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Something special in Palm Beach Modern's May 6 auction
Sam Francis (American, 1923-1994), Quiet Fruitfulness, 1987, acrylic on canvas, listed in 2011 catalogue raisonne, registered by Sam Francis Foundation. Estimate $500,000-$600,000. All images courtesy of Palm Beach Modern Auctions.

WEST PALM BEACH, FLA.- There are 495 beautiful reasons why the owners of Palm Beach Modern Auctions think their May 6 double-session auction could end up being their most successful ever. Two of the most compelling reasons are: a flock of five highly sought-after Francois-Xavier Lalanne sculptural sheep, and a large, original 1987 Sam Francis painting.

“The Lalanne sheep and Sam Francis painting are unquestionably the stars of the show, but all of the nearly 500 auction lots were chosen with utmost care, keeping in mind the buying trends we’ve observed in recent sales,” said auctioneer and co-owner Rico Baca. “This auction is going to inspire and delight modern and contemporary art lovers because it contains so many rare and wonderful works from respected collections.”

Known as Nouveaux Moutons, the Lalanne sheep were created in 1996-97 and cast at the Landowski Fondeur in France. The life-size family made of epoxy stone and patinated bronze consists of a ram, ewe and three lambs. Previous owners include the legendary Dorothy Blau Gallery, Miami; and Wolfgang Roth & Partners Fine Arts; also of Miami. The well-documented sheep are accompanied by a copy of a 2015 condition report from Modern Art Conservation. Surely among the most iconic of all late-20th-century sculptural works, Lalanne’s endearing Nouveaux Moutons will cross the auction block with a $600,000-$900,000 estimate.

A fitting companion for the sheep is Lalanne’s bronze Centaure Attele (Petit). Bearing a foundry mark and numbered 5/8, the 16-inch-high mythical half-man/half-horse comes with provenance from Christie’s New York and is estimated at $60,000-$80,000.

Twenty-three years after his passing, California artist Sam Francis continues to make headlines as his paintings are acquired at auction by astute collectors the world over. An exciting recent development has been the addition of a major Francis original, a 1987 acrylic-on-canvas painting titled Quiet Fruitfulness, to the Sam Francis Foundation’s archival registry. It is one of the featured highlights of the May 6 sale.

A large work measuring 60.5 by 80.5 inches, the painting has a 1988 Knoedler Gallery (London) label on verso and comes with a copy of the sales receipt from the gallery as well as a conservator’s condition report. Estimate: $500,000-$600,000.

“The painting is listed in the Sam Francis Catalogue Raisonne that was published by the University of California Berkeley Press in 2011. Now it is also registered in the Francis Foundation’s archive, which is significant,” Baca said. “As I understand it, this was a painting they had been looking for. We’re very proud that such an important artwork has been entrusted to us and that its current ownership is now known to the Foundation.”

The auction of fine art, design and luxury goods is brimming with desirable works, including a Clement Meadmore (1929-2005) maquette ed. 5/6 titled Virginia. The full-size 1970-73 original is in the permanent collection at the National Gallery of Australia Sculpture Garden. The maquette carries a $60,000-$80,000 estimate.

A large Horst Wackerbarth (German, b. 1950-) C-print mounted on acrylic is titled Frank Fool’s Crow, Oglala Lakota Chief & Medicine Man. Printed in 1990 and numbered 2/3, the photographic image was previously held in the Wolfgang Roth Collection, Miami. It comes with an artist’s COA and is estimated at $60,000-$80,000.

Another photographic highlight is the massive Peter Beard (American, b. 1938-) montage titled Portraits London (F. Bacon) Paris Nairobi Collected at Hog Ranch 1960/70. Signed and stamped by the artist, the 76.75in by 55.75in (framed) gelatin silver print/mixed-media work is expected to make $90,000-$120,000.

The who’s who of artists and designers represented in the sale also includes Ida Rittenberg Kohlmeyer, Bridget Riley, Paul Jenkins, Sam Gilliam, Dale Chihuly, Vladimir Kagan, Tommi Parzinger and many others. Eight lots contain lithographs by Takashi Murakami (Japanese, b. 1962-). Whimsical and vibrantly colorful, Murakami editions are “always in demand with collectors,” said Baca.

Twelve lots of coveted Paul Evans for Directional midcentury furniture are entered in the sale, including several designs from the Cityscape series. There are various tables, a bar, four bar stools, a desk, dining table, console, shelving unit, cabinet and other forms.

Five pieces of desirable Picasso pottery will take the spotlight. Within the grouping are two variations of the classic Chouette (Owl), two painted plates, and an example of the Pichet Anse Prise seized-handle vessel made in 1953 in a small edition of 200. Most of the pieces are from the Estate of Florida physician Samuel L. Scher.

Adding an elegant touch to the sale is a gleaming selection of fine jewelry and watches that includes pieces by Cartier, Rolex, Baume & Mercier, Tom Ford, and many other exclusive brands. Some are custom designs or estate pieces from the Palm Beach area; all are of very high quality.

As a special auction-day treat for guests of all ages, PBMA will pay tribute to the prized consignment of Lalanne sheep with an onsite petting zoo. Prior to the auction, from 10:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m., all in attendance are invited to visit and pet a sheep and two lambs.

PBMA’s May 6, 2017 auction consists of two consecutive sessions, with the 170-lot opening session titled Selected Works: Fine Art, Design & Luxury; and a second session of 300+ lots titled Modern Art, Design & Luxury, its focus being on furniture, art and luxury goods. Start time is 12:00 noon Eastern. The exhibition center and auction venue is located at 417 Bunker Rd., West Palm Beach, FL 33405.

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