Peter’s Auction Picks, Monday October 3rd: Ellsworth Kelly

Today is the first day of Peter’s Auction picks for The Collection of Richard Dorso. For the rest of the week Peter Loughrey, Director of LAMA, will be giving his insight on select lots from the collection of over 400 works of art.  This sale is particularly special because Peter had a chance to speak with Richard Dorso about some of the pieces before he passed away this April at the age of 101.

Today my pick is the group of four Ellsworth Kelly lithographs. I like them because they use simple, primary colors combined with simple shapes. Whether the shapes are free form as in Green (Lot 21) or whether he uses more geometrical shapes like  Orange and Blue over Yellow (Lot 19), the composition is bold and carefully arranged.  Camellia II  (Lot 22), which at first glance appears radically different for Kelly, is from a series of flowers that while compositionally do not relate to any of the other works, are to me just as bold and graphic.

In the series of conversations that I had with Mr. Dorso, he told me the following story about an Ellsworth Kelly that he sold to filmmaker Billy Wilder:

Peter Loughrey (PL), Richard Dorso (RD), and Bianca Dorso (BD):

PL: I wanted to ask you about the people you inspired. I know that you went around with Billy Wilder and with Norman Lear, but I’d love to know particular stories or works that maybe you introduced them to, especially Billy Wilder, who most of my clients know.

RD: Well, Billy was a big collector before I met him. He lived in Europe and it was right before the Invasion and he was a picture actor and director and he says he also was a dancer for hire. I don’t know how much romance is in that. The rest is nonsense. He was one of the funniest men in the world. I sold him an Ellsworth Kelly. He’d never seen an Ellsworth Kelly before.

PL: Do you remember what year that was?

RD: About 1960. And he bought anything that he liked. And he had a wonderful collection, which sold at the auction company.

PL: Christie’s.

BD: Or Sotheby’s?

RD: Whichever it was. It sold for around $35 million. So it was considerable—he didn’t have big paintings but he had a big Balthus and he had Renoirs and he had a wonderful eye. And when he lived in Paris, he spent every quarter he had on art. So anyways, he took this amorphous looking Kelly and it was sitting in his office and somebody came in who didn’t know anything about art and said, ‘What’s that?’ and Billy said, ‘It’s an Ellsworth Kelly. I just bought it.’ And the man said, ‘What does it mean?’

PL, BD and RD laugh, especially RD.

RD: And Billy said, ‘It’s the War of 1812.’ And then the man looked at him and said, ‘I can see what you mean.’

All laugh again.

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