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Museum Attention Spurs Renewed Appreciation of Poons’s Work

Two New York galleries, Danese and Lori Bookstein Fine Art, will pre­sent a joint exhibition of 20 recent paintings by Larry Poons (b. 1937) Feb. 12–March 14.

NEW YORK—Two New York galleries, Danese and Lori Bookstein Fine Art, will pre­sent a joint exhibition of 20 recent paintings by Larry Poons (b. 1937) Feb. 12–March 14. The works are priced from $85,000/140,000, depending on size. The smallest of the paintings in the two gallery spaces is 61 by 68 inches, while the largest is 68 by 144 inches.

“Museums have been bringing Larry’s work out into the light of day more and more, putting the paintings on display. We’re really seeing a revivified career,” said Renato Danese, one of Poons’s main dealers.

Sales of the artist’s paintings are handled by two dealers: Danese sells works from the 1990s to the present, while New York dealer Loretta Howard deals in what she terms “vintage” material, paintings from the 1960s through the 1980s.

Last fall (Nov. 4–Dec. 23), the Loretta Howard gallery exhibited “Radical Surface,” a show of nine paintings by the artist from the 1980s. Works ranged in price from $80,000 to $300,000. Of these, three were sold, two at the lower end of that price range and one at the top end. All of those works came directly from the artist. Both Howard and Danese also handle the artist’s work on the secondary market, where prices are sometimes higher.

“Larry’s dot paintings of the 1960s are million-dollar paintings,” Howard said, adding that she has sold two of them for “just under a million dollars”—one to a private collector and another, an untitled 1966 oil, to a museum in 2005.

The artist first gained renown in the 1960s with his dot paintings, consisting of brightly colored flat backgrounds with irregularly placed dots, which were shown at the André Emmerich gallery, New York. As a result, Poons was categorized as a color-field artist in the manner of Jules Olitski, Kenneth Noland, Helen Frankenthaler and a number of other major artists represented by Emmerich.

By the late 1960s, however, Poons began to make a stylistic shift, producing what he called “throw” paintings, in which he literally threw paint at a canvas that had a surface built up with materials and objects attached to the substrate. Poons altered his style again in the late 1990s, picking up a brush for the first time in years and producing gestural paintings that hark back to Abstract Expressionism.

Danese noted that, despite the revitalized interest in his oeuvre, prices for Poons’ work have not increased substantially since 2009 or 2007, when he last showed the artist’s paintings. Howard also said that prices for Poons’s work have held steady and that the “dot” paintings are rarely put up for sale, either at galleries or in auctions.

Poons’s oils and acrylic paintings have been offered at auction several times. The highest auction price is $176,000, paid for the oil Jessica’s Hartford, 1965, at Sotheby’s New York in 1989, exceeding the $80,000/100,000 estimate. Other top prices include $132,000 for the acrylic English Fields, 1968, at Sotheby’s in 1990 (estimate: $150,000/200,000) and $121,000 for Richmond Ruckus, 1964, at Sotheby’s that same year (estimate: $80,000/100,000).

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