The market for post-1945 studio ceramics shows signs of stabilizing. It had to bottom out first and this was a bit of shock for those who thought they could not just resell at peak 2006 prices, but even make a profit on top of that level. They could not do that with their homes then, so why ceramics? But it all is settling now.
Above image: Peter Voulkos, Plate (detail), 1956
The artists who have taken the hardest hit are those with a small cadre of obsessive collectors who kept the prices on an upward trajectory. The Getrud and Otto Natzler sales are a case in point and when the top three collectors pulled back the prices drifted down rapidly and may not yet have reached the floor.
This is not a problem in the long run, however, the classical beauty of their forms and the peerless craftsmanship will give them a strong future in what will hopefully be a less-lopsided market.
On the recent and always wonderfully eclectic Modern Art and Design sale at Los Angeles Modern Auctions (Van Nuys, May 17, 2015) there was some ceramic work of interest but, except for a ceramic wall slab by Peter Voulkos, no masterworks.
Two Natzler pots with low estimates, failed to sell, but Beatrice Wood held in with a $7,500 result for a 6-inch high footed bowl with encrustations of gold glazed fish.
The key group was a collection of ceramics from the Otis Art Institute during the 1950’s. Historically it was fascinating even though the prices were not thrilling (for the seller that is). The superb Voulkos plaque with stencil drawings and forceful, colorful glaze painting was the bargain of the day at $9,375 (a good buy even at twice that price).
A rare but atypical John Mason (one of his few works in the Abstract expressionist mode) failed to sell as did the early Paul Soldner although it did find a home post-auction for $1250. An oddly delightful Michael Frimkess also found a home as did all the Henry Takemoto works and Billy Al Bengston’s many crude tea bowls and mugs.
A curious Ken price vase, monumental for him at 17-inch height, fetched $8,750.
It is just a matter of time until the turnaround comes for this work. But for now buyers can purchase top ceramics at very attractive prices. For an overview of the Otis material do read LAMA director Peter Loughrey’s blog posts for this auction, Otis College and the Ceramic Revolution.
Garth Clark is the Chief Editor of CFile
Any thoughts about this post? Share yours in the comment box below.