Peter’s Auction Pick of the Day: Tapestries

December 13, 2012

In Part Two of the 20th Anniversary Auction, we’re offering an interesting selection of tapestries from around the world, each piece representing a unique approach to the textile medium. Each of these works has the added provenance of coming from Cedars-Sinai Medical Center, a respected Los Angeles art institution that continues to promote healing through art.

I’ll begin with an artist whose designs seamlessly translated to tapestry, Alexander Calder. Turquoise (Lot 282) from 1975 is constructed of hand-woven jute maguey fiber and bears the iconic Calder forms unified by the subtle undulations of thick fiber. This is an excellent example of the artist incorporating the material’s intrinsic qualities into the overall design of the piece.

A completely different tapestry technique, Untitled (Tapestry) (Lot 423) by Sadamasa Motonaga is abstract in theme yet geometric in design. It is constructed of short wool pile which allows for crisp, tight arrangements of color. This artist is part of the Gutai group, an association of conceptual and performance artists from Japan, founded in 1954. The Guggenheim New York will be showing the first U.S. museum retrospective of the Gutai group in February 2013, featuring many of Motonaga’s works.

Throughout the second half of the 20th century, Leonardo Nierman painted abstract paintings of flowing color that explored his fascination with music, natural phenomena, the cosmos, and the Mexican landscape. In the upcoming auction, we’re offering two of these paintings, in addition to a similar design rendered as a hand-woven wool tapestry. Eternal Fire (c. 1977) (Lot 393) is the most intricate, complicated, and labor-intensive tapestry in the sale.

Representing yet another approach to tapestry that arose from the 1962-63 New York City newspaper strike, the Betsy Ross Flag and Banner Company devised a creative way of circumventing their inability to announce gallery openings and exhibitions in the newspapers. To advertise their shows, they enlisted Pop artists – including Andy Warhol, Roy Lichtenstein, and Tom Wesselmann – to submit designs for banners to be hung outside Madison Avenue galleries. St. Louis’ Ernest Trova, who had gained recognition for his Falling Man paintings and sculptures (some of which reside in the permanent collection at the Museum of Modern Art in New York), created Falling Man Banner (Lot 14) in 1968, a dystopian representation of “man at his most inhuman.”

I highly recommend coming to the preview to view these four tapestries in person. You’ll be amazed by the interplay of image and technique, their massive scale, and their outstanding condition.

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