THE GE CORPORATE ART COLLECTION COLLECTED MORE THAN $1 MILLION THIS YEAR, AND STILL GOING
By Christina Rees
TIts summer heritage auctions continue its success as a partner to corporate art collections – in this case, the diverse and culturally significant collection of General Electric. Fine works by American luminaries such as Stuart Shils, Tony Rosenthal and Grace Hartigan are among the offerings at the August 11 Heritage Showcase Auction Fine & Decorative Arts Showcase Auction featuring the GE Corporate Art Collection.
Heritage’s work with the GE collection has proved extremely fruitful. Auctions earlier this year have raised more than $1 million, selling works by Robert Motherwell, Chuck Close and Larry Bell, as well as an oil and pastel on canvas by Hedda Stern which has fetched $275,000. Other highlights of the GE auction included works by Australian-American sculptor Clement Meadmore and American painter Woody Gwyn.
“Almost all Fortune 500 companies around the world have extensive curated art collections, and Heritage has been helping companies with their collections for many years,” said Taylor Curry, director of modern and contemporary art at Heritage Auctions’ New York office. “Whether it’s a matter of expanding or reducing the collection, Heritage is able to support anyone with their large corporate collection needs.”
With more people working from home, downsizing collections is becoming increasingly popular as major corporations reconsider their art collections during this era of downsizing massive physical headquarters — the spaces where they have historically showcased select collections. Because of this, collectors have the opportunity to acquire outstanding works by their favorite artists, with the added bonus of coveted corporate collection provenance.
“Our private collectors enjoy this corporate provenance and feel safe when they bid on it,” says Rebecca Van Norman, Consignment Director of Prints & Multiples at Heritage Auctions. “That trust leads to great results. This is because companies carefully consider hiring someone whose responsibility it is to care for, preserve and research all the works within the collection.”
Managed for more than 20 years by art consultant Glenn Macura and his team, the GE collection has strong holdings of modern and contemporary art, and the works in the August auction are highly accessible to both experienced and novice collectors. Included in the offer are two intimate landscapes by Stuart Shils from the 1990s. These coveted paintings – oil and paper on cardboard – embody the artist’s gestural brushwork, which captures the atmospheric mood associated with Shils’ prime as a plein air painter.
In addition to the two works by Shils, Heritage’s August sale features an excellent work by Tony Rosenthal: Big Six I, circa 1977, embodies the American sculptor’s distinctive work. Rosenthal is the sculptor of the ultimate sculptor. Instantly recognizable, his monumental public works have shaped American cityscapes and landscapes for decades. Big Six I is the artist’s study for his fame Big Six public artworks; Here, Rosenthal’s signature black-welded steel form precedes the 14-foot-tall structure housed in the Chrysler Museum of Art in Norfolk, Virginia.
Female artists also have a strong presence in the GE Collection and at Heritage’s August event, which features a work by Grace Hartigan, the American abstract expressionist painter who was also a member of the seminal New York School of the 1940s-1960s ( her friends including 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 with her later emerging characters and motifs. At this point, Hartigan was using her own name – Grace – while earlier in her career she sometimes exhibited under the name “George Hartigan” in hopes of gaining greater recognition for her work.
“The GE Corporate Art Collection is a great example of a carefully curated collection spanning a variety of artists, mediums and contexts,” says Van Norman. “This collection has also taken the time to have a terrific curator, whose research and attention has led to its breadth and excitement.”
CHRISTINA REES is contributor on Intelligent collector.