Sotheby's unveils highlights from Contemporary Curated
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Sotheby's unveils highlights from Contemporary Curated
Kenneth Noland, Ember. Estimate $2.2/2.8 million. Courtesy Sotheby's.

NEW YORK, NY.- Sotheby’s is pleased to announce highlights from this season’s Contemporary Curated auction in New York, with co-curators by Virgil Abloh, Chief Creative Director and Founder of Off-White and Men’s Artistic Director at Louis Vuitton, and Gorden Wagener, Chief Design Officer Mercedes-Benz. The sale will take place 2 October and is highlighted by Project Geländewagen, the first outcome of a collaboration that is a first of its kind between Mercedes-Benz and Abloh, in which a special, one-of-a-kind Mercedes-Benz maquette will be auctioned for charity (estimate $60/80,000). The conceptual design project used the Mercedes-Benz G-Class to explore ways of disrupting future perceptions of luxury, and the result is a distinctive manifestation of the G-Class as never seen before.

The October sale features an exceptional array of works spanning postwar to contemporary art, anchored by many of the leading artists that defined and continue to influence these periods: Helen Frankenthaler, Kenneth Noland, Barkley L. Hendricks, Kerry James Marshall, Gerhard Richter, Richard Diebenkorn, Rush Asawa, and many more. The sale also features property from significant collections, including The Collector’s Eye: Property from the Collection Dr. M. Wallace and Mrs. Faega Friedman, which brings together works from Color Field painting, the Bay Area Figurative Movement, and their antecedents in Abstract Expressionism, and embodies a standard of excellence in Postwar Art; as well as Groundbreaking: Works from the Collection of Joseph & Blanche Blank, which features two masterworks by Romare Bearden, a seminal 1960s gouache by Jacob Lawrence, and spans sculpture, collage and painting, showcasing the daringness of the collection. Along with Project Geländewagen, the sale is highlighted by two other charitable sequences in support of Choice Works by Planned Parenthood and the High Line.

Highlights from the auction will be on view by appointment at Sotheby’s York Avenue headquarters in New York from 26 September through 1 October. Advance bidding for the auction will open 14 September before the live sale 2 October.



Virgil Abloh is a polymath artist, architect, creative director and fashion designer, whose work was exhibition the Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago in a major traveling survey in summer 2019. Currently, Abloh is the Chief Creative Director and founder of Off-White and Men’s Artistic Director at Louis Vuitton.

A Selection of Abloh’s Picks
A standout in the Curated sale and one of Abloh’s picks is the 1980 Barkley L. Hendricks portrait Latin From Manhattan…The Bronx Actually (estimate $700,000 - $1 million). Hendricks’ signature depictions of cool, stylish and self-aware Black subjects revolutionized the canonical practice of portraiture in late 20th century American art. The present work is an extraordinary example of the artist’s unrivaled ability to conjure compelling personalities with astonishing specificity, and to capture not just a subject’s facial features but their aura. The work remained in the artist's collection until it was included in “The Magic City,” an important exhibition at Brent Sikkema Gallery in 2000 that paved the way for the Nasher Museum’s widely-celebrated retrospective, “Barkley L. Hendricks: ‘Birth of Cool” in 2008, where it was also exhibited.

Abloh also selected Kerry James Marshall’s The Wonderful One (estimate $500/700,000), an early and important work by the artist that encapsulates many of the most fundamental themes that would come to define Marshall’s career, notably the competing hypervisibility and invisibility inherent to Blackness. Completing Abloh’s picks is Untitled Anxious Red Drawing by Rashid Johnson (estimate $50/70,000).

Gorden Wagener is the Chief Design Officer Daimler Group and the Chief Design Officer Mercedes-Benz. He is responsible for the design of all Mercedes-Benz, Mercedes-Maybach, Mercedes-AMG models as well as the company’s smart models and commercial vehicles. Under his leadership, the new design philosophy of Sensual Purity was devised, which embodies both ‘hot’ and ‘cool’ characteristics and thereby expresses an essential aspect of the Mercedes-Benz brand – the dichotomy between emotion and intelligence.

A Selection of Wagener’s Picks
With an eye for design and form and inspired by the purity of the senses and aesthetic soul that informs his designs at Mercedes-Benz, Wagener’s picks range in non-representational imagery and include Kenneth Noland’s Ember (estimate $2.2/2.8 million). The 1960 painting is an early and quintessential example of the artist’s famed target series, which embodied a radical break from the tradition of abstract painting before it. Ember is a seminal manifestation of the artist's Hard-Edge Abstraction, and it captures Noland as he harnessed painting’s elemental attributes, making them synonymous with one another and redefining contemporary art in the process. Exemplifying the artist's ability to use simple geometry to engage physical notions of movement, speed and weight all without employing gesture, Ember marks a new path forward in a lineage of postwar abstraction.

Also selected by Wagener is Helen Frankenthaler’s Pass (estimate $250/350,000). Painted in the summer of 1969 in Provincetown, Pass captures Frankenthaler in full control over the artistic developments she pioneered in the previous decade, utilizing diluted acrylic and raw canvas to maximum effect. Rounding out the picks is Gerhard Richter’s 14.2.88 (estimate $180/250,000).

Project Geländewagen
Highlighting the sale is a one-of-a-kind maquette has been created for auction, exclusively for Sotheby’s, allowing the possibility to own this unique design piece, and be personally introduced to the design concepts that brought it to life by Wagener and Abloh. “Mercedes-Benz is a brand that stands for luxury and exceptional performance,” says Virgil Abloh. “Truly a perfect chassis to interject modern artists’ ideas of what the future can be stylistically, within conceptual car design.” All proceeds from the sale of the maquette will be provided to a charity that supports international creative communities.

“Mercedes-Benz today is much more than a luxury carmaker, it is a design brand and luxury label. One major reason for our success story is our aesthetic soul and the unique style of our house.” says Gorden Wagener. “The next step in pushing Mercedes-Benz design is our collaboration with Virgil Abloh. We are set to create something unseen in both of our branches,” states Wagener.

Artworks to Support Choice Works by Planned Parenthood and Friends of the Highline
The Curated auction will feature two sales sequences that will benefit nonprofit organizations, including five artworks donated by revered contemporary artists Cecily Brown, Judy Chicago, Elizabeth Peyton, Dana Schutz and Pat Steir to support Choice Works by Planned Parenthood. The series of works is part of a larger online sale dedicated to Choice Works that features more than 20 works donated by leading artists, such as Rita Ackermann, Jeff Koons, Sam Gilliam, Katherine Bradford and more. The online sale runs 21 September through 5 October. A special virtual event hosted by artists Cecily Brown and Amy Sherald, Sotheby’s Global Head of Fine Art Amy Cappellazzo, and Sotheby's Chairman, Americas, Lisa Dennison, with a special virtual performance by Questlove, will kick off the sale on 21 September. Tickets can be purchased to the event and all proceeds will benefit Planned Parenthood.

Additionally, a selection of works donated directly by artists to support the High Line includes Simone Leigh, Rashid Johnson, Firelei Báez, Nari Ward and Sascha Braunig. The works will be sold to benefit the High Line and its arts program, including commissions, exhibitions, performances, and billboard interventions.

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