Vija Celmins’ “Meat” Goes to Market After Record-Breaking Price

November 4, 2013

For Immediate Release

October 18, 2013

LOS ANGELES, CA – Los Angeles Modern Auctions (LAMA) is pleased to announce that Vija Celmins’ Untitled (Ham Hock), one of only four such works from 1964 to ever be offered at auction, will lead the February 23, 2014 Modern Art & Design Auction. In May 2013, LAMA broke the world auction record for any work on canvas by the artist with Untitled (Knife and Dish) from the same formative year, selling for $587,500. As a result, Untitled (Ham Hock) surfaced in Los Angeles and will be sold by the original owner this spring. To commemorate this rare event, arts writer Jori Finkel will write a special essay to accompany the work in the auction catalogue.

“Many people forget that Celmins began her career in Los Angeles,” says Peter Loughrey, Director of LAMA. “It is appropriate that Los Angeles Modern Auctions is finding her work and bringing it to the market.”

Few other works are publicly known to exist from this short-lived, transitional period in 1964, the beginning of Celmins’ contemporary art career. Similar works from this time are in the permanent collections of the Whitney Museum of American Art, Museum of Modern Art, and the Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego.

In 2011, LACMA and the Menil Collection co-organized the landmark exhibition, Vija Celmins: Television and Disaster, 1964-1966, which showcased 18 works from this pivotal period. According to Terri and Michael Smooke Department Head and Curator of Contemporary Art at LACMA, Franklin Sirmans, “… it was between 1964 and 1966, before [Celmins] was thirty years old, that she created some of her most important pieces.”

1964, The Breakthrough:

“…When I came to L.A., I thought it was a new beginning,” Celmins stated when describing her move from Indiana to Los Angeles in 1962 to begin her MFA at UCLA. From her studio at 701 Venice Blvd., Celmins purged herself from what she knew – Abstract Expressionism, specifically the influences of Gorky and de Kooning – in hopes of finding her own artistic voice. In 1964, Celmins chose to venture into a minimal, almost primitive style, painting still lifes of common objects in her studio: a space heater, a fan, a lamp, eggs on a hot plate, cups, spoons, and forks. Painting these everyday objects, cloaked in muted grays, served as a way for Celmins to stop thinking and inventing; this was a period for her to revitalize her work and while doing so, she ultimately broke through to create a form of art that was entirely her own.

Celmins describes the transition of her work in 1964 in an interview with Chuck Close:
“I decided to go back to looking at something outside of myself. I was going back to what I thought was this basic, stupid painting. You know: there’s the surface, there’s me, there’s my hand. There’s my eye, I paint. I don’t embellish anymore, I don’t compose, and I don’t jazz up the color.”

Museums with paintings from 1964 in their permanent collections:

Whitney Museum of American Art
Heater, 1964

Museum of Modern Art
Gun with Hand #1, 1964

Museum of Contemporary Art, San Diego
Eggs, 1964

Source for auction data
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Untitled (Ham Hock) will go up for auction on February 23, 2014 in the Los Angeles Modern Auction (LAMA) Modern Art & Design Auction. Advance viewings begin February 10th, and the auction will be on February 23rd at 12 p.m. (PST). Visit or call 323-904-1950 for additional details.
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The February 23, 2014 Modern Art & Design Auction will be held at the LAMA showroom: 16145 Hart St. Van Nuys, CA 91406 and will start at 12 p.m. (PST).
 Auction Preview: February 10 – 22, 2014; open daily 10 a.m. – 6 p.m.

Los Angeles Modern Auctions (LAMA), the fastest growing auction house in the modern and contemporary art world, is the leading auction house dedicated to selling 20th century Modern Fine Art and Design. Auctions are held at the LAMA showroom: 16145 Hart St. Van Nuys, CA 91406.


For more information and images, please contact Elizabeth Portanova, Los Angeles Modern Auctions (LAMA), 16145 Hart St., Van Nuys, CA | 323-904-1950 |

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