THE G.E. CORPORATE ART COLLECTION HAS BROUGHT IN MORE THAN $1 MILLION THIS YEAR, AND THERE’S MORE TO COME
By Christina Rees
This summer Heritage Auctions continues its success as a partner to corporate art collections – in this case, the diverse and culturally significant General Electric collection. Choice works by American luminaries such as Stuart Shils, Tony Rosenthal and Grace Hartigan are among the lineup in Heritage’s Aug. 11 Fine & Decorative Arts Showcase Auction, featuring the G.E. Corporate Art Collection.
Heritage’s work with the G.E. collection has proved enormously fruitful. Earlier auctions this year have brought in more than $1 million, selling works by Robert Motherwell, Chuck Close and Larry Bell, as well as an oil-and-pastel work on canvas by Hedda Sterne that realized $275,000. Other G.E. auction highlights have included works by Australian-American sculptor Clement Meadmore and American painter Woody Gwyn.
“Just about all of the Fortune 500 companies around the world have substantial curated art collections, and Heritage has been assisting corporations with their collections for many years,” says Taylor Curry, Director of Modern & Contemporary Art in Heritage Auctions’ New York office. “Whether it is to grow the collection or reduce, Heritage is capable of assisting anyone with their large corporate collection needs.”
As more people work from home, reducing collections is growing in popularity as major companies rethink their art collections in this era of downsizing massive physical headquarters – the spaces in which they have historically showcased select collections. Because of this, collectors get the chance to acquire excellent works by their favorite artists, with the added bonus of desirable corporate collection provenance.
“Having that corporate provenance is something our private collectors enjoy and feel confident in bidding on,” says Rebecca Van Norman, Consignment Director of Prints & Multiples at Heritage Auctions. “That confidence leads to great results. This is because corporations take careful consideration in hiring someone whose responsibility it is to maintain, preserve and research all works within the collection.”
The G.E. collection, which was managed by art advisor Glenn Macura and his team for more than 20 years, features strong holdings in Modern & Contemporary Art, and the works in the August auction are eminently accessible to both seasoned and newer collectors. Included in the sale are two of Stuart Shils’ intimate landscapes from the 1990s. These coveted paintings – oil and paper on board – epitomize the artist’s gestural brushwork that captures the atmospheric moodiness associated with Shils’ prime years of plein-air painting.
In addition to the two works by Shils, Heritage’s August auction offers an excellent work by Tony Rosenthal: Big Six I, circa 1977 embodies the American sculptor’s distinctive work. Rosenthal is the ultimate sculptor’s sculptor. His monumental public works, instantly recognizable, have punctuated American cityscapes and landscapes for decades. Big Six I is the artist’s study for his famed Big Six public artwork; here, Rosenthal’s signature black welded steel form precedes the 14-foot-tall structure located at the Chrysler Museum of Art in Norfolk, Va.
Women artists also have a strong showing in the G.E. collection and in Heritage’s August event, which offers a work by Grace Hartigan, the American Abstract Expressionist painter who was also a member of the seminal New York School of the 1940s through the 1960s (her friends included Willem and Elaine de Kooning, Frank O’Hara and Jackson Pollock). Hartigan’s special-edition screenprint This So-called Angel, from 1961, combines elements of her earlier total abstraction and her later emergent characters and motifs. By this time, Hartigan was using her own name – Grace – whereas earlier in her career, she sometimes exhibited under the name “George Hartigan,” in hopes of attracting greater recognition for her work.
“The G.E. Corporate Art Collection is a great example of a carefully curated collection featuring a variety of artists, media and context,” Van Norman says. “This collection also took the time to have a great curator whose research and attention led to its breadth and excitement.”
CHRISTINA REES is a contributor to Intelligent Collector.