Records tumbled like dice Wednesday in Manhattan as Christie’s auction house sold four colourful paintings by master Canadian abstractionist Jack Bush for a total of almost $1.6-million (U.S.), including buyers’ premiums.
Each of the paintings broke the previous record for a Bush sold at live auction – $267,000 set by Sotheby’s Canada in May last year for a 1971 acrylic titled Glide. One painting, a 1965 oil titled Red Side Right (Right Side Red), soared above the rest, going for $603,750.
The paintings were consigned by the estate of U.S. singer Andy Williams, an avid collector in the years before his death last year at 84. He’d purchase three of the Bushes in the 1960s from London’s Waddington Galleries and one in 1984 at auction from Sotheby’s New York.
All four paintings went into bidding with staggeringly low estimates – a reflection perhaps of the less-than-pristine condition of each canvas. Red Side Right, 206.4 cm-by-169.5, for instance, had a published estimate of $30,000-$50,000 (U.S.). Pink and Orange (Pinched Orange), an 221 cm-by-178 canvas from 1964, had the smallest pre-sale estimate ($25,000-$35,000) but fetched the second-highest tally, $387,750.
While Bush, a member of Toronto’s Painters Eleven who died at 67 in 1977, has a following in the U.K. and U.S. where he was championed by the famous New York formalist critic Clement Greenberg, his strongest aficionados are in Canada. Pre-auction expectations were high that most of the bidding, in-person or on the telephone, would be conducted by Canadian collectors or their agents. It’s hoped some or all of the paintings sold Wednesday will be exhibited at a major Bush retrospective hosted by the National Gallery of Canada in October, 2014 in Ottawa.
The other prices realized were $219,750 for January Reds (1966) and $363,750 for Pink blossom (1965).