ARTnewsletter Archive

Carrington’s Surrealist Works Are Scarce and Ever-Pricier

San Francisco gallery owner Wendy Norris has actively pursued works by Surrealist painter Leonora Carrington (b. 1917), both at auction and from private collectors, for the last five years.

NEW YORK—San Francisco gallery owner Wendy Norris has actively pursued works by Surrealist painter Leonora Carrington (b. 1917), both at auction and from private collectors, for the last five years.

A number of those pieces are currently on display at the Frey Norris Gallery and Annex in an exhibit of 20 oils and works on paper that runs through March 30. To date, half the artworks have been sold to private buyers in the United States and one in Mexico City, Norris told ARTnewsletter.

Often brightly colored, Carrington’s work is essentially figurative, with images filled with potato-shaped or elongated people and other creatures.

Prices for her pieces in the gallery: $7,000 for limited edition lithographs; $10,000/20,000 for drawings (in graphite or pencil, sometimes with a splash of watercolor); $80,000/150,000 for both gouaches and watercolor paintings; $180,000/500,000 for mixed-media works on paper; and $300,000/600,000 for oils on canvas.

Out of Art and Representation Too

Carrington, a British painter and writer who studied art in Florence, Paris and London, lives in Mexico City. She no longer paints, is not represented by a dealer and has no art left, according to Norris.

Noting that “she painted and sold what she painted to survive,” Norris says, “I tell art students the story of Leonora Carrington as a warning that they shouldn’t sell absolutely everything but should keep some things for themselves.”

Much of Carrington’s work is found in England and France, but Norris says that interest is high and still growing in the U.S. as well.

One of the three exhibition rooms in the Frey Norris Gallery is devoted to female Surrealist artists (including Leonor Fini, Dorothea Tanning and Remedios Varo). Norris reports that she has seen prices double over the past three years.

The top price for Carrington’s work at auction is $663,600, for the oil-on-canvas Dream of the Sirens, 1963, a triptych that was sold at Christie’s New York last July, bettering the auctioneer’s $350,000/450,000 estimate.

Other notable public-sale prices include $595,338 (estimate: $129,310/172,413) for the 1944 Chiki, Ton Pays at Sotheby’s London in 2002; and $553,600 (estimate: $350,000/450,000) for The 19th Hole, 1958, at Sotheby’s New York in 2006.

  • Issues