Tag Archives: Reg Butler

LAMA Sales Reach New High in 2011

Los Angeles Modern Auctions (LAMA) reached $8.5 million in sales for 2011, nearly doubling the previous record of $4.5 million set in 2008.  This year LAMA achieved new auction records for works by Reg Butler, Ettore Sottsass, De Wain Valentine, Roland Reiss, Robert Rauschenberg, and Isamu Noguchi, as well as set a new company record for highest price reached at auction. LAMA has increasingly become the preferred auction house on the West Coast for Modern Art and Design.

In 2011 LAMA set new auction records for:

  • Reg Butler’s The Unknown Political Prisoner Maquette (Lot 92 est. $20,000 – 30,000), which soared to realize $125,000, establishing a new auction record for the artist

    • Isamu Noguchi’s Chess Table (Lot 280 est. $30,000 – 40,000), which established a new auction record for this design, realized $187,500, nearly five times its high estimate

  • Robert Rauschenberg’s Sling Shots Lit #6 (Lot 60 est. $30,000 – 50,000) realized $68,750, the highest price ever achieved for any work in this series by the artist 
  • The custom designed Ettore Sottsass Impressive Entry Table from the Estate of Max Palevsky (Lot 55 est. $10,000 – 15,000) set a new auction record for the artist realizing $75,000 
  • De Wain Valentine’s Circle (Lot 220 est. $3,000 – 5,000) set a new auction record for the artist bringing $32,500 
  • Roland Reiss’ The Dancing Lessons: The Reconciliation of Yes and No (Lot 78 est. $4,000 – 6,000) set a new auction record for the artist bringing $15,000 

John Baldessari’s 8th and D, National City, offered in the October 9, 2011 Auction of The Collection of Richard Dorso, set a new company record for highest price reached at a LAMA auction, totaling $293,750.  Attracting top buyers enabled LAMA to reach a new company record, beating the previous record set in 2007 by Judy Chicago’s Carhood, which brought $288,000.

This year LAMA increased its standard two auctions to four due to the abundance of fresh, original material available on the market.  Major estates, including that of computer billionaire Max Palevsky, local TV-producer Richard Dorso, a prominent West Coast collection, and James Byrnes, the first curator of Modern Art at LACMA, anchored the four auctions. The micro-climate LAMA has created – getting both top consignments and top prices – is evidence of a phenomenon that through specialized marketing LAMA has reached a global marketplace.

Peter Loughrey, Director of LAMA:
“Buyers and sellers have been making LAMA a growing success since I founded the company in 1992. As we enter our 20th year, I believe we will continue to prove you don’t have to send your art and design to New York to get the best price.”

Source for auction record data http://www.artnet.com
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LAMA, Los Angeles’ premier Modern Art auction house, is the leading auction house dedicated to selling 20th century Modern Art and Design. Auctions are held at the LAMA showroom: 16145 Hart St. Van Nuys, CA 91406. The upcoming Modern Art & Design auction is scheduled for spring 2012. October 2012 will mark LAMA’s 20th Anniversary.

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.

Reg Butler Maquette for The Unknown Political Prisoner

The original maquette of The Unknown Political Prisoner (1952-53) by Reg Butler will be offered for sale in the LAMA March 6, 2011 Modern Art & Design Auction.

Here is a special preview of Peter Loughrey’s essay, which accompanies this lot in the March 6th auction catalogue:

Late last year I went to a house in the hills above Malibu to look at furniture to possibly include in this auction.  As the front door opened, I was exposed to a dramatic view of the Malibu coastline framed in floor-to-ceiling glass walls.  It was the sort of architectural moment that real estate agents like to call “explosive”.  However, I could hardly notice the view because of a small wire sculpture on a pedestal in the foreground.

Many years ago, I was assigned a paper to write on the subject of propaganda in modern art. I chose this very sculpture to illustrate a point that in the middle part of the 20th century, artists were using abstraction counter-intuitively to humanize their subjects.

Reg Butler’s “Maquette for the Unknown Political Prisoner” was chosen as the grand-prize winning entrant in a competition of the same name in 1952 that included entries from 3,500 artists.  Other notable entrants were Calder, Hepworth, Chadwick, and Roszak, to name just a few of the internationally known sculptors.  The artists were asked to “pay tribute to those individuals who, in many countries and in diverse political situations, had dared to offer their liberty and their lives for the cause of human freedom.”

Butler’s earlier studies for this work show a somewhat more obvious message of pain and struggle by impaling a human figure on the main vertical spire.  But it was his final maquette, which captured the essence of the message through abstraction that impressed judges Roland Penrose, Alfred H. Barr, and Sir Herbert Read.

The work resembles a large radar tower and at over 300 feet high, it would certainly have cut an imposing outline on the border of West and East Berlin, its desired location for construction.  The figures below the structures (known as “watchers”) were to have been created much larger than life-size and captured not only the message of humanity looking out for examples of human rights violations, but also, with their heads looking upward, subconsciously reinforced growing fears and concerns surrounding the “red scare” and even UFO’s.

This little maquette received extraordinary attention at the time, even appearing in Life magazine.  Unfortunately the symbolism and implied scale were ignored by many art critics of the day; some of who felt the works on exhibit were “too abstract (and therefore ‘inhuman’)”.  When the exhibition of the winning entries were exhibited at the Tate Collection in London, a Hungarian refugee, echoing some of these opinions in the press, smashed the maquette in protest declaring the reduction of human suffering to “scrap metal” was “an absolute lack of humanism”.

Butler quickly built a replica (now in the permanent collection at MoMA) to be on view until the end of the exhibition and carefully restored the original, which was eventually presented to the competition’s organizing director Anthony Kloman.

A full-scale model was never realized, but a larger replica was created a few years later and was subsequently acquired along with studies and drawings by the Tate Gallery in London.  Kloman sold the original maquette at Sotheby’s London salesroom in 1963, where it was acquired by an American private collector.  It has been enjoying an “explosive” view of the Malibu coastline ever since.

Lot Information

Lot 92
Reg Butler
The Unknown Political Prisoner maquette
Wire and metal on a cast plaster base
17.5”h x 6.75” x 7.5”

“International Sculpture Competition: The Unknown Political Prisoner”, Institute of Contemporary Arts, London, March 14-15, 1953, held at the Tate Gallery.

Reg Butler;
Joint property of the ICA, London and Academy of Fine Art, Berlin;
Anthony Kloman, Newport, Rhode Island;
Private Collection, Malibu, California (purchased at Sotheby’s London, December 1963 from the A J T Kloman private collection)

Art Aujourd’hui, No 5, July 1953, pg 6-11;
Masters of Modern Art, Alfred H Barr Jr, New York, 1954, pg 159
New Images of Man, Peter Selz, New York, 1959, pg 42
Motif 6, Spring 1961, pg 31
Sotheby & Co (Catalogue of Modern Drawings Paintings and Sculpture), December 4, 1963, pg 46
Ivory Hammer 2: The Year at Sotheby’s, Davis, et al, 1964, pg 77

Estimate $20,000-30,000