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Art Market

10 Standout Auction Lots on Artsy This Week: May 27, 2021

Cornelia Smith and Beatrice Sapsford
May 27, 2021 5:25PM

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.


Julie Mehretu, Dissident Score (2019–21)

Julie Mehretu’s Dissident Score (2019–21) is an undeniable showstopper. One hundred percent of the proceeds from the sale of this newly completed painting will benefit the Art for Justice Fund’s work towards ending mass incarceration.

Featuring sharp brushstrokes that coalesce with sprawling, graffiti-inspired shadows, Dissident Score resembles a digital landscape, fraught with tension and set in motion by invisible hands of power. Like many of Mehretu’s paintings, the piece is an abstract topography that reflects on global unrest and reckons with the societal ills and catastrophes of our time. Mehretu deftly applies a variety of techniques to achieve this desired state of abstraction; in addition to strokes of acrylic and ink, she uses airbrushing and sandpaper, and periodically erases sections of the canvas.

While a looming darkness washes over the 9-by-10-foot canvas, Dissident Score is rife with glimmers of light shining through, illuminating possibilities for a hopeful future. Bidding for this work opens at $2.6 million, exclusively on Artsy.

Browse available works by Julie Mehretu.


Joan Brown, Nude with Plaid Blanket (1975)

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Joan Brown, who is often associated with the second generation of the Bay Area Figurative Movement, was unafraid to experiment with her artistic practice. She made two marked shifts during her career: The first was during the late 1960s, when she moved away from a thick impasto style to gentler renderings of human models; the second was towards the end of her life, when she incorporated new age and non-Western symbols into both paintings and sculptures. This piece, available in the sale “John Moran Auctioneers: Postwar & Contemporary Art + Design and Prints & Multiples,” is typical of Brown’s distinct figurative style, and includes her signature palette of red, black, and white, which is used to differentiate figure from fabric. In 2020, Brown had solo shows in New York at Venus Over Manhattan and George Adams Gallery. Her work is currently featured in the group exhibition “Taking Space: Contemporary Women Artists and the Politics of Scale” at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts.

Browse available works by Joan Brown.


Dr. Lakra, Untitled (Labio Leporino) (2007)

This work by Mexican artist and tattooist Dr. Lakra has far surpassed its low estimate, attracting more than a dozen bids in “Counseling in Schools: Benefit Auction 2021.” Dr. Lakra, born Jerónimo López Ramírez, is primarily known for his use of found objects and vintage magazines as canvases for ballpoint pen drawings that explore religion, folklore, and ethnographic histories. In addition to the cleft lip and teardrop and spiderweb face tattoos in Untitled (Labio Leporino), Dr. Lakra added very subtle ink details to the model, including white highlights in the hair, nose, eyes and brow bone, as well as red tendrils for bloodshot eyes and veins.

Browse available works by Dr. Lakra.


Nicolas Party, Untitled (2020)

Small in scale, this watercolor painting by Nicolas Party radiates warmth. A simple color palette of yellow, green, and red come together with a careful application of shadow adding depth to the tree against its flat background. Party, who has been lauded by critics for his bewitching use of color, soft pastel, and formation of otherworldly environments, has steadily climbed to international fame over the past few years. Party has four solo exhibitions at major art institutions in Europe this year: at Kestner Gesellschaft in Germany, Le Consortium in France, and MASI Lugano and Kunsthalle Marcel Duchamp in Switzerland. This work is now available in “Counseling in Schools: Benefit Auction 2021” with a starting bid of $45,000.

Browse available works by Nicolas Party.


Grant Levy-Lucero, Magnum for Tom (2021)

Appropriating the signature branding for Magnum, the “Gold Standard” line of Trojan Brand condoms, Grant Levy-Lucero created this piece, Magnum for Tom, in his signature style of hand-built ceramic vessels. The phallic-shaped vase is glazed black with yellow lettering, and the artist’s process is visible in the fingerprint indentations that give the vase its unique shape. Magnum for Tom is open for bidding, starting at $5,000, in “Tom of Finland: Benefit Auction 2021,” subtitled “Sexology 101,” which was curated by Brooke Wise. Proceeds from the sale will go to the Tom of Finland Foundation, which was founded by Tom of Finland and his partner Durk Dehner in 1984, and serves to promote art and artists of the LGBTQIA+ community. Levy-Lucero is represented by Night Gallery, and his work is currently featured in the group exhibition “Reflections: Human/Nature” at Gana Art in Seoul.

Browse available works by Grant Levy-Lucero.


Romare Bearden, Out Chorus (1979–80)

Jazz music is characterized by a rich variety of sound: polyrhythmic instruments and vocals, syncopation, improvisation, and original timbre. In Out Chorus, Romare Bearden renders the ever-moving nature of jazz in visual form, layering color, texture, and shapes to communicate the sonic beauty of the genre. The collaged elements echo Bearden’s signature process, and coalesce to showcase the dynamism and vibrancy of his subjects. This print—which was made with etching, aquatint, and screenprinting techniques—is currently available in the sale “Artsy x Capsule Auctions: 20th- and 21st-Century Editions,” with a starting bid of $3,750.

Browse available works by Romare Bearden.


Katherine Bernhardt, African Violet (2019)

Demand for Katherine Bernhardt’s work has skyrocketed over the last decade. Her effervescent and mesmerizing patterned paintings take inspiration from commercial products, cartoons, advertisements, rugs, and African textiles, as well as her travels to Central America. This piece, featured in the sale “Heritage: Urban Art,” features one of her recurring characters, the Pink Panther. Bernhardt’s style is not easily categorized; she employs techniques that draw from street graffiti to color field painting, and her practice is always evolving. Just this past week at Art Basel in Hong Kong, Tokyo-based gallery Nanzuka sold work by Bernhardt on the first day of the fair. Her work is in the permanent collection of several museums, including the Hirshhorn in Washington, D.C.; the Carnegie Museum in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania; and the Sandretto Foundation in Turin, Italy. African Violet is available for purchase in Heritage’s “Urban Art” auction, with a starting bid of $1,900.

Browse available works by Katherine Bernhardt.


Lara Schnitger, Guilty Pleasure (2006)

Lara Schnitger’s Guilty Pleasure is a fabric collage that is representative of the artist’s approach to composition. Available in the auction “John Moran Auctioneers: Postwar & Contemporary Art + Design and Prints & Multiples,” the piece has a starting bid of $3,500. In Guilty Pleasure, Schnitger combines an array of contrasting patterns, stitched together and stretched taut over a wood frame. Schnitger intentionally unsettles the viewer; her focus on the subject of the mother, with closed eyes and an open mouth, breasts exposed and legs spread open, reveals an intimate moment between mother and child, while touching on an underlying eroticism to breastfeeding. Guilty Pleasure is a celebration of the female body, and offers a glimpse into the complexities of motherhood and its associated objectification.

Browse available works by Lara Schnitger.


Alex Katz, Sarah (2011)

It is easy to recognize an Alex Katz painting. A prevailing flatness dominates the canvas, as fluid lines and a relatively simple color scheme generate a serene space for figures to shine. Katz is well known for his portraits, particularly his long-standing series featuring his wife, Ada. His work belongs to major art museums in more than a dozen countries and the market for his work only continues to appreciate. Late last year, Sotheby’s sold Katz’s 1972 painting The Red Band for $3.1 million—the second-highest auction result for the artist to date. At this year’s Art Basel in Hong Kong, Gladstone sold a painting by Katz for $650,000. This silkscreen, Sarah, is available in the sale “Artsy x Capsule Auctions: 20th- and 21st-Century Editions,” starting at $6,000.

Browse available works by Alex Katz.


Mika Rottenberg, Untitled (Hair & Plant) (2003)

Mika Rottenberg maintains a dynamic practice. Known for her films and sculptural installations, she creates work that is charged with energy, portraying fictional worlds that reflect the absurdities of living and working in a hyper-capitalist society. Untitled (Hair & Plant), available in the sale “Artsy x Capsule Auctions: 20th- and 21st-Century Editions” with a starting bid of $4,500, examines ideas of visual fetishism and expressions of femininity, with a primary focus on bodily manipulation. The subject of a woman with long hair is frequently explored in Rottenberg’s work because of the hair’s function as a “connector between interior space and exterior space,” the artist has said. Rottenberg will have a solo show opening in July at the Louisiana Museum of Modern Art in Denmark, and her exhibition “Spaghetti Blockchain” is currently on view at MOCA Toronto.

Browse available works by Mika Rottenberg.

Cornelia Smith
Beatrice Sapsford