"Good Deals: Part II"
In "Good Deals Part I," the Art Market Guide 2003 discussed opportunities for buying art priced under $50,000. Now, in "Part II," we're going to look at potential purchases above $50,000. Once again, a few rules apply. The price categories for the recommended works are based on current auction figures. Also, remember that a "good deal" means paying the current market price for a quality work of art by a significant artist. There are no "deals" for great works by great artists.
Contemporary Works, $50,000-$100,000 Dan Flavin -- circular fluorescent fixtures Why: Flavin has been overlooked for years. The rap had been that the work was significant but too hard to live with. Maybe so, but sometimes you have to stretch a little.
Joseph Cornell -- minimal white boxes Why: The days of buying Cornell boxes for under $100,000 are almost over. The Cornell estate has been virtually picked clean. These "aged" white spaces capture all of the artist's poignancy without the high price.
Joan Mitchell -- pastels Why: Mitchell's pastels display all of the loose "brushwork" that makes her paintings so effective, while sacrificing none of her "richness of palette."
Julian Schnabel -- paintings on paper mounted to canvas ("thrown sheets") Why: Schnabel finally got it right when he started saturating bunched up sheets with paint and then flinging them at various surfaces. The ghost-like apparitions smack of authenticity.
Donald Sultan -- large paintings Why: Despite the startling crash of the Sultan market during the 1990s, the paintings remain handsome and highly decorative in a positive sense.
Andy Warhol -- 20 x 16 in. "Dollar Signs" Why: What could be more Warhol than paintings symbolic of U.S. legal tender? The wide variety of tasty color combinations show what an underrated colorist he was.
Robert Bechtle -- paintings Why: Bechtle remains the unsung Photorealist. His paintings of modest single-family homes are a quiet meditation on the beauty of simplicity. Besides, he's the least prolific of the major practitioners of his genre.
Contemporary Works, $100,000-$250,000 David Hockney -- colored pencil drawings Why: Hockney's colored pencil drawings are the future market equivalent of Matisse drawings. Fully developed, non-homoerotic subject matter, such as pools, gardens and houses, are the keepers.
Robert Rauschenberg -- "Shiners," "Gluts," "Urban Bourbons" Why: Rauschenberg's paintings from the 1980s, on shiny metal surfaces, incorporate many of the most desirable features from his best periods: found objects and Abstract Expressionist brushstrokes (the "Combines" of the 1950s) and photosilkscreen imagery (the "Silkscreens" of the 1960s).
Robert Rauschenberg -- transfer drawings Why: Rauschenberg's transfer drawings were an original development in the history of drawing. The more recognizable images per sheet, the higher the price.
Richard Diebenkorn -- "Ocean Park" charcoal drawings Why: These black and white works on paper bear witness to the artist's struggles to get it right. With color examples pushing $500,000, the charcoal works look good at $100,000-$150,000.
Ed Ruscha -- "Ribbon Letter" drawings Why: These gunpowder-on-paper creations show off Ruscha's marvelous dexterity as a draughtsman. Two years ago, good examples were readily available for $50,000-$75,000. Those days are gone. Yet, the work's still a good deal. Especially when you consider how few enter the market -- and that they rank with the drawings of Cy Twombly and Brice Marden in terms of quality.
Mel Ramos-- paintings from 1960s Why: Ramos's "Nudes with Products," shown a few years back in the context of the John and Kimiko Powers Collection at Gagosian Gallery on Madison Avenue, hold their own with Pop's biggest names.
Fletcher Benton -- steel "Geometric Form" sculptures Why: The West Coast-based Benton is the logical successor to David Smith and Anthony Caro. The large outdoor works are the bargains -- conservative but dynamic.
Frank Stella -- "Exotic Birds" Why: This series of low-relief mixed media paintings on honeycombed-aluminum -- with colorful glitter and French curve forms -- give off a pure exuberance.
James Rosenquist -- "Face/Palm Frond Overlay" paintings Why: These multilayered images, from the 1980s, are beautifully painted and enigmatic --yet highly accessible. They also represent a return to form by a major artist after his abysmal performance during the 1970s.
Neil Jenney -- "This and That" paintings (non-Atmosphere) Why: During the 1980s, Jenney was considered a major figure. While this is no longer the case, he did make some highly original paintings. He's also due for a comeback.
Jasper Johns:Ale Cans lithograph, edition of 31, 1964, published by ULAE Why: To this writer's eye, Ale Cans remains the holy grail of contemporary print collecting. It has extra-historical resonance because of de Kooning's famous statement about Johns's dealer, Leo Castelli: "You could give him a couple of beer cans and he could sell them." The print Flags I may bring more money, but Ale Cans is far more evocative.
Richard Artschwager -- Formica sculpture Why: Artschwager is a largely unappreciated artist who identified new materials for making both sculpture (Formica) and paintings (celotex). His forms from the 1960s, of household objects such as tables, chairs and mirrors, remains a high-water mark in the history of sculpture.
George Segal -- sculpture Why: Segal's mysterious figurative tableaux from the 1960s hover over the decade, just waiting for a retrospective. When it comes (and it will someday), watch his prices zoom.
RICHARD POLSKY is the author of the recently released, I Bought Andy Warhol (Abrams). Question and comments can be directed to Richard at email@example.com.
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