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Larry Rivers: Rising Prices

Tibor de Nagy Gallery, New York, which began representing the estate of Larry Rivers (1923–2002) last summer, exhibited ten works by the artist at its booth at the recent Art Dealers Association of America Art Show, held at Manhattan’s Park Avenue Armory Feb. 19–23.

NEW YORK—Tibor de Nagy Gallery, New York, which began representing the estate of Larry Rivers (1923–2002) last summer, exhibited ten works by the artist in its booth at the recent Art Dealers Association of America Art Show, held at Manhattan’s Park Avenue Armory Feb. 19–23. Gallery director Eric Brown reported selling one painting. The gallery showed two more pieces at the Armory Show–Modern fair, a new section of the Armory Show in New York March 5–8 (see story, page 1). In May, Tibor de Nagy will exhibit paintings and works on paper by the artist from the 1950s and ’60s.

Prices range from $14,000 to $50,000 for drawings and from $3,000 to $12,000 for ­limited-edition lithographs, according to Brown. Prices for most paintings fall into the $65,000/550,000 range, though a couple are priced at “over $1 million and up to $2 million,” Brown told ARTnewsletter. He added that works from the ’50s and ’60s are rare, and are the most sought after by collectors.

Tibor de Nagy began representing Rivers in the 1950s, the first gallery to do so. Rivers later showed with other major New York galleries, including Marlborough and Robert Miller.

Brown said building the artist’s market is a high priority for the gallery. “There is a sense that Rivers has been undervalued from a market standpoint. More than a few collectors expressed the sentiment that he has never received his due as a transformational figure, his work mediating between Abstract Expressionism and Pop Art.” He added that the response to the gallery’s Rivers exhibition at the ADAA fair was “enthusiastic and immediate.”

The estate, which was inventoried and appraised shortly after the artist’s death, contains paintings from throughout Rivers’s career, as well as drawings and prints. The estate also contains “a significant body of work of collaborations with poets and writers that was an ongoing interest of Larry’s,” Brown said.

The mission of the Larry Rivers Foundation, founded in 1992 and based in Bridgehampton, N.Y., is to “advance, serve, solidify and share the creative legacy” of the artist, according to the foundation’s Web site. David Joel, who is chief archivist of the estate, serves as director of the foundation.

The foundation is not a beneficiary of sales from the estate; instead, the proceeds from those sales go to the artist’s five children, though the artist’s eldest son, Steven Rivers, is a member of the foundation’s board. Over the years, Rivers’ work has been offered at auction more than 1,200 times. The highest price for a work by the artist at auction was paid at Sotheby’s in 1990 for the oil painting Africa I, 1961–62, which was sold for $467,500 (estimate: $300,000/400,000). Other top prices include $457,000, paid for the oil The Journey, 1956, at Christie’s last May (estimate: $350,000/450,000), and $445,000, paid for the oil and collage on canvas Marriage Photograph II, 1961, at Sotheby’s, also last May (estimate: $200,000/300,000).

While acknowledging that the $1 million and $2 million prices for certain works in the estate do not correspond with the auction record, Brown pointed out that “prices at auction have gone steadily up since his death.”

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