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MOSS: An auction of art and design at Phillips de Pury & Company features Frank Stella's Brit (Q-6)
Frank Stella, Brit (Q-6), from the Moby-Dick series, 1990. Acrylic, aluminum alloy, steel. 89 x 116 x 110 1/2 in (226.1 x 294.6 x 280.7 cm). Estimate: $300,000-400,000.

NEW YORK, NY.- Phillips de Pury & Company announces MOSS, an auction of art and design including works from the personal collection of Murray Moss and Franklin Getchell, founders of Moss, a beloved New York design institution. The auction, prefaced by a ten-day exhibition, will juxtapose contemporary and historical design with paintings, sculpture and photography. The assemblage was done in collaboration with ArtAssure, Ltd.

The exhibition and auction will include important works by prominent contemporary designers including Maarten Baas, Hella Jongerius, Studio Job, Marcel Wanders, Fernando and Humberto Campana, Tokujin Yoshioka, Enzo Mari, and Alberto Meda, as well as master works by mid-century design master Gio Ponti and sculptor Leo Amino. Design icons will be paired in vignettes with sculpture and paintings by Frank Stella, Louise Nevelson, Alberto Giacometti, George Rickey, George Condo, and Candida Hofer, amongst others.

In 1970, at the age of 33, Frank stella was the youngest person to have a retrospective at The Museum of Modern art, New York. Only 17 years later he was granted the rare privilege of a second MoMa retrospective, his 1970-1987 body of work still largely interpreted in the vocabulary of abstract formalism, though expanded to include shapes such as French curves, flexicurves, cones, and pillars.

Having read Moby Dick in his youth, and viewing the 1956 film with Gregory Peck playing Captain ahab, it was as an adult that stella rediscovered the story, during visits to the Coney Island aquarium with his sons. ‘The first thing we saw every time we went into the aquarium were the beluga whales in the tank just as you came right in the door. They were just sort of looming over you, as it were. I just kept seeing them for about two years, and then one day the wave forms and the whales started to come together as an idea.’

When Frank stella began the ‘Moby-Dick’ series he was predominantly an abstract painter and print-maker, but by 1997, when he had completed 266 unique artworks dedicated to the 138 chapters of Herman Melville’s Moby Dick, he was a sculptor, creating large-scale works wherein “abstract and figurative coexist with material and symbolic.”

By associating his abstract forms with the figures of the whale and wave and the chapters of the novel, stella expanded the range of meaning for the forms and his work on the whole. The present lot, titled ‘brit (Q6)’ is dedicated to chapter 58 of Melville’s novel, ‘brit’, named for “the minute, yellow substance, upon which the right Whale largely feeds.”

The use of honeycomb aluminum might call to mind the whales’ baleen and the clouds of poured metal through the honeycomb might be the brit. robert Wallace suggests that the ends of the sheet metal in brit (Q-6) should be considered deliberately cut with Ms or Ws as ‘stella’s abstract language is expansive enough to embrace shapes of letters and even punctuation marks.’ by introducing the figurative and symbolic to his work, stella has allowed the viewer the opportunity to see a variety of things, layers of meaning in each of his pieces. No longer ‘what you see is what you see’ as he so famously said of his then-radical opinions about abstraction in the 1950s.

"For as this appalling ocean surrounds the verdant land, so in the soul of man there lies one insular Tahiti, full of peace and joy, but encompassed by all the horrors of the half known life." - Herman Melville (Moby Dick, from chapter 58 ‘Brit’)

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