An untitled 1986 work by Gerhard Richter—an oil-on-paper work measuring about two feet by three feet—led the first Sotheby’s contemporary art sale of the fall season, bringing in $842,500, more than double its high estimate of $350,000. The sale, which took place on Friday, Sept. 21, in New York, brought in about $12.3 million, which was comfortably within its pre-sale estimate of $9.7 to 13.8 million, with 71.1 percent of lots selling.
Mark Grotjahn, an artist best known for his laborious and intricate paintings, is something of a hoarder. Anyone who visits his Los Angeles studio comes back gushing about the strange cardboard masks that litter the space. He started making them 10 years ago, around the time he began the series of abstract paintings that launched his career: his so-called butterfly series, which consist of detailed rays of color bursting from various vanishing points. He would only paint the butterflies in natural light, so he worked in 12-hour bursts, but when the sun went down, he wanted to keep going. He started saving cardboard boxes—including the 12-packs left over from his wedding—and toilet paper rolls, fashioning them into masks with vaguely phallic noses (the toilet paper rolls) and eerily blank, jack-o’-lantern expressions. They are both primal and juvenile; a lot of artists have made masks, Mr. Grotjahn says, but, he hastens to add, so have a lot of kids.
Painter Mark Grotjahn, we suspect, is a happy man this morning, after hearing that Dean Valentine, whom he sued to collect unpaid resale royalties last year, has agreed to pay up, and cover a portion of the artist’s legal costs, according to The Hollywood Reporter.
“I’ve been working my ass off for you to make that profit?” the artist Robert Rauschenberg said to collector Robert Scull in 1973 as he shoved him after an auction at Sotheby Parke Bernet, at which Mr. Scull sold a number of contemporary artworks for sums far exceeding what he had initially paid. The artists who had produced the works, of course, received nothing.
Three years later, California governor Jerry Brown signed into law the California Resale Royalties Act, which required people selling art to pay five percent of the sales price to the artist, if certain requirements were met. Today, the law is not frequently enforced, and, based on interviews with art market players, not completely understood. However, the law has been thrust into the news of late thanks to two lawsuits.