I lost track of the Schwartzes selling Sturtevant’s Oldenburg Store Object, Pie Case amidst the Pompon hype. It was one of the most prominent objects from Sturtevant’s April-til-June 1967 repetition of Oldenburg’s The Store, and it was being sold by some of the most important collectors of Sturtevant’s work. [Eugene organized the 1986 Sturtevant comeback show at White Columns that brought her work into the context of the appropriationist Pictures Generation.Continue reading “Tiny Oldenburg Store Objects, Bacon & Butter”
Jasper Johns Painting With Four Stolen Balls
Trying to trace the whereabouts of Jasper Johns’ 1960 Painting With Two Balls around 1987, when Sturtevant made her Johns Painting With Two Balls, I note that it was reproduced in color in Michael Crichton’s catalogue for Johns’ 1977 Whitney Museum retrospective.
From the notes in the Jasper Johns Catalogue Raisonée, I see that the painting has been on loan to the Philadelphia Museum of Art, beginning March 1979.
Also, that some of the collage pieces date from December 1959.
Also, the construction is as follows: “four mending braces are attached to the canvas with screws, and a strip of wood runs under the bottom edge of the painting.” [Sturtevant’s version has no such strip.]
Also, THOSE ARE NOT JASPER JOHNS’ BALLS. THE BALLS WERE STOLEN. TWICE. AND REPLACED. TWICE.
When the painting returned from a traveling exhibition in November 1962, the original balls were missing and had to be replaced.
That exhibition, 4 Americans: Jasper Johns, Alfred Leslie, Robert Rauschenberg, Richard Stankiewicz, traveled from the Moderna Museet to the Stedelijk to the Kunsthalle Bern, presumably went off without incident until the end. Presumably, the artist made the replacement balls.
The second set was later stolen while the painting was on view at the Venice Biennale in 1964. According to the artist, the balls were replaced again and paint was applied to them with his approval.
So these balls were handled by Italians. They are, in fact, Italian balls. Palle di Venezia. Meanwhile, four of Jasper Johns’ balls are on the loose, last known location: someone’s pockets in Europe. Keep an eye out, I guess.
Sturtevant’s Johns Painting With Two Balls
If you were thinking we just saw Sturtevant’s Johns Painting With Two Balls at auction, you were right. Gerald Finberg bought the 1987 work in late 2019 at Phillips, and, I assume, had a couple of great years with it.
Now it’s on the rebound at Christie’s, who spice things up a bit by letting us hit it from the back. The three panel construction and the tapered cross bars are clearly visible and—presumably—like Johns’ 1960 original.
The higher-res images also help make legible some of the fragments of the International Herald Tribune Sturtevant used (from April 23, 1987 at least, when the Stanley Cup was also underway) as she painted this thing in Paris[?].
The way we understand Sturtevant’s practice is that she repeated works but didn’t reproduce them, painting from the image in her mind, if not exactly “memory.” But the placement, shape, and even the layering of the brushstroke knots here makes me suspect that’s not how Two Balls went down. I think she used a color image for reference, and maybe even projected it. This is a stroke-for-stroke remake—a drip-for-drip remake, even—which feels categorically different from Sturtevant’s other projects [or at least how they’re presented and understood.]
It feels like there’s a Rauschenberg Factum reference here I can’t quite tease out. It’s not just as if two different people made Factum I and Factum II. It’s two different people made paintings with two balls, 27 years apart, and both of them were there when Rauschenberg made the Factums in the first place. But only one made this comparison possible, decades later, and that’s Sturtevant.
17 May 2023, Lot 40C: Sturtevant, Johns Painting With Two Balls, 1987, est. $500-700k [update: sold for $700k hammer, $882,000 total][christies]
2019 Auction listing at Phillips, where it sold for $680,000 [phillips]
Peter Halley interviewing Sturtevant in 2005 [indexmagazine]
Sturtevant Johns Flag Photobomb
In early March 1969, a sculpture by Marc Morrel of a pillow made of US flags hanging in chains brought the cops to the Decatur Arts Center in central Illinois. The director and president of the board were charged with flag desecration, and the work was confiscated.
The traveling group show, titled, “Patriotic Images in American Art,” was organized by Elizabeth C. Baker, managing editor of Art News Magazine, for the American Federation of Arts, and had been shown in previous venues around the country without incident. @br_tton tweeted the story after finding it in the AFA’s files at the Archives for American Art.
The two men fought the charges as unconstitutional restriction of free speech, but it would be twenty years before another artist, Dread Scott, could get enough judges to agree. But that’s another story.
Because just look at Doug Gauman’s photo for the Decatur Herald’s feature on the exhibition, showing a man looking at “Flag in Chains”: doesn’t that flag in the background look like a Jasper Johns?
And so it should. The AAA file doesn’t have a checklist of the show, but the Herald’s story mentions the title of the 48-star throwback: “Jasper Johns Flag for 7th Ave. Garment Rack.” That Johns flag is by Elaine Sturtevant.
I don’t have her CR handy, but until now this has been the only image of the works in this show, her first, at the Bianchini Gallery (later the site of Ubu Gallery on East 78th St). But it sounds like this Johns Flag went on a nationwide tour, extended title and all. Now on the internet, for the first time ever!