robert Motherwell, Gauloises on Grey #26 (1972)

“I think collage is the 20th century’s greatest creative innovation,” Robert Motherwell once said. In several of his collage works, Motherwell incorporated Gauloises cigarette boxes, as he was attracted to the baby-blue packaging and its “exotic” Frenchness. This work, for sale in Swann Auction Galleries’s “Modern & Post-War Art” auction, teases the line between Abstract Expressionism and Pop art, yet is entirely distinctive of Motherwell’s modernist style.

Browse available works by Robert Motherwell.

Cornelia Smith
Beatrice Sapsford
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Jenna Gribbon, Luncheon on the grass, a recurring dream, 2020. Jenna Gribbon, April studio, parting glance, 2021. Jenna Gribbon, Silver Tongue, 2019