Five for Friday: Rago Arts and Auction’s May 20th 20 | 21 Sale

Rebekah Kaufman
Published on
Photo by Rago Arts and Auction.
Photo by Rago Arts and Auction.

Rago Arts and Auction’s upcoming event offers a mix of works from well-known, as well as emerging artists from the 20th and 21st centuries. Auction Daily spoke with Fine Art Specialist Lauren Bradley to learn more about highlights from this sale, as well as what makes artwork from this period so distinctive. 

Auction Daily:

Please tell the Auction Daily readers about Rago Arts and Auction. What do you specialize in? And how often do you hold auctions?

Lauren Bradley:

Rago was founded in 1984 by David Rago, the preeminent expert in American ceramics and studio pottery. Since then, we have grown to be an international resource for a broad range of material, including fine art, modern design, decorative arts, contemporary art glass, jewelry, and more! We host several auctions in a variety of categories each month.

Auction Daily:

In your opinion, what is one of the most memorable items you’ve sold through auction in the past few years? Does your auction house hold any auction sales records?

Lauren Bradley:

It is difficult to pick a single most memorable work, so many come to mind. Personally, I am always drawn towards works with an interesting provenance. We sold a great Christopher Wilmarth mixed media assemblage from the early 1960s that was consigned to us by a former classmate of the artist. Even as a two-dimensional work, it was really very sculptural. It was interesting to see that developing so early on in his career.

Rago holds world records for a number of artists, but we are particularly proud of how many records we hold for women artists. A few for whom we have realized world record prices include Mavis Pusey, Lenore Tawney, Edna Andrade, and April Gornik.

Top Secret (six works) by Jenny Holzer. Photo by Rago Arts and Auction.
Top Secret (six works) by Jenny Holzer. Photo by Rago Arts and Auction.

Auction Daily:

Your upcoming May 20th 20 | 21 sale offers materials from both 20th and 21st century artists. In the broadest sense, how – or do – works from the 20th century vary significantly from those created in the 21st century in terms of themes, materials, size, reach, etc.?

Lauren Bradley:

I think the greatest difference between 20th and 21st-century artists would be the acceptance and dissemination of methods and mediums born from digital technology. Obviously, things like digital printing and image manipulation allow for expanded mediums, but the pressure to be present and impactful online is something 20th-century artists didn’t have to think about. The bombardment of visual imagery in today’s world challenges artists to keep creating, to stay fresh, to be interesting, etc. That said, I think the passion informing their work and the statements being made by artists today aren’t really that different than those of the last century. The black and white prints from Jenny Holzer’s Top Secret series (lot 285) are a statement on government transparency. In the 1930s, Picasso was making politically motivated works criticizing the Spanish government. Two really different artists with distinct experiences, but their motivations are similar.

Auction Daily:

Which relatively unknown 21st century artist (or artists) represented in this sale do you believe might become a household name in the next decade or two? Why?

Origin 116 by Shobha Broota. Photo by Rago Arts and Auction.
Origin 116 by Shobha Broota. Photo by Rago Arts and Auction.

Lauren Bradley:

Shobha Broota comes to mind immediately (lot 290). Although she is well-known in India, not as many people in the United States are aware of her work. She paints these beautiful meditative compositions. They really pull the viewer in and force them to engage. I also wouldn’t be surprised to see William Sellers pick up traction in the coming years (lot 283, 286, 288). His hard-edge compositions seem to appeal to a wide range of collectors, and his sense of color is very strong.

La Illustration Artistica by Iván Navarro. Photo by Rago Arts and Auction.
La Illustration Artistica by Iván Navarro. Photo by Rago Arts and Auction.

Auction Daily:

And finally, one particularly eye-catching lot in this sale is #248, Iván Navarro’s La Illustration Artistica. What is it like to see this work lit up, in person? Can you tell us more about this piece, what it might be trying to communicate, and a little bit about the artist behind it?

Lauren Bradley:

I love this piece. Iván Navarro is a Chilean artist working out of New York City and known for his use of mirrors and neon, which, along with other materials, form La Illustration Artistica. When the piece is illuminated the word: END reflects on the interior mirrors and creates this beautiful, entrancing repetition. It’s really wonderful how all of the elements: paper, wood, glass, light and so on, come together. Navarro likes the interplay between industrial materials and the everyday object. His work is fun, but at the same time, can be rather unsettling.

Rago Arts and Auction’s 20 | 21 sale will be held on May 20th, 2020 starting at 11:00 est. Bidding is available on the phone, via absentee bids, and online. For more information about Rago Arts and Auction, please visit their website.