Made in California: The Golden State’s hottest artists at Bonhams & Butterfields

Californians have long-considered the West Coast as “hot” and this summer Bonhams & Butterfields is intent on supporting this perspective by presenting the Made in California sale on May 5, showcasing the exceptional creativity of the state’s leading modern and contemporary artists.

After spending decades in the shadows of the New York and European art scenes, California is coming into the limelight. Artists such as John Baldessari, Ed Ruscha, Ron Davis and Larry Bell have made the West Coast a new center of the art world. Museums across California are showing off their local talent in surveys of contemporary California art. As well, a recent exhibition at the Centre Pompidou in Paris, “Los Angeles: 1955-1985, Naissance d’une Capitale Artistique,” has given international recognition to the Golden State.

As the oldest and largest auction house of the West Coast, Bonhams & Butterfields has continually achieved exceptional prices for California art. The firm’s California and American Paintings Department has had record-setting success selling works from the early 20th century. “The influence of California on the art world goes beyond traditional landscape and Western paintings,” says Holly Sherratt, a specialist in Modern and Contemporary art. In 2006 Sherratt developed Made in California, an auction featuring the state’s modern, surreal, abstract and conceptual artists.

With specialists in New York, Los Angeles and San Francisco, the Modern and Contemporary Art Department amassed an extraordinary collection for their inaugural sale last May. The sale set auction records for artists such as Joan Brown, Lee Mullican, Manuel Neri, Guy Dill and Wallace Berman. The second sale in November was equally successful, setting auction records for artists including Ruth Asawa, Maxwell Hendler, Claire Falkenstein, Joan Brown, Manuel Neri, and others.

“Sales like Made in California are necessary to establish a strong secondary market for our California artists,” says Sherratt. “We know the artists, we know the galleries; why not leverage these relationships and develop a stronger market for California art?”

The May 5 auction highlights San Francisco’s rich artistic tradition. The auction includes work by groundbreaking Bay Area figurative artists such as David Park, Nathan Oliveira, Manuel Neri, James Weeks, and Roland Petersen. Working in the 1960s, these artists rejected the unwritten rule that art should be abstract in the legacy of Jackson Pollock. Roland Petersen experimented with color, light and shadow in a series of geometric picnic paintings. As a painter and professor at University of California at Davis (UC Davis) for many years, Petersen influenced many generations of Bay Area artists. The sale will feature several of his paintings from the 1960s and 1970s including Summer Picnic, 1971, and The Sunflower Eclipse, 1972. Each painting is estimated to bring $50,000-$70,000.

The auction will also highlight the work of several generations of Los Angeles artists including Claire Falkenstein, Ron Davis, Peter Alexander, Billy Al Bengston, Ed Moses, Alexis Smith and Robert Graham. “California has a unique set of social and historical conditions that makes the state distinctive,” says Sherratt, “These artists were inspired by the landscape, beach culture and political climate of Los Angeles.”

The Los Angeles and San Francisco galleries will simulcast the sale on May 5 enabling bidding from the salesrooms in both cities. Made in California will follow the international Modern and Contemporary auction that begins at 10 am. Artwork from both sales will be on display in San Francisco on April 25-27 and in Los Angeles on May 2-4.

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