Swann Sets Hedda Sterne Record in Inaugural Sale of Modern & Post-War Art

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Sale brings five artist records total; exceeds high estimate by $200k

Hedda Sterne, Untitled, oil on canvas, 1962. Sold for $100,000, a record for the artist.
Hedda Sterne, Untitled, oil on canvas, 1962. Sold for $100,000, a record for the artist.

MODERN & POST-WAR ART

Sale 2553; December 3, 2020

Sale total: $739,155

Estimate for sale as a whole: $355,000–$518,000

We offered 75 lots; 69 sold (92% sell-through rate by lot)

All prices include Buyer’s Premium.

New York—Swann Galleries’ first sale of Modern & Post-War Art on Thursday, December 3 proved to be a major success with a sale total of $739,155 (over $200,000 above the sales high estimate), selling 69 of the 75 lots on offer, and delivering five new auction records. The auction saw fierce competitive bidding across all online platforms and on the phones. 

“Of the five world records set, all are by midcentury modern American artists. Three of the five are women who, for too long, have been overshadowed by their male contemporaries. A reckoning is well afoot in establishing equity in the art market, as can be seen at Swann as well as in gallery exhibitions, and reassessments of the hanging of museum collections. Hopefully this is the beginning of a new normal, and not just a trend,” commented Modern & Post-War director Harold Porcher, who organized the sale.

Hedda Sterne led the auction with a record-setting $100,000 for a moody 1962 oil-on-canvas abstraction. Sterne moved to New York in 1941 where she would further establish herself as an artist. She would go on to be a member of the New York School and most notably would be the only female artist pictured in the now iconic image of the group dubbed the Irascibles after they gained recognition for their protest of the Metropolitan Museum of Art in 1950. 

Mary Abbott, Untitled, oil and pencil on paper. Sold for $30,000, a record for the artist.
Mary Abbott, Untitled, oil and pencil on paper. Sold for $30,000, a record for the artist.

Further records included David Hare, with a 1955 steel sculpture Figure in the Windows, at $93,750; Mary Abbott’s yellow abstraction in oil-and-pencil on paper, which saw $30,000; Stanley Bate’s oil-on-canvas Zuen, brought $13,750; and John Opper’s 1971 acrylic-on-canvas Pale Yellow Field, reached $11,875.

Additional works of note included Hughie Lee-Smith’s Pumping Station, oil on canvas, 1960 ($45,000); Horace Clifford Westermann’s Untitled (Alternate Catalog Cover), ink and watercolor, 1977 ($42,500); Irene Rice Pereira’s 1938 oil and mixed-media collage ($28,600); and Helen Lundeberg’s Planet, oil on canvas, 1965 ($17,500).

The house is currently accepting quality consignments for the spring 2021 season. For the house’s most up-to-date auction schedule please visit swanngalleries.com.

Key:  * = Record for the Artist; C = Collector; D = Dealer

Additional highlights can be found here.

Captions:

Lot 29: Hedda Sterne, Untitled, oil on canvas, 1962. Sold for $100,000, a record for the artist.

Lot 44: Mary Abbott, Untitled, oil and pencil on paper. Sold for $30,000, a record for the artist.

Specialist: Harold Porcher • [email protected] • 212-254-4710 x 67

Chief Marketing Officer: Alexandra Nelson • [email protected] • 212-254-4710 x 19

Public Relations Associate: Kelsie Jankowski • [email protected] • 212-254-4710 x 23

Social media: @swanngalleries  

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ILLUSTRATED CATALOGUE, ADDL. IMAGES & COMPLETE PRICES REALIZED ON REQUEST

Swann Auction Galleries is a third-generation family business as well as the world’s largest auction house for works on paper. In the last 75 years, Swann has repeatedly revolutionized the trade with such innovations as the first U.S. auction dedicated to photographs and the world’s only department of African-American Fine Art. More than 30 auctions and previews are held annually in Swann Galleries’ two-floor exhibition space in Midtown Manhattan, and online worldwide. Visit swanngalleries.com for more information.

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James Ardis
James Ardis
Senior Writer and Editor

James Ardis is a writer, editor, and content strategist focused on the auction industry. His company, James Ardis Writing, has partnered with auction houses, galleries, and many clients outside the art world.

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