ARTnewsletter Archive

Collectors Target Kenneth Noland Circle and Stripe Paintings

Kenneth Noland, who died on Jan. 5, at the age of 85, has a devoted following among U.S. buyers, and the number of European buyers interested in his work is rising, dealers say.

NEW YORK—Kenneth Noland, who died on Jan. 5, at the age of 85, has a devoted following among U.S. buyers, and the number of European buyers interested in his work is rising, dealers say. The artist, best known for his “Circle” and “Stripe” Color Field paintings, had several major museum shows and a number of gallery shows in his last few decades, even as his output slowed because of his declining health.

A 1977–78 retrospective, organized by the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York, and the Corcoran Gallery of Art, Washing­ton, D.C., was shown at both museums, as well as the Toledo Museum of Art in Ohio. Noland had a series of exhibitions at the André Emmerich Gallery and at Ameringer & Yohe (now Amer­inger McEnery Yohe), New York, in the late ’90s and in the past decade, as well as shows at Leslie Feely Fine Art, New York, which began representing the artist in 2007.

The Feely gallery held Noland’s last show, of paintings from 1981–82, which opened on Oct. 29 and was extended through Jan. 16 following the artist’s death. “He hung his last show at Leslie Feely and directed the installation, even though he didn’t have much energy by that time,” Noland’s widow, Paige Rense, editor-in-chief of Architec­tural Digest, told ARTnewsletter. There were eleven paintings in that exhibition, all of which had come directly from the artist’s studio, and most of which had not been exhibited before, according to Leslie Feely. Several works, which were priced between $175,000 and $250,000, were sold, Feely told ARTnewsletter.

Rense said that the process of inventorying the artist’s estate is under way. “Ken held onto some major works,” she said, “although there are very few circle and stripe paintings,” which are some of the artist’s most sought-after images. Rense said she is in the process of deciding which gallery will represent the estate. “I want to go along with what Ken would have wanted,” she said, adding that there is “not a sizable number of drawings” in the estate, but there are numerous monoprints. Feely has comparable monoprints, not from the estate, priced at $3,000/5,000.

Both Feely and Ameringer McEnery Yohe sell Noland’s work on the secondary market, where prices can exceed $250,000, especially for works from the late 1950s and early ’60s, gallery owner Will Ameringer told ARTnewsletter. “Work from the 1960s is rare and very desirable. The ‘Circle’ paintings always find a home,” he said. Prices for the circle paintings have reached as high as $1million, he said, though he noted that the highest price the gallery had received for a Noland painting was $300,000.

The highest auction price for a work by the artist is $797,750, paid at Sotheby’s in New York in 2000 for the acrylic circle painting Heat, 1958, which had been given an estimate of $250,000/350,000. Other top prices include $660,000, paid at Sotheby’s in New York in 2006 for the stripe painting Highlight, 1964 (estimate: $200,000/300,000), and $553,000, paid at Sotheby’s in New York in 2008 for Chevron 4, 1964 (estimate: $300,000/400,000).

Although he was unable to paint in his final years, Noland produced several prints with Pace Prints, including an edition of 65 untitled aquatint etchings, priced at $12,000 each, and Days and Nights, an edition of 50 paper pulp prints, also priced at $12,000 each, according to Pace president Richard H. Solomon. Noland had signed those prints just a few months before he died, Rense said—“actually, he just initialed them, because he couldn’t see well enough to sign them.”