Mary Bauermeister and her archivist have graciously confirmed the authenticity of this work. In fact, they have sent an image (shown) of the original work as it is currently catalogued in Mary's archives. Below is an excerpt from the letter of provenance we received from Bauermeister's studio:
..."Mary does remember making it. Ladislav Segy was a good friend of hers in the sixties in NY. He was a dealer for African art and his store was near to Galleria Bonino, Marys Gallery. They met early in the sixties around 1963, and Mary bought "African Fetish" from him; one time he gave her three as a gift and she used them in a lens box. Mr. Segy worked as an artist himself and Mary has one work of his still today. The work you have is titled "Magic substances“ in our lists and it is from 1965. And as far as I can see it was a gift to Mr. Segy because they did things like this. Attached you can find an image from the original Ektachrome; this is what the work used to look like.."
This work has not appeared at public auction. For comparison only -- note that another Bauermeister box from the Segy Collection -- far less impressive and important than this one, less than half this size without the intricate drawings and text - sold for US $35,000 at public auction on May 6, 2017. That one had appeared multiple times at auction and was a less significant work than the present piece, which has never passed through public auction as it was part of the Segy's private collection for nearly half a century. Below is the link to the smaller work that just sold, to compare:
This stunning, large, intricate Mary Bauermeister assemblage in hand made wooden box is unlike anything you will see elsewhere else in the world. Created in 1968 - the Age of Understanding and an era where sculpture was the premier art form in the world - Sense and Nonsense depicts African sculpture and art. The provenance is impeccable as it was acquired directly from the private collection of Helena and Ladislas Segy, well known Manhattan dealers, world authorities and scholars of African art, and very close personal friends of Mary Bauermeister over the course of many years. (We also, separately, acquired original gallery records and correspondence from Mary Bauermeister to the Segys.) This work has never appeared at public auction and is from the late 1960s - one of the most desirable eras in her career. In addition to its impeccable provenance, what makes this mixed media wood box unlike any others by Bauermeister is that it was created uniquely as a gift to the Segy's -- not for re-sale, and it is a personalized homage to them. The Segy's were world authorities on African art -- so inside the box Bauermeister draws several large African figures - stunning drawings. She also includes the Segys as part of the design -- has their name in text -- as she pays homage to several of the scholarly books and periodicals published by the Segys on African Sculpture. (i.e. 1117 African Sculpture) This is a very personal, very special and meaningful assemblage. Based on the loving correspondence between Bauermeister and Segy's, this masterpiece is a gift of love from an artist to people who were very important in her life. This is a must-have for any serious collector or dealer of Bauermeister's work, because it is a testament to an important business and personal relationship this European artist had with two American dealers and scholars. It also features some of her most intricate and intriguing drawings of African figures. This assemblage is an important example of work by an artist known for her deeply personal vision. Interspersed throughout Bauermeisters inscriptions are the words "Sense and Nonsense" in varying visual configurations and spellings, along with the question, "Who am I?" - almost like a riddle that one must try to solve by meditating on the elements of this piece. The artist inscribed "Who am I" on some of the mixed media pieces, then separates the words - and one white stone features the women's gender sign - the artist raising questions about her own identity. Other inscriptions have the formula 1+1=3. Is she referencing the synergy of the lifelong collaboration between the Segy's? This work remained in the personal collection of Helena Segy for more than half a century, until her passing. The wood has aged and the paint has aged and peeled, and the exterior of the box could certainly benefit from a fresh coat of white paint; (to preserve provenance and integrity, we have not touched it); and some of the white protruding wood elements that were glued inside the box appear to have fallen to the bottom of the interior construction, but are still intact, and simply need to be re-glued. (see photographs). This is a work unlike any other; historic, personal, autobiographical and biographical - a world inside itself. Unique in every way. Mary Baurmeister put everything inside a box -- but her thinking sure was otherwise outside of the box! Take a look at close ups of the work -- the amount of intricate work, labor, time, thought and creativity Bauermeister put into this work in particular, is impressive. We have not restored it to preserve its original condition, but are told that simple repainting and gluing of some of the loose elements is all that is necessary.
Mary Bauermeister is best known for her signature lens boxes and multi-layered constructions that combine dense expanses of pen and ink drawing with objects and optical lenses to create nebular symphonies of language, form and subtly articulated color.
We are proud to have this one-of-a-kind Mary Bauermeister work in our collection, and only hope it finds a worthy and appreciative home.
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Signature: Inscribed in ink throughout.
Acquired directly from the Helena Segy Trust; from the personal collection of Helena and Ladislav Segy, New York City. This work was gifted by Mary Bauermeister to the Segys and had been in their collection for more than half a century until Helena's death.
About Mary Bauermeister