Mark Grotjhan Untitled (Orange Butterfly), 2002 Estimate $500-700,000
In just a few seasons, the Los Angeles–based Grotjahn has gone from critical favorite to market darling, becoming one of the most sought-after artists on the international scene. The 40-year-old painter has been championed by such big-name collectors as Charles Saatchi, and he is now represented in the U.K. by the Gagosian Gallery. His longtime dealer in Los Angeles is Blum & Poe; in New York he is shown by the Anton Kern Gallery.
Grotjahn combines linear motifs and hard-edged designs with bright, Pop-inspired colors, as well as references to myriad art-historical styles—Constructivism, Op art and post-painterly abstraction. To describe the work in his breakout 2003 solo show at Anton Kern, a critic used the phrase “perverse formalism.” Paintings from that exhibition sold at prices ranging from $8,000 to $20,000, depending on their size. The present work originally sold for $5,000.
The intensely hued Untitled (Orange Butterfly) is one of an ongoing series of paintings and drawings in which Grotjahn uses patterns of colored triangles to form abstracted butterfly wings that seem to unfold, suggesting the movement of a figure in a sequence of Edward Muybridge photographs. As with most of the artist’s works, it has more than one vanishing point, drawing the viewer’s eye across the surface.
Grotjahn has achieved escalating prices at auction, including the mark set last May at Phillips in New York when Untitled (Blue Face Grotjahn), 2005 (est. $300–400,000), fetched $1,217,000.That topped the artist’s previous high of $937,000 (est. $300–400,000), paid at Phillips in November 2007 for Untitled (Orange Butterfly), 2002, a larger version of the current offering.
"New York Sales Preview: Phillips Contemporary" originally appeared in the November 2008 issue of Art+Auction. For a complete list of articles from this issue available on ARTINFO, see Art+Auction'sNovember 2008 Table of Contents.