A recent Art Directives client wanted to know the value of several paintings stored in his garage. Knowing very little about them, he turned to us to research the works and also to find a market for selling them. One painting stood out: a large abstract acrylic on canvas painted in 1974 by Larry Poons, Untitled LP 21 (#1).
Poons was born in Tokyo in 1937. He became a prominent figure in Op Art and in the Color-Field school of painting in New York. His work of the 1960s was characterized by dots of color placed according to a horizontal vertical and diagonal grid against a rich colored ground. In 1965, he exhibited with the Op Artists, but the next year, his art became looser with small colored shapes floating in space. From that time, he changed to expressionism and abstraction.
For most of his career, Poons has been heavily influenced by his musical training. He studied at Boston's New England Conservatory of Music in the 1950’s. Later he switched to the Boston Museum School of Fine Arts and became a prominent figure in painting in New York City. In the early 1970s, Poons began experimenting with various techniques including the pouring and throwing of paint. In that sense, he has been described as a “post-painterly abstract artist”. The client’s painting was from this period.
The highest auction price paid for a Poons canvas is $1.16 Million. The canvas owned by this client sold for $53,125 at Sotheby’s Contemporary Curated sale in early 2015.
The untitled canvas, alive with color and movement, was originally purchased by the client’s father at Ace Gallery on the West Coast. Ace Gallery made history by installing ambitious exhibitions, showing work from artists such as Richard Serra, Donald Judd, Robert Irwin, James Rosenquist and Andy Warhol. In New York, Castelli Gallery featured the work of Frank Stella, Larry Poons, Lee Bontecou, James Rosenquist, Roy Lichtenstein, Andy Warhol, Robert Morris, Dan Flavin, Cy Twombly, Ronald Davis, and Ed Ruscha, giving several of them their first one-man shows.
Today, all of these mid-to-late 20th century artists continue to realize strong auction prices, as high as $105 Million for a single work.
Sources: Leslie Howard Gallery, Wikipedia, AskArt, ArtNet, and Smithsonian Archives of American Art