NEW YORK—Prices for the works of artist Will Barnet, 95—his career spans more than 70 years and he is still working—“have been going up and up,” says Babcock Galleries director Lisa Koonce. “He has always been undervalued.”
When Babcock started representing Barnet in late 2004, the prices of paintings “topped out at $100,000. We’re now selling drawings for prices his paintings used to go for,” she told ARTnewsletter. Paintings now sell in the range of $100,000/600,000, while drawings are priced at $15,000/60,000; and prints (lithographs, silk screen and woodcuts) go for $6,000/20,000.” Koonce, noting that two dozen of Barnet’s paintings have sold since January, reports that the gallery has met no resistance in raising prices.
Certainly Babcock Galleries has helped to make the artist’s work more visible. The gallery featured paintings by Barnet in its booth at The Art Show of the Art Dealers Association of America last February. Babcock also has arranged exhibitions of Barnet’s work at numerous museums.
In 2000-01, an exhibition of Barnet’s work, “Will Barnet: A Timeless World,” traveled to the Montclair Art Museum, New Jersey; the Boca Raton Museum of Art, Florida; the Portland Museum of Art, Maine; and the Arkansas Arts Center at Little Rock.
An exhibition of the artist’s drawings, “Will Barnet: My Father’s House,” was held at the Danforth Museum of Art in Framingham, Mass., in 2005; and an exhibit titled “Will Barnet: Painting Without Illusion: The Genesis of Four Paintings from the 1960s,” was on view at the Palmer Museum of Art at Pennsylvania State University in 2003.
Babcock has already had two exhibitions of Barnet’s work—one last fall titled “Will Barnet and His Contemporaries” and another last winter of his prints. From February to April of next year, Babcock Galleries will hold a retrospective of the artist’s drawings. Before joining Babcock, Barnet was represented over the years by Alexandre Gallery, Terry Dintenfass, Kennedy Galleries and Hirschl & Adler, all in Manhattan.
Barnet’s first one-man exhibition took place at New York’s Eighth Street Playhouse in 1935 and the Hudson Walker Gallery in 1938. He continues to paint, says Koonce. The pieces Babcock Galleries has been offering for sale, however, are primarily from the artist’s older body of works. The most sought- after ones tend to be figurative paintings that date from the early 1960s-’80s.
Barnet’s work has been auctioned periodically, reaching only modest prices, such as the $25,300 fetched at Sotheby’s in 1988 for the oil-on-canvas Anticipation, 1980 (estimate: $15,000/20,000).