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Buyers Pay Handsomely for Halley’s Geometric Abstracts

In the mid-1990s, after several years of representation by some of Manhattan’s most prestigious dealers, artist Peter Halley (b. 1953) took his career into his own hands. “I found I could do better by establishing relationships with half a dozen dealers around the world than by participating in an exclusive relationship with a New York dealer,”

NEW YORK—In the mid-1990s, after several years of representation by some of Manhattan’s most prestigious dealers, artist Peter Halley (b. 1953) took his career into his own hands. “I found I could do better by establishing relationships with half a dozen dealers around the world than by participating in an exclusive relationship with a New York dealer,” Halley told ARTnewsletter.

In the past Halley had exclusive relationships with the Sonnabend and Gagosian galleries. The artist, known for his colorful geometric images—usually featuring boxes and extended lines—presently works with what he describes as “a constellation of galleries that represent my work.”

Currently, seven of Halley’s paintings are on exhibit (through March 12) at Imago Galleries, Palm Desert, Calif.—one of the many galleries in the U.S. and abroad that show his work. The pieces—several of which have already been sold—are priced from $35,000/70,000. This is Halley’s second exhibition with Imago. The first, in 2003, was a sellout, says David Austin, who co-owns the gallery with his wife, Leisa.

Ron Warren, director of Mary Boone Gallery, New York, says Halley’s works are collected by a considerable number of buyers in the U.S. as well as by Europeans, who acquire most of his paintings.

Thaddaeus Ropac, who has galleries in Paris and Salzburg, has exhibited the artist’s work since the late 1980s. At both Mary Boone and Thaddaeus Ropac, prices for new paintings range from $40,000/60,000, depending upon size. Higher prices reward early works—pieces from the 1980s in good condition have reached $100,000/180,000, Ropac said. The Mary Boone Gallery has not sold any work on the secondary market to date.

Museums, particularly those in Europe, also have collected Halley’s work. The Essl Collection of Contemporary Art and the Museum of Modern Art Ludwig Foundation, both in Vienna, Austria, have acquired a combined 12 paintings over the past five years, said Ropac; and Warren noted that of the ten works in Mary Boone’s most recent Halley show in 2004, which proved a sellout, two were purchased for museums—one for the Mint Museum in Charlotte, N.C., and another for a German foundation.

The top auction price for Halley’s work is $167,500, achieved in 1999 at Christie’s for the 1990 four-part River’s Edge, which more than doubled the $80,000 high estimate. Other top auction prices include $143,000 (estimate: $100,000/150,000) for the 1987 Rectangular Prison with Smokestack at Sotheby’s in 1989. The most recent auction price was $79,000, realized last December at Christie’s South Kensington saleroom for Soul Control, 1991. But at Phillips, de Pury and Company last December, two more recent works carrying modest estimates of $500/700—Contamination 1 (in 19 Parts), 2002, and Contamination 2 (in 19 Parts), 2002—failed to sell.

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