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O'Toole-Ewald April Newsletter
Artist Spotlight: Frank Stella
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Part III of OTE's series of monthly newsletters focusing on some of the most important artists on the market today: Mark RothkoDavid HockneyFrank Stella and Roy Lichtenstein.
Frank Stella, born May 12, 1936, has had a diversely colorful career. It is not possible to look at the overall arc of Stella’s work and regard him as less than a thinking artist. His student work reflects an interest in Abstract Expressionism, and a conviction that abstraction was an established fact.
 
The market does not always favor such early and uncharacteristic Stella examples, however. The 1956 oil on burlap with collaged fabric elements sold at Bonham’s New York for $20,000 in November 2013,  was the lowest price achieved at auction for any Stella painting created before 1959.  

The highest price for a pre-59 Stella was reached in May of 2007 at Sotheby’s New York when an untitled work sold for $360,000. This was not much higher than the $310,000 paid at auction back in 1994 for Green Gate, perhaps indicating that collectors, having decided on a​ set price for Stella’s early work, stuck with it. 

 In 1959, after his move to New York, Stella underwent his “aha” moment with the first of his “Black Paintings”.  This series of 23 very large monochromes is made up of precisely spaced stripes in various sequences, precisely rendered in commercial grade black paint. The paintings caught the eye of Leo Castelli, who invited the 23-year-old artist to join his gallery. 

Two examples from this first major series have achieved the second and third highest prices for Stella works at auction: Tomlinson Court Park sold in November of 1989 at Sotheby’s New York for $5,060,000, and Bethlehem’s Hospital sold at Christie’s New York in May of 2003 for $4,375,500. His next series, created in the 1960’s, is exemplified by his concentric square paintings, and also fared well at auction.

Stella may have helped lead the way from Abstract Expressionism to Minimalism, but few followed him into the Baroque creations of his later years: those brightly-hued shaped canvases of increasing scale and complexity that interacted with architecture. What is both interesting and strange is that very few of these later works have appeared at auction, meaning that either they have been sold primarily on the secondary private market, or that collectors are holding them in hope their market will rise in the future.

Tepe gawra, a 2002 mixed media on cast aluminum measuring 74 x 74 inches, was offered in September of 2011 at Sotheby’s New York but was bought in below the $200,000 – 300,000 estimate. Another example, K.140, a small cast aluminum and stainless steel tubing piece from 2007, did sell at Gary Nader in December of 2011 but achieved only $126,500.
 
So now we have an example of an artist whose early work outstrips the price of his late works. The divisions in the work of all four artists cited in this series are reasonably clear-cut. But the trajectories of their markets are not, proving that we may never be too certain that an artist’s “mature” period is his most sought after by the collector or considered most by the critic. In recent years, Stella's highest-selling works have almost exclusively been paintings from the 1960s.
 
IN THE NEWS
OTE's newest article "The Parting of Ways: Calling in US Appraisers to Settle Divorce Disputes" featured in RICS Property Journal 
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Top-10 most expensive paintings of all time (according to artnet):

1.  Abajo, 1964
    Christie’s New York: Tuesday, May 13, 2014 
    6,661,000 USD Premium
 
2.  Tomlinson Court Park, 1959
     Sotheby’s New York: Wednesday November 8, 1989
     5,060,000 USD Premium
 
3.  Bethlehem's Hospital, 1959
     
Christie’s New York: Wednesday, May 14, 2003
     4,375,500 USD Premium
 
4.  Concentric Square, 1966
     
Phillips de Pury & Company New York: Thursday, November 12, 2014
     3,973,000 USD Premium
 
5.  Turkish Mambo, 1959-1960
     Christie's New York: Monday, November 10, 1997
     2,965,000 USD Premium
 
6.  Carl Andre, 1963 
     Christie’s New York:  Tuesday, November 13, 2007
     3,961,000 USD Premium
 
7.  Pratfall, 1974
     Christie's New York: Tuesday, November 12, 2013
     2,853,000 USD Premium
 
8.   Valparaiso Green, 1963
      Sotheby’s New York: Wednesday, May 14, 2008
      2,841,000 USD Premium
 
9.   Concentric Square, 1966
      Sotheby's New York: Wednesday, May 14, 2008
      2,729,000 USD Premium
 
10.  Ouray, 1962
       Sotheby’s New York: Wednesday, November 14, 2007
       2,617,000 USD Premium
 
A B O U T    U S
 
OTE has been a leading authority in both fine and decorative art valuation since its establishment in 1932, and to this day continues to earn the trust of clients internationally.

We take great pride in our highly experienced team that includes experts in fine and decorative art, rugs, fine wine, jewelry, ceramics, and many other personal properties. OTE' specializes in damage/loss appraisals and estate valuations, which include artist estates such as
Andy Warhol, Jean-Michel Basquiat, and  Roy Lichtenstein 

Confidentiality, trust and transparency are benchmarks of OTE’s services and our clients may be assured that OTE specialists will help guide them through all steps of the appraisal process. 
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