NEW YORK—Critics raved about David Hammons’s recent show of 12 covered abstract paintings at New York’s L&M Arts (Jan. 26–March 4), and the show drew plenty of interest from private and institutional buyers as well, gallery co-owner Robert Mnuchin told ARTnewsletter. “Virtually, everything sold,” he said, noting that boards of three museums need to give final approval before sales to their respective institutions can take place. It is the second time in the gallery’s five-year relationship with the New York City–based artist that a Hammons show has sold out. The majority of the paintings, measuring between eight and nine feet in height, sold “in the vicinity” of $750,000, Mnuchin said. Most buyers were from the United States, although one sale was made to a European collector.
Hammons’s work is not easily categorized. Over his career, he has created sculptural assemblages, works on paper (including drawings in dirt and others in Kool-Aid), paintings and performance pieces, which appear to be linked only by their reference to the African American experience in the United States. L&M’s recent exhibit consisted of canvases on stretchers that were painted with abstract images. The artist placed plastic trash bags over the works, with holes cut in the bags, allowing visitors a glimpse of the paintings underneath.
Mnuchin said, “There is a very broad institutional following and interest in David’s work.” Museums with works by the artist in their permanent collections include the Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles, the Museum of Modern Art, New York, and the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York.
In Europe, Hammons’s work is in the collections of the Stedelijk Museum voor Actuele Kunst, Ghent, Belgium, the Fondation Cartier pour l’art contemporain, Paris, the François Pinault Foundation, Venice and Tate Britain.
L&M sells some of the artist’s work on the secondary market, although “not much material tends to become available, and those [pieces] that do are often less important in terms of size,” Mnuchin said. The highest price the gallery has received for a work by Hammons exceeded the $1.5 million current auction record. That price was realized for a 2004 untitled wall-mounted assemblage of African masks, wood, metal, wire, rope, straw and a mirror at Phillips de Pury & Company in 2007, against an estimate of $1.5 million/2 million.
Other top auction prices include $902,500 for Hair Relaxer, 2001, composed of natural hair on a chaise longue and estimated at $800,000/1.2 million, also at Phillips, in 2008, and $657,000 for the 2006 dirt on paper Hail Mary (Basketball Drawing), against an estimate of $600,000-800,000, at Sotheby’s in 2008.