"Good Deals: Part I"
One of the questions that I am most frequently asked is, "Where are the good deals?" So, in the spirit of having some summer fun, I thought I'd list a few good deals. As a caveat, remember that these recommendations and their accompanying price ranges are based on recent auction results. Also, don't forget that there are no deals when it comes to buying a work by the right artist, from the right period, and of the right subject matter -- a good deal is getting a quality work at a fair price. In the long run, it will seem inexpensive.
Contemporary Works under $10,000 Jasper Johns -- Summer (Blue), lithograph, edition of 225, published by Brooke Alexander Why: Jasper Johns is the greatest printmaker alive. Here's a chance to buy an inexpensive print (under $5,000), chocked with plenty of Johns iconography, from one of his great series, "The Seasons."
David Hockney -- Pool Made of Paper and Blue Ink for Book, lithograph, edition of 1,000, published by Tyler Graphics Why: The quintessential Hockney icon is a swimming pool. Despite the gigantic edition size, this print is still hard to find. It's so beautiful that no one ever wants to resell it.
Wayne Thiebaud -- Delights, black and white etchings, editions of 100, 17 works in the series, published by Crown Point Press Why: As time goes on, Thiebaud's achievement looks better and better. All of these modestly sized 1964 etchings of cakes, pies and the like capture the essence of Thiebaud graphics at their best -- economy of line with charm to burn.
Ralph Goings -- post-card sized watercolors Why: As a Photorealist, Goings ranks third behind Chuck Close and Richard Estes -- but it's not a distant third. His pickup trucks and diner interior scenes are pure, sparkling Americana.
Contemporary Works, $10,000-$20,000 Sol LeWitt -- gouaches Why: LeWitt's innovative wall drawings will ultimately be his historical legacy. His gouaches are a chance to live with his work without committing an entire wall of your home.
Frank Stella -- colored pencil studies on grid paper Why: Frank Stella is a great risk taker. He continues to push the boundaries of his work rather than rest on his laurels -- criticism be damned. His small-scale drawings capture the thought process of one of the art world's great intellectuals.
Contemporary Works, $20,000-$35,000 Andy Warhol -- 12 x 12 in. "Camouflage" paintings Why: Warhol's abstract imagery is undervalued and the time appears to be ripe for their appreciation. As collectors and dealers work their way through Warhol's oeuvre, they are discovering that he had some pretty original ideas about abstraction.
Andy Warhol - 14 x 11 in. "Shadow" paintings Why: Visit the installation of large "Shadow" paintings at Dia:Beacon and you'll know why.
Ed Ruscha - "Standard Stations," silkscreens, Mocha Standard and Cheese Mold Standard, editions of 100 and 150, respectively, published by the artist Why: Among Ruscha's defining works from the 1960s were the "Standard Stations," thus these prints represent a chance to own a classic Ruscha. The other two prints from this series are now over $50,000 -- if you can find them.
Sean Scully -- watercolors Why: Scully is a first-rate colorist. His watercolors are the antithesis of his heavy-handed oils -- light-drenched, buoyant, and affordable.
Philip Taaffe -- works on paper (especially with imagery derived from nature) Why: Taaffe has made some of the most sublime paintings to come out of the 1990s and they continue to get better. His technique is dazzling and his elegant imagery is a guilty pleasure.
Sam Francis -- "Grids," gouaches on paper (1973-1977, especially those signed "Tokyo") Why: The paintings Sam Francis produced during these years were his last great hurrah. During this period, his works on paper were probably superior to his canvases. Francis's prices have been in the dumps, but that will change soon -- this era's work is too good and too well-priced for it not to.
H.C. Westermann -- watercolor and ink drawings Why: This wondrous artist created a small but memorable body of hand-made sculpture -- examples of which are very difficult to find. His witty drawings have been overlooked for years. They combine highly personal imagery, strong draughtsmanship and humor -- a winning combination.
Contemporary Works, $35,000-$50,000 Joseph Cornell -- collages (especially those with actual pennies, postage stamps, Medici images) Why: Joseph Cornell remains the most undervalued of all major American artists. But the true bargains are his collages. Though some border on being too precious, the great ones capture the mystery and nostalgia of his boxes.
John Chamberlain -- small sculptures (especially "Tonks" and "Baby Tycoons") Why: Though many argue that Richard Serra is our greatest living sculptor, my vote goes to Chamberlain. His small works, surprisingly, have all of the power of his larger crushed masses of painted auto metal. Essentially, Chamberlain did for sculpture what de Kooning did for painting.
Andy Warhol -- 5 x 5 in."Flowers" Why: The "Flowers" are among Warhol's enduring icons. The five-inch-square "Flowers" are the only paintings from the 1960s that are still (barely) under $50,000. Enough said.
Robert Rauschenberg -- post-1970, small works on paper (especially with collage or transfer elements) Why: The art world rap against buying later Rauschenbergs is that he flooded the market with far too much work of dubious quality. Don't believe the rumors.
Richard Diebenkorn -- Touched Red, color etching, edition of 85, published by Crown Point Press Why: Diebenkorn's "Ocean Park" paintings on paper now hover in the $300,000-$500,000 range. Here's a chance to own a print that captures this series at its best -- for one-tenth the price.
Tom Wesselmann -- "Smokers" and "Nudes" on paper from the 1960s, early 1970s Why: Tom Wesselmann is currently "in play." A number of dealers have sought to boost prices by buying up the work at auction. Regardless, Wesselmann's early work is important -- though his reputation could be hurt by the embarrassing late work that he continues to churn out.
Jim Dine -- drawings of "Tools" (especially with collaged elements) Why: Despite that fact that Jim Dine continues to represent all that's wrong with the art market -- repeating himself for almost 40 years to keep collectors and dealers happy -- the "Tools" represent "what could have been."
Claes Oldenburg -- drawings with watercolor, as developed as possible (n.b.: the great ones are more expensive) Why: Oldenburg makes outstanding "working" drawings. They truly capture the spirit of his sculpture, yet stand on their own merit as finished works of art.
Roy Lichtenstein -- colored pencil drawings Why: Roy Lichtenstein is one of the few sure bets in the art market. Canvases are prohibitively expensive, drawings start at $45,000. Here's an opportunity to grab something original by the master.
Alexander Calder -- gouaches Why: Like Lichtenstein, Calder is also a done deal. His gouaches, though obviously not as important as his sculpture, do capture the artist's trademark playfulness. However, you have to be selective. With this body of work, Calder had a low batting average.
Josef Albers -- "Homage to the Square" 16 x 16 in. oils on masonite) Why: Though a little dry for many collectors' tastes, Albers's small paintings look great in homes -- especially those with minimal dcor.
Jean-Michel Basquiat -- graphite drawings Why: Basquiat is relatively expensive. About the only affordable works left are drawings bereft of color. If you're selective, a few bargains still exist.
Deborah Butterfield -- small "Horse" sculptures made of found materials Why: Admittedly, Butterfield should push herself to get beyond her series of "Horses." That having been said, her sculptures possess an uncanny quality. Her recent small bronzes are more decorative, but the earlier works composed of found materials have more soul.
RICHARD POLSKY is the author of the recently released, I Bought Andy Warhol (Abrams). Question and comments can be directed to Richard at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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