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Modern art, Picasso pottery + Studio 54 celebrity-photo archive headline Palm Beach Modern auction
Mario Carreno (Cuban/American, 1913-1999), ‘Bird House,’ original painting on canvas, COA from artist’s widow, est. $20,000-$25,000. All images courtesy of Palm Beach Modern Auctions.

WEST PALM BEACH, FLA.- While it would have been quite enough for co-owners Rico Baca and Wade Terwilliger to showcase their finest-ever selection of vetted art for Palm Beach Modern’s (PBMA) Feb. 4-5, 2017 auction, they didn’t stop there. To create an event that would spark interest worldwide, they also secured several spotlight collections that are headline-makers on their own. There’s a collection of 16 original T.H. Robsjohn-Gibbings furnishings from a celebrated mid-century residence in California, the estate archive of uncensored Studio 54 gelatin silver prints taken by photographer Richard Manning, and eight exceptional pieces of Picasso pottery.

Saturday, Feb. 4: Modern Art, Sculptures, Picasso Ceramics
A fascinating backstory accompanies 13 major Latin-American artworks in the sale. The paintings were consigned by a couple who fled Castro’s Cuba in 1962 after relinquishing all of their possessions to the Communist government with the exception of 30 pounds of clothing and two cigars. Once settled in Florida, they were given a Carlos Sobrino painting as a wedding gift. Thus began their 55-year journey as avid art collectors.

The couple’s highly refined collection includes a 1946 Mario Carreno (Cuban/American, 1913-1999) Cubist oil-on-canvas titled Bird House. Artist-signed, with extensive provenance and a COA signed by Carreno’s widow, it is expected to make $20,000-$25,000. Amongst the Latin American bronzes offered are two by Angel Botello (Puerto Rican, 1913-1986): La Lluvia (The Rain), est. $20,000-$30,000; and a monumental sculpture titled The Dancer, $25,000-$35,000.

Another highlight is the extremely desirable 55-inch-tall Harry Bertoia (American, 1915-1978) Sonambient sculpture of beryllium copper and brass, which comes with a COA from the artist’s son, Val Bertoia. Estimate: $30,000-$60,000.

The array of high-quality paintings is a source of pride for PBMA. “It’s by far the best selection we’ve ever had in one sale,” said PBMA co-owner and auctioneer Rico Baca. A top entry is an 84-inch-wide Sam Gilliam (African American, Washington Color School, b. 1933-) abstract titled Gild and Tropic, estimated at $100,000-$150,000. It was created in 1976 and is artist-signed.

An original Fernand Leger (French, 1881-1955) gouache, Projet Pour Le Ballet, David Triomphant, is expected to reach $50,000-$70,000; while there is a $40,000-$60,000 expectation for a Bridget Riley’s (British/American, b. 1931-) silkscreen on Plexiglass, Untitled, Fragment 7. An original Andy Warhol ink drawing Elixir De Markoff Royal Jelly is estimated at $40,000-$60,000, and a Keith Haring signed artist’s proof for Three Lithographs: One Plate is entered with a $50,000-$80,000 estimate.

The rock star of modern ceramics, mid-century (Pablo) Picasso pottery “continues to rise in value,” said Baca. “We had great success with it in our last sale.” Eight examples of Picasso pottery are included in PBMA’s Feb. 4 session. From a Florida private collection comes “Chouette (Owl),” #105 from an edition of 500. The 9-inch-tall, hand-painted owl was originally purchased at the Madoura Pottery Works in Vallauris, France, where all Picasso pottery was designed and created. It is estimated at $15,000-$25,000. The lot with the most enviable provenance is a bird-form vessel known as “Pichet Anse Prise (Pitcher with Seized Handle).” It is the actual artist’s proof for the small 1953 edition of 200 and was held in the private collection of Picasso’s close friends Georges and Suzanne Ramie, owners of the Madoura studio. The Ramie Collection – including this piece – was 100% sold at Christie’s South Kensington (London) in 2012, to worldwide acclaim. Pichet Anse Prise is estimated at $15,000-$22,000.

Other Picasso ceramics include a 1952 “Cavalier et Cheval” vase/vessel, est. $10,000-$15,000; plus from a private New York collection, a “Femme” handled vessel, $12,000-$15,000, and a “Poisson (Fish)” vessel; $5,000-$7,000. From the estate of a Florida physician, a “Cruchon Hibou” handled jug is estimated at $10,000-$15,000.

New York’s fabled disco Studio 54 is back in the news, with its upcoming 40th anniversary, a planned documentary, and a book penned by co-owner Ian Schrager. “The timing could not have been more ideal for an archive of Studio 54 photos to be consigned to us,” said Baca. “What we have is an absolutely unique grouping of gelatin silver prints taken between 1977 and 1980 by the late Richard P. Manning, also known as ‘RPM.’ Mr. Manning had unique access to what nowadays would be called ‘after parties.’ He photographed not just celebrities, but also the club’s other colorful and uninhibited guests. His pictures weren’t press photos – they were latter-day versions of what Man Ray or Weegee might have taken in such surroundings.”

The 115 lots are from Manning’s personal archive, which he bequeathed to lifelong friends. A few of the celebrities captured in unguarded moments are: David Bowie, Andy Warhol, Michael Jackson, Mick Jagger, Roger Daltrey, Rod and (then-wife) Alana Stewart, Jerry Hall, John Travolta, Sylvester Stallone, and Truman Capote. Dozens more photos are uncensored depictions of revelers who “parked their inhibitions at the door,” Baca said. One such photo is of Margaret Trudeau, then-wife of Canadian Prime Minister the late Pierre Trudeau, seated in a manner that revealed her lack of underwear. The photo appeared in the September 1979 issue of High Society magazine. Note: Photos are being sold without copyright.

Sunday, Feb. 5: T.H. Robsjohn Collection, Modern Design & Luxury
An unprecedented, absolutely unique collection of 16 original T.H. Robsjohn-Gibbings furnishings comes from White Shadows, the Rancho Mirage, California mid-century residence designed for Thomas B. Davis. Heralded both for its palatial splendor and luxurious simplicity, White Shadows was the subject of a major spread in the November 1958 issue of House Beautiful magazine. “Complete harmony in the living areas evokes the emotion of serenity…(and a) romantic aura,” wrote the article’s author, Curtis Besinger. “Undoubtedly, much of that was attributable to Robsjohn-Gibbings’ innovative choices of colors and fabrics for his trend-setting furniture designs,” said Baca.

The collection includes two pairs of monumental floor lamps, each having three tiers of globed lights. Each lamp will be auctioned separately with a $10,000-$20,000 estimate. The designer’s quintessential mid-century sofa/daybed consisting of three upholstered walnut pieces that can be arranged in several configurations is estimated at $5,000-$10,000. Additionally, there are armchairs, benches, nightstands, headboards/footboards, a dresser/cabinet with mirror, and both occasional and end tables.

Both the Feb. 4 and 5 sessions commence at 12:00 noon Eastern Time, with Internet live bidding through LiveAuctioneers. The exhibition center and auction venue is located at 417 Bunker Rd., West Palm Beach, FL 33405. Guests will be treated to a catered lunch, snacks and beverages, and there will be complimentary valet parking. For additional information on any item, call 561-586-5500 or e-mail

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