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Little Known Collection Brings Big Prices at L.A. Auction

On Oct. 9, Los Angeles Modern Auctions held a single-owner sale of work from the collection of the late Hollywood talent agent and television producer Richard Dorso.

NEW YORK—On Oct. 9, Los Angeles Modern Auctions held a single-owner sale of work from the collection of the late Hollywood talent agent and television producer Richard Dorso.

The sale of his fine and decorative art, was 100 percent sold, with all 419 pieces finding buyers and realizing a total of $1.5 million, almost double the $657,000/800,000 presale estimate. Dorso, who represnted entertainers including Artie Shaw, Judy Holliday, Ethel Merman and Doris Day—and was also the producer behind television shows including Outer Limits, The Patty Duke Show and Bat Masterson—had a particular interest in Postwar and contemporary art.

The top lots were two works by John Baldessari, a photographic emulsion on canvas, 8th and D, National City, 1966-68, which sold for $293,750, compared with an estimate of $80,000/120,000, and the ink on canvas, Sleep While You Grow Rich, 1966-67, which sold for $187,500, compared with an estimate of $80,000/120,000.

“Baldessari works from that period are very scarce,” said Peter Loughrey, founder and director of the auction house, “and there was tremendous bidding.” For both pieces, bidding started at $40,000, and three bidders were competing for 8th and D, National City at the $200,000 level.

He noted that “the estate gave us leeway with reserves, and we decided to let the market determine what things were worth,” resulting in the sale of every lot. Loughrey said he and many other art experts were not familiar with Dorso’s collection until recently. “The only people who really knew of this collection were his friends and colleagues, who also were in their 80s and 90s.” Accordingly, it wasn’t the renown of this collection that produced the strong results, but “the artworks in the collection that appealed to buyers.”

Richard Tuttle’s soldered metal piece, Untitled from Letters (The Twenty-Six Series), 1966-67, earned $59,375, compared with an estimate of $15,000/20,000, while Robert Cottingham’s 1968 oil, House with Awnings, 1968, brought $53,125, compared with an estimate of $80,000/120,000. A rare, early 20th-century work, Gustav Klimt’s pencil on paper drawing, Nude Study, ca.1917, brought $46,875 (estimate $20-30,000), while two paintings by Bob Thompson—Venus & Adonis, 1964, and the acrylic on paper, Mythological Scene, 1964—were both estimated at $4,000/6,000 and fetched $37,500 each. Loughrey said there “were more than 12 bidders” for the Thompson paintings.

Other top lots included: Roy Lichtenstein’s offset lithograph, Shipboard Girl, 1965, which sold for $36,250, compared with an estimate $15,000/20,000; Paul Wonner’s oil, Drawing in the Studio, 1964, which sold for $34,375, compared with an estimate of $15,000/20,000; John McCracken’s polyester resin, Untitled (Plank – Red with Blue), 1976, which sold for $33,750, compared with an estimate of $18,000/25,000; and DeWain Valentine’s polyester resin, Circle, ca. 1970, which sold for $32,500, compared with an estimate of $3,000/5,000.

Quite a few of the estimates were conservative. Another Valentine polyester resin sculpture, Irregular Shape, ca. 1970-80, brought $17,500, far surpassing its $3,000/5,000 estimate, while a 1944 drypoint by Adolph Gottlieb, entitled Hieroglyph, sold for $9,375 on a modest estimate of $600/900 and a mid-20th-century lithograph by Kees van Dongen, The Corn Poppy, sold for $13,750, also on an estimate of $600/900.

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