Freeman’s Modern Art Sale Spotlights 20th-Century Abstraction

Liz Catalano
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Freeman’s Modern art auction, scheduled for this May, explores the growth and spread of Modernism. Starting with Post-War art, the catalog highlights the links between some of the 20th century’s leading artists. 56 works of fine art will hit the auction block on May 11th, 2021. Bidding will start at 11:00 AM EDT.

Richard Pousette-Dart, Small Cathedral, 1979. Image from Freeman’s.
Richard Pousette-Dart, Small Cathedral, 1979. Image from Freeman’s.

Abstract Expressionism – Richard Pousette-Dart

A black-and-white acrylic painting from American artist Richard Pousette-Dart is among the auction’s leading lots. Known as a founder of the New York School art group, Pousette-Dart was also one of the earliest Abstract Expressionists. He spent his early years experimenting with texture and light before developing a language of lines and biomorphic forms. “I have always worked in many differences, opposites, and contradictions in content, form and technique, at the same time,” Pousette-Dart said about his art. “My work has never had any logical sequence and can be confusing if one wants to find predictability.”

Freeman’s Modern art auction will present Small Cathedral, an acrylic painting from Richard Pousette-Dart. The artist finished the piece in 1979 while taking a break from teaching budding contemporary artists such as Christopher Wool, Ai Weiwei, and Zhang Hongtu. Small Cathedral resembles other late works from Pousette-Dart that evoke elaborate and splintered stained-glass windows. The textured painting features geometric black strokes that hint at symmetry. Freeman’s will offer the piece with an estimate of USD 100,000 to $150,000.

Left: Barbara Hepworth, Torso II (Torcello), 1958. Right: Henry Moore, Upright Motive E, 1968. Images from Freeman’s.
Left: Barbara Hepworth, Torso II (Torcello), 1958. Right: Henry Moore, Upright Motive E, 1968. Images from Freeman’s.

Modern British Sculpture – Hepworth and Moore

Two works of Modern British sculpture anchor the center of the auction catalog. Lot #22 is a 1968 bronze sculpture from Henry Moore that measures nearly 12 inches high ($20,000 – $30,000). Lot #23 is Barbara Hepworth’s Torso II (Torcello) sculpture from 1958. Hepworth’s bronze piece has an estimate of $150,000 to $250,000.

Hepworth and Moore met at the Leeds School of Art after World War I. Their common interests included British romanticism, direct carving, and pushing the boundaries of sculpture. Over the next several decades, their friendship evolved into a cautious rivalry as Moore took on increasingly public roles to promote Modern British sculpture. By the mid-20th century, both artists had moved on. Hepworth mourned the loss of her son by completing her Torsos series while Moore enjoyed sweeping retrospectives through the 1970s. Moore created Upright Motive E around the twilight of his working years. The piece stands in contrast to his signature reclining figures.

Left: Pablo Picasso, Trois Femmes, 1960. Right: Carlos Mérida, Personajes Para un Ballet, 1951. Images from Freeman’s.
Left: Pablo Picasso, Trois Femmes, 1960. Right: Carlos Mérida, Personajes Para un Ballet, 1951. Images from Freeman’s.

Cubism – Picasso and Mérida

Guatemalan artist Carlos Mérida started his career by engaging with the Cubist movement. He traveled to Europe in 1910 specifically to learn the ways of emerging avant-garde artists. Mérida frequented the same cafés as Pablo Picasso, listening as the older artist and his Montmartre friends reimagined Modernism. Mérida embraced Cubism for a time before returning to his roots in Guatemala. He later fell in with the Mexican muralists and developed a style that blended European Cubism with distinctly Mayan roots.

The upcoming Freeman’s auction will highlight works from both Pablo Picasso and Carlos Mérida. A color linocut of Trois Femmes by Picasso is among the sale’s leading lots ($20,000 – $30,000). Mérida’s late-career Personajes Para un Ballet is also available ($4,000 – $6,000). The black, orange, and purple piece reveals the lingering traces of Cubism in Mérida’s work.

Hsiao Chin, Ricordo di Roberto Scuderi (In Memory of Roberto Scuderi), 1961. Image from Freeman’s.
Hsiao Chin, Ricordo di Roberto Scuderi (In Memory of Roberto Scuderi), 1961. Image from Freeman’s.

Modern Asian Art – Inokuma, Prabha, and Hsiao Chin

Freeman’s Modern art sale features several notable works of Modern Asian art. Japanese artist Genichiro Inokuma was known first for his figurative works before he moved toward abstraction. After Inokuma’s second mid-career trip to Paris, he settled in the pulsing art scene of 1950s New York. He developed a knack for suggestive abstraction— many Inokuma works from this period resemble blueprints and maps. A 1962 oil and mixed media work from Inokuma, titled Zazen (from Zen), will be available with Freeman’s this May ($20,000 – $30,000).

Another key lot is from B. Prabha. The 20th-century Indian artist set her sights on capturing “the trauma and tragedy of women” through her work. To do this, Prabha spent decades painting rural women with elongated limbs and serious expressions. Freeman’s will present Prabha’s Mother and Child in the upcoming sale ($8,000 – $12,000). The piece shows a crouching woman holding a baby to her chest. Flowing white cloth covers the mother’s body. 

Hsiao Chin’s Ricordo di Roberto Scuderi (In Memory of Roberto Scuderi) is another notable example of Modern Asian art ($15,000 – $25,000). Active in Chinese and Taiwanese abstract art circles starting in 1955, Hsiao helped launch the Ton Fan artist group. His exposure to Western abstraction increased after an art scholarship took him to Spain and Italy. Hsiao’s Ricordo di Roberto Scuderi, completed in 1961, honors a contemporary Italian artist and friend. It also demonstrates Hsiao’s early steps to reclaim his culture and philosophy for the abstract art movement.  

Each of the above works will come to auction on May 11th, 2021. Freeman’s Modern art sale will begin at 11:00 AM EDT. Visit Bidsquare for the full listings and to place a bid. 

Want to know more about this event? Find extended coverage of Freeman’s Modern and Contemporary Art sale on Auction Daily.