Demand for Op Art proved strong at Bonhams recent London Post-War and Contemporary Art Sale, with the total 52 lots achieving £5,385,875. The top selling work was NJ15 (Diptych) by Polish-American artist Wojciech Fangor (1922-2015), which realised £413,000, over double its estimate of £140,000-180,000 and achieving a world record price for the artist’s work.
The auction also saw works by Gunther Uecker, Georg Baselitz, Keith Haring, Shozo Shimamoto, and Victor Vasarely achieve substantial success. Vasarely’s 1967 Op Art piece Alom-2 performed well, achieving £293,000 against a pre-sale estimate of £90,000-120,000.
Ralph Taylor, Bonhams Head of Post War and Contemporary Art in London, says, “I am not surprised these works were so keenly sought after and achieved such strong results. Uecker, Rego, Baselitz, Shimamoto and Haring are acknowledged as modern masters and the works we presented in this tightly curated auction were of supreme quality.
“Our Op Art section was particularly strong. During the past two years in particular, appreciation for this movement has grown significantly. Collectors and public institutions now recognize it as provocative and visually dynamic – works that challenged viewers’ perception of the world in a time of great social and cultural change. We are delighted to claim the world record price for a work by Wojciech Fangor.”
Op Art (short for Optical Art) was a global movement that came to prominence in the 1960s. Its most important practitioners came from and travelled to places as diverse as Poland, Venezuela, Israel, America, the UK and Hungary. While the works vary, they often include geometric shapes crafted to create the illusion of spatial depth. Simple, bold colours reference the age of computers and binary systems. It was an aesthetic that defined the look of the 1960s and influenced everything from Mary Quant dresses, to fabric design and advertising.
Other highlights included:
A work by Günther Uecker, founding member of the Zero group, was sold after competitive bidding. A total of £557,000 was achieved for Oval indicating that demand for Uecker’s work goes from strength to strength.
Heiße Ecke by Georg Baselitz made £497,000, nearly double the high estimate of £250,000.
Untitled, 1951, by Gutai co-founder Shozo Shimamoto (Japanese 1928-2013), sold for £293,000 against an estimate of £80,000 – 120,000. This piece which attracted fierce bidding in the saleroom is registered in Shimamoto’s archive of work as under No.1.
23.05.50, a 1950 painting by the the French/Chinese artist Zao Wou-Ki, achieved £281,000 against an estimate of £150,000-200,000.
36 Four Corners (∑, Square, Run, Pile) 1997 by the American Carl Andre realized £191,000 against a pre-sale estimate of £120,000-180,000