Tag Archives: James Byrnes

LAMA’s Largest Sale, Ever.

We broke many records in yesterday’s Modern Art & Design Auction.

Highest grossing sale : $2,256,323
Highest sell through rate since 2005: 82%

Fresh material from local estates with attractive estimates led to record attendance in the room, as well as on the phones, absentee and internet bidding.

Custom designs by Ettore Sottass for the late Max Palevsky were sold on Sunday at the LAMA Modern Art & Design auction in Van Nuys, CA, totaling $333,813. Record prices were achieved for several unique works designed by Ettore Sottsass, including a marble console (Lot 55 est. $10,000 – 15,000), which realized $75,000; a sevres porcelain vase (Lot 70 est. $1,000 – 1,500) brought $31,250; and a pair of marble end tables (Lot 84 and 85 est. $2,400 – 3,000) together realized $25,000.

Sottsass designs from other owners included a group of three candlesticks (Lot 78 est. $1,500 – 2,000) realized $14,375, a pair of “Eastside” lounge chairs (Lot 83 est. $2,500- 3,500) realized $3,750, and a Sinus lamp with box (Lot 76 est. $1,000 – 1,500) brought $3,600.

The star lot, Reg Butler  The Unknown Political Prisoner Maquette, soared to $125,000 after an intense bidding battle. The price sets a new world record for the artist. This important British sculpture turned up unexpectedly in a local collection this year, after remaining in private hands since 1963.

Fine art from the Collection of James Byrnes, the first curator of Modern Art at LACMA dating back to the mid 1940s, found very strong competition with 50 lots bringing $171,313.  Highlights included a rare Harry Bertoia brooch (Lot 220 est. $5,000 – 7,000), which brought almost $22,000; an original Calder work on paper (Lot 25 est. $15,000 – 20,000) realized $25,000; and an Ynez Johnston (Lot 332 est. $2,000 – 3,000) realized $10,938. All of the works from this collection received heavy pre-sale attention due to Byrnes’ relationship with each of the artists. Nearly all of the works were acquired directly from the artists, which created desirable provenance.

There are still lots that are unsold. Check out the unsold lots list, which is being updated frequently, on the homepage of the LAMA website: www.lamodern.com.  If there is something that you like, email us and make an offer.

Palevsky and Byrnes on Art Market Views

If you don’t read Lindsay Pollock Art Market Views, you most definitely should. Pollock’s Art Market Views provides daily breaking news and analysis for readers seeking an insider’s perspective on the art industry.

Check out the post on the Palevsky and Byrnes collections on Art Market Views.

Peter’s Auction Pick of the Day: February 28th

Antiques Roadshow Moment

Sometimes we get the opportunity as an auctioneer to share our insight and knowledge with a client. This is one benefit of being in a business where it is beneficial to give information freely.

The Roberto Matta drawing, one of the 50 lots from the Collection of James Byrnes to be offered in the March 6th auction, is not only a beautiful and bright example, but also has an interesting story on its recent rediscovery.  This work was not listed on the Byrnes inventory, and a previous appraiser had noted it on an appraisal as work by unknown artist named “Gloria (no auction records)”. However, I recognized Matta’ s signature and knew the relationship between James Byrnes and Gloria de Herrera, and realized immediately that this was a work by Matta and the inscription read in Spanish, “a Gloria”, meaning “to Gloria”.

Here is more information on Gloria de Herrera and her relationship to the Byrnes’:

Gloria de Herrera (1929 – 1985) was first introduced to the Byrnes’ when she stepped into Barbara Byrnes’ American Contemporary Gallery on Hollywood Boulevard.  Gloria, a young girl of seventeen at the time, would visit Barbara’s gallery to study the art and read art books.  Barbara knew that James needed an assistant for his upcoming exhibit of contemporary California paintings at the 1949 California Centennial, so she suggested that Gloria take the job.  While working for James, Gloria became friends with Man Ray and his wife Juliet, who asked Gloria to come with them to Paris in 1951. While in Paris, Gloria learned to restore art, where she put her skills to good use. Gloria’s first conservation projects included restoring a Mondrian and a damaged Chagall. She became known for her skills and was referred to Henri Matisse, who was seeking trained assistance with pasting together his cut-outs, which Gloria ultimately completed after his death. While living in Los Angeles and France, Gloria became friends with a variety of noted artists, such as Man Ray, Marcel Duchamp, and William Copley.   James and Barbara Byrnes saw Gloria’s desire to surround herself with art and artists, and gave her the opportunity to seek out her passion.

Lot Information

Lot 19
Roberto Sebastian Matta
Signed and dated lower right and inscribed “a Gloria”
Sheet 14.5” x 9.75”; Image 11” x 6.125”
Provenance:  From the collection of James Byrnes, Los Angeles,
Estimate $3,000-4,000

Interview with Ron Byrnes, January 7, 2011
Tashjian, Dickran. Man Ray: Paris ~ LA. Santa Monica: Smart Art Press, 1996. Print.

The James Byrnes Collection

We have the great honor to offer 50 lots from the James Byrnes collection in the March 6, 2011 Modern Art & Design Auction.

From 1946 – 1953 James Byrnes was the first curator of Modern and Contemporary Art at Los Angeles County Museum of History, Science, and Art, which is now known as LACMA. In the thirties, Byrnes had studied art in New York at the National Academy of Design, the Art Students League, and the American Artists School, where he had met many artists before WWII. Byrnes, who served in the Navy during WWII, heard from an officer that a job was opening at the County Museum, so he left his home state of New York and moved to Los Angeles to pursue his career.

In 1946, W. R. Valentiner became the director of the art wing of the County Museum and encouraged Byrnes in his love for modern art.  While at the County Museum, Valentiner became Byrnes’ mentor and broadened his knowledge of art as a whole. As their friendship grew, Valentiner became the director of the North Carolina Museum of Art and decided to appoint Byrnes as his associate director. After Valentiner’s death in 1958, Byrnes subsequently became the director of the North Carolina Museum of Art. From 1962 – 1972, Byrnes would go on to direct the New Orleans Museum of Art, and finally from 1973 – 1975, he was the director of the Newport Harbor Art Museum where he would end his career of directing.

James and his wife Barbara were heavily involved in the Los Angeles art scene in the 40s and 50s. They became friends with many noted artists from Man Ray, William Copley, Claire Falkenstein, Roberto Matta, to Max Ernest, Dorthea Tanning, Inez Johnson, among others.  Byrnes loved all that was modern. His son Ron Byrnes notes that his father “thought contemporary art was the thing that was happening.” Even though Byrnes painted early in his life, he decided that he was better suited to be a docent, a curator, and ultimately a director.

Highlights from the James Byrnes collection include a Harry Bertoia brooch, an Alexander Calder work on paper, a Pablo Picasso lithograph from edition of 50, a Roberto Matta drawing, and an Elaine de Kooning painting from 1949.

Lot Information

Lot 25
Alexander Calder
Gouache on paper
Foundation #A25187
This work was examined and registered with the Calder Foundation, January 2011 and issued registration #A25187
22.375” x 17.375”
Provenance: From the Collection of James Byrnes, Los Angeles
Estimate: $15,000-20,000

Lot 326
Man Ray
Mixed media
#33 of 200
“Retains label “Edition The New York Cultural Center/Objet In-Desctructable 1923-1975” and signed “MR” and numbered 33/200
9.25”h x 4.5” x 4.5”
Provenance:  From the Collection of James Byrnes, Los Angeles
Estimate $2,000-3,000

Lot 22
Elaine de Kooning
Gouache on paper
Signed and dated lower right “49 E. de K.”
Sheet 13.5″h x 17.75″w; frame 17.75″h x 21.75″w
Exhibited: Isaac Del Gado Museum of Art, 1971
Provenance: From the Collection of James Byrnes, Los Angeles
Estimate $2,000 – 3,000

Lot 398
Pablo Picasso
The Lobster
#24 of 50
Signed lower right in red; edition lower left
Catalogue Raisonne Mourlot #143
Sheet 22” x 30; image 21.5” x 27.5”
Literature: Picasso Lithographs, Mourlot, Boston Book Publisher, 1970, pg 126
Provenance: From the collection of James Byrnes, Los Angeles
Estimate $6,000-8,000

The Lost Harry Bertoia Brooch

Today marks the first day of preview for the March 6th Modern Art & Design Auction, and we kicked it off with a special private tour led by our director Peter Loughrey.

During the tour Peter told a great story about Lot 220, the Harry Bertoia brooch which came from  James Byrnes, the first curator of Modern & Contemporary Art at LACMA from 1947- 1953.

While Byrnes was at LACMA, the director of the Art Wing, W. R. Valentiner, became Byrnes’ mentor and broadened his knowledge of art as a whole.  As Peter found out about this relationship between Byrnes and Valentiner, he began to put the pieces together of another relationship — Valentiner’s daughter was married to Harry Bertoia.  Valentiner was known to promote his son-in-law’s work and it would be very unlikely that Byrnes would not have also acquired a piece directly from Bertoia.

While cataloging and organizing the items in the Byrnes estate, Peter knew that there must be a Bertoia in the collection, but finding it was the real question. Bertoia never signed his work. He signed drawings and letters describing his works, but never the actual piece. In terms of jewelry, he use untraditional materials and focused on form rather than preciousness, so looking for something shiny and ornate was out of the question.  Even after going through inventory lists from 1976 and 1984, there was not a single trace.

As Peter was packing up items from a glass case, he saw pebbles and sand on the bottom shelf surrounded by small Pre-Columbian figurines. There, sticking out from the sand, was a tiny piece of metal.

As Peter dusted away the sand, there it was, the Bertoia brooch.

This was a pure discovery by Peter, and with his knowledge of the relationship between Byrnes and Bertoia, he was able to sift out a work by Bertoia that could have been lost.

Lot Information

Lot 220
Harry Bertoia
Studio, executed circa 1946
3.875″ x 2.625″
Provenance: From the Estate of Max Palevsky
Estimate $5,000 – 7,000

Interested in Bertoia’s Sounding Pieces? Check out this post for information on two that will be offered in the March 6, 2011 Modern Art & Design auction.

Al Held Geometric Forms

The Poindexter Gallery, known to represent abstract artist such as Richard Diebenkorn and  Jules Olitski, offered Al Held his first solo show in 1959 and again in 1960 at their New York gallery.

That same year Sam Francis, whom Held met at the Poindexter Gallery, loaned Held his painting studio on Broadway, in which he painted large-scale works for the next two years.   During this time Held created the Taxi Cab series, monumental colorful geometric shapes of jumbled frenetic scenes from the streets of New York.

The work to be offered in the March 6, 2011 Modern Art & Design Auction,
(Untitled 61-1), illustrates the similar bold, geometric forms seen in one of his most famous works of the period, the large three panel work titled “House of Cards”, also from 1960.

This series was a prelude to his later large geometric monochromatic forms of the late 1960s through the 1970s, during which he created some of his most prolific works.

Lot Information

Lot 272
Al Held
Untitled (61-1)
Liquitex on board
Signed lower right “Al Held 60”; retains “Poindexter Gallery” label verso
18” x 23.5”
Provenance: From the collection of James Byrnes , Los Angeles
Estimate $4,000-6,000

Reference:  Al Held, Richard Armstrong, Rizzoli, 1991