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Phillips de Pury Announces the Sale of Mrs. Harry N. Abrams' Estate

NEW YORK, NY.- Nina Abrams died a few days short of her 98th birthday in February 2008, at her Putnam Valley, New York, home. She was married to Harry N. Abrams for 46 years. Harry, the art book publisher who started Harry N. Abrams, Inc. in 1949, was the first in the United States to specialize in the creation and distribution of art books. Harry died in 1979 at which time Nina began to sell or gift the major pieces to institutions such as The Metropolitan Museum of Art and The Art Institute of Chicago. She donated the proceeds to many causes including: The Natural Resources Defense Council, Southern Poverty Law Center, Population Connection, Channel Thirteen, Long Island University, Rhode Island School of Design, the World Land Trust and the Hudson Highlands Land Trust. Not surprisingly she left the bulk of her own estate, including the proceeds of this sale, to these and other charities. Nina retained works with which she and her husband had felt the strongest emotional ties. Several lots are inscribed by artists: ‘To Harry and Nina’. The fact that she was included in such dedications says everything about her involvement in the collection. Harry often acknowledged Nina’s wisdom and support and theirs was a long and fruitful partnership dedicated to art. As he said during a 1972 interview: ‘We love pictures, we love art and we love to live with art all around us. This has been our lifestyle.’

Works in this sale were purchased from a veritable who’s who of galleries from the 50’s, 60’s and 70’s: Leo Castelli, Richard Feigen, Sidney Janis, Graham, Robert Elkon, Pace, Iolas, Green, Braziller, Lee Nordness, Multiples Inc., Kasmin, Ltd., Allan Stone, Stable Gallery, Fishbach, Martha Jackson, Marlborough Gallery, Associated American Artists, Brook Street Gallery in London, F.A.R. Gallery at 746 Madison Ave, Zabriskie, Kraushaar, James Goodman, ACA, Landau-Alan and Tanglewood Press.

In the introduction to The Harry N. Abrams Family Collection, exhibition at The Jewish Museum, in 1966, Sam Hunter declared: “The Abrams collection is unusual because it has passed through three quite distinct phases, with the profile of each remaining intact within it. Thirty years ago Harry Abrams began to acquire painters of the American social scene as well as the paintings of many individual artists whose work fit no special category. While his tastes were directed towards an art of humanist values, he also responded to new explorations. Then, twenty years ago he found himself attracted to the twentieth-century French masters, Picasso, Matisse, Chagall, Rouault, Modigliani and others. Finally, in the sixties, vanguard American art became the dominating focus of his interests, and in this area his collection has become preeminent, both by reason of its wide representation of almost all the prevailing esthetic tendencies, and for its superior, and in many cases supreme, examples of individual artists.”

The contents of this sale contain artists from the three phases of collecting discussed by Sam Hunter in the above quote from 1966:

Highlights in this phase include:

Raphael Soyer, Portrait of Nina Abrams, circa 1940, oil on canvas estimated at: $1,800 -2,500; Milton Avery, Still Life (Pink Lamp), oil on board, estimated at $40,000-60,000; Marsden Hartley, Pink Flowers,1942-43, oil on canvas, estimated at $15,000-25,000.

Further highlights include: Fifteen works by Ukrainian/American avant-garde artist, David Burliuk, who was one of the first artists Harry started to collect heavily. Burliuk was considered ‘the father of Russian Futurism’, he was an early member of Der Blaue Reiter and showed at their first exhibition Erste Ausstellung der Redaktion Der Blaue Reiter which opened at the Heinrich Thannhauser's Moderne Galerie in Munich, in early 1912 and comprised 43 works by 14 artists; estimates range from $2,000 to $80,000 dollars. A number of significant artists that will be represented under this section in the sale include: Lawrence Lebduska, Chaim Gross, James Rosenberg, Jennings Tofel, Louis Michel Eilshemius, Ben Shahn, Abraham Walkowitz, Isabel Bishop and Haywood Rivers.

Highlights include:

Jules Pascin, Jeune Femme au Plat de Fruits, 1928, oil on canvas, estimated at $100,000-150,000; Nude Reading, graphite and pastel on canvas, estimated at $60,000-80,000 and two other works on paper by Pascin.

Henry Moore, Two Standing Figures, 1951, ink, watercolor, charcoal and pastel on paper, estimated at $30,000-40,000. There will also be lithographs by Moore in the sale, including a unique trial proof.

Alberto Giacometti, Self Portrait, 1956, sepia ink on paper, estimated at: $20,000- 30,000 and is illustrated in Y. Bonnefoy, Alberto Giacometti: A Biography of His Work, Paris, 1991, p. 488.

Moise Kisling, Portrait of a Young Woman, 1934, oil on canvas, estimated between $30,000-40,000.

Pablo Picasso, Groupe de trois femmes, 1922-23, etching, edition of 100, estimated at $10,000-15,000. This work is amongst other graphic works of art by Picasso.

Highlights in this section include:

Robert Indiana, LOVE, 1966, oil on canvas, estimated at $300,000-500,000.

Andy Warhol, Mike and Bob Abrams, 1962: a portrait of Harry and Nina’s sons. The acrylic and silkscreen ink on canvas is estimated at $200,000-300,000; Liz, 1964 estimated between: $20,000-30,000; Portraits of the Artists, from Ten from Leo Castelli portfolio, one hundred screenprints, on polystyrene boxes in ten colors, 1967, 20 x 20 in. (50.8 x 50.8 cm), estimated between $20,000-30,000; Self-Portrait, 1966, offset lithograph on silver coated paper, 22 x 20 1/2 in. (55.9 x 52.1 cm), estimated at $8,000-12,000.

Other European masters that are featured in the sale include: Paul Klee, Joan Miro, Marc Chagall, Lynn Chadwick, Salvador Dali and Camille Bombois.

Tom Wesselmann, Nude, 1970, estimated at $8,000-12,000. Other works by Wesselmann that will feature in the sale include: Reclining Nude, 1970, estimated between $30,000-40,000 and Still Life with Flowers and Fruit, 1969, estimated at $20,000-30,000. Both works are inscribed to Harry.

Arman, Bach 2 Violin Concerto, 1963, estimated at $100,000-150,000 and additional works such as Violin Table Service, 1973, estimated between $10,000-15,000 (comprising 12 9-piece place settings and 8 serving pieces in gold-plated silver, in a sliced violin case in lucite); Paint Box, 1970 multiple, estimated at $7,000-9,000 along with other works.

Roy Lichtenstein, Shipboard Girl, 1965, estimated at $20,000-30,000. Further works by Lichtenstein include: Crying Girl, 1963, an offset lithograph in colors, estimated at $20,000-30,000 inscribed to Harry Abrams; Brushstrokes, 1967, screenprint in colors, 21 3/4 x 29 3/4 in. (55.2 x 75.6 cm), estimated between $8,000-12,000. These works will be sold under the hammer amongst other multiples by the artist.

Lucas Samaras, Untitled (Double Target/Pins), 1963, mixed media, estimated at $20,000-30,000.

John Wesley, Paradise Lamp, 1967, estimated at $20,000-30,000. Paradise Lamp will be sold alongside gouache drawings: 3 Clean Old Ladies and Black Bow, both from 1966 and purchased in 1967 from the Robert Elkon Gallery; they are estimated at $20,000-30,000 each.

Alexander Calder, Untitled, 1964, estimated at $40,000-60,000. Additional works include Le Cheval II, 1964, bronze, edition of 50, 4 3/4 x 4 1/2 x 8 in. (12.1 x 11.4 x 20.3 cm), estimated between $20,000-30,000; Nest with Red Sun, 1961, gouache on paper, 15 x 21 3/4 in. (38.1 x 55.2 cm), estimated at $20,000-30,000, with extensive exhibition history.

Three works on paper by Saul Steinberg: Painting What He Knows, 21 x 14 1/2 in. (53.3 x 36.8 cm), estimate: $12,000-18,000; Kumming, 1972, 29 1/2 x 40 1/2 in. (74.9 x 102.9 cm), estimated at $25,000-35,000; Table Series Artist, 20 x 26 in.
(50.8 x 66 cm), estimated between $20,000-30,000 and Six Drawing Series Tables, 1970, the complete set of six lithographs with collage, published by Abrams Original Editions, estimated at $3,000-5,000 dollars.

Larry Rivers will be represented by: Self Portrait, 1952, a graphite and pastel on paper, 13 x 10 3/4 in. (33 x 27.3 cm), estimated at $8,000-12,000 and Face for a Lipstick Ad, 1968, charcoal, tape, magazine and metal bracket collage on paper, 11 3/8 x 13 1/2 x 3 5/8 in. (28.9 x 34.3 x 9.2 cm), estimated between $5,000 7,000 purchased at Marlborough Gallery in 1970.

Other examples of artists in this section of the sale include: Christo, Red Grooms, Robert Motherwell, Adolph Gottlieb, Ellsworth Kelly, Claes Oldenburg, Marisol, Robert Rauschenberg, Louise Nevelson, Alfred Jensen, Ram Kumar and Jim Dine.

Also included in the sale are ephemera and group lots of decorative works of art. Estimates at $1000 and below will be sold with no reserve.

New York | Nina Abrams | Harry N. Abrams | Phillips de Pury |

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