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Vicente Paintings Appeal to Wide Range of Collectors

In the seven years that New York gallery Ameringer & Yohe Fine Art has represented the estate of Spanish-born painter Esteban Vicente (1903–2001), the New York gallery has mounted five solo exhibitions, the most recent of which opened Oct. 30 and runs through Dec. 15.

NEW YORK—In the seven years that New York gallery Ameringer & Yohe Fine Art has represented the estate of Spanish-born painter Esteban Vicente (1903–2001), the New York gallery has mounted five solo exhibitions, the most recent of which opened Oct. 30 and runs through Dec. 15.

The current exhibition of 38 small collages includes work from 1950 through 1998, priced at $7,500/65,000, depending on date. Gallery director James Yohe says works from the 1950s are “always appealing, especially to people enamored of Abstract Expressionism.” The works range in size from 5 by 6 inches to 28 by 42 inches. To date, about half of the collages have found buyers, according to Yohe.

Oil paintings by Vicente, also dating from the early ’50s to shortly before his death, range in price from $55,000/75,000 for 2-by-3-foot works from the ’90s to $250,000 for 4-by-5-foot Abstract Expressionist works from the ’50s. The gallery also has drawings—some in charcoal, others in charcoal and pastel—priced from $4,000 for later works to $65,000 for earlier pieces.

Yohe said that Vicente’s work appeals to collectors of both Abstract Expressionism and color-field painting. Vicente has been called the last Abstract Expressionist, since he made the acquaintance of several important Parisian modernists (among them Raoul Dufy, Max Ernst and Pablo Picasso) during a stay in the city in the late ’20s, as well as a younger generation of American painters (including Mark Rothko, Willem de Kooning, Jackson Pollock and Franz Kline) when he moved to New York City in the late ’30s after fighting on the losing side of the Spanish Civil War.

His work was exhibited at the Sidney Janis and Charles Egan galleries, where many Abstract Expressionists were showing their work.

The post-Franco government in Spain has attempted to make amends for Vicente’s exile: In 1991, King Juan Carlos bestowed the Gold Medal of Fine Arts on Vicente, and in 1998 a major retrospective of his work was held at the Reina Sofía Museum. That same year the Spanish government inaugurated the Esteban Vicente Museum of Contemporary Art in Segovia. Around the time of the artist’s death, the estate donated 153 works—51 drawings, 48 oil paintings, 27 collages, 16 small sculptures, 4 watercolors, 4 silk screens, 2 lithographs and a tapestry—to the museum.

As well as selling works from the estate, Ameringer & Yohe also handles works on the secondary market, a realm of sales that Yohe described as “fairly active.” Although the principal collectors are American, Yohe noted that Spanish buyers are also keen for Vicente’s work, and many pieces come up at auction in Europe as well as in the U.S.

The highest auction price to date is $168,204, paid for No. 13, 1959, an oil on canvas, at Christie’s in Paris last December (estimate: $58,890/88,335). Other top prices include $146,412 for an untitled 4-by-5-foot 1958 oil at Christie’s in London in February 2006 (estimate: $87,150/139,440) and $114,000 (estimate: $20,000/30,000) for the oil Yellow World, 1950, at Christie’s in New York in March 2006.

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