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Avid Collectors Chase Late Kounellis Sculptures

Cheim & Read gallery’s current exhibit (Nov. 8-Jan. 6) of works by Greco-Italian artist Jannis Kounellis (b. 1936)—his first New York City show in eight years—has already produced a number of significant sales, reports gallery codirector Howard Read.

NEW YORK—Cheim & Read gallery’s current exhibit (Nov. 8-Jan. 6) of works by Greco-Italian artist Jannis Kounellis (b. 1936)—his first New York City show in eight years—has already produced a number of significant sales, reports gallery codirector Howard Read.

Four of the ten untitled sculptural pieces have been sold to private collectors, and a fifth is awaiting approval from a foundation, says Read, whose gallery assumed exclusive North American representation of Kounellis last March.

The pieces in the exhibition—all created in 2006—are priced from $150,000/450,000. Some are wall-hung, while others are positioned on the floor.

Additionally, the gallery displays six glass-and-steel, wall-mounted sculptures filled with various materials used by Kounellis. Available in editions of 25, they are priced at $20,000 each.

The show is Cheim & Read’s first New York City exhibit of Kounellis’ works, although a $150,000 untitled piece acquired by the gallery from the artist’s studio was also displayed at last June’s Art Basel 37 fair and sold to a collector from Istanbul, affirms Read.

Since the mid-1980s the artist has been represented in Europe by Galerie Lelong, Paris, where an exhibition of his works is planned for February. Lelong’s last Kounellis show was in 2002.

Lawsuit in Mediation

For several years, from the mid-1990s through the early 2000s, Kounellis was represented by Ace Gallery, Los Angeles—an association that ended with a lawsuit brought by Kounellis in a dispute over lack of payment for works sold (ANL, 6/20/06, p. 8). Mediation between the artist and the gallery is slated for January, in Manhattan.

Kounellis pieces periodically come up for sale on the secondary market, says Read, noting that prices range widely, from $500,000/1.65 million for two- and three-dimensional sculptures from the 1960s; and from $250,000/750,000 for sculptures dating from the 1970s through the mid-1990s. The artist also has made drawings, using ink, pencil, oilstick or tar on paper, which range in price from $30,000/50,000.

A number of Kounellis works have come up at public sale, with the highest prices earned by oil-on-canvas paintings from the 1960s and ’70s. The highest price to date: £512,000 or $906,194, for an untitled 1971 painting that surpassed its £250,000/350,000 estimate at a 2005 Christie’s London auction. Among other top prices for 1960s paintings: £453,600 ($825,000) for a work sold at Sotheby’s London in October 2004 (ANL, 11/9/04, p. 5) and £433,600 ($767,433) for a work sold at Christie’s London in 2005.

Among Kounellis’ top-earning sculptural pieces are a 1987 untitled wood, wax and metal work that fetched £187,200 or $346,666 (estimate: £90,000/150,000) at Christie’s London in 2006; and a 1990 untitled steel-with-rope object that earned £153,600 or $284,972, also at Christie’s London, in 2005.

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