Joseph Cornell - 20th Century & Contemporary Art Day Sale, Morning Session New York Thursday, May 19, 2022 | Phillips

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  • Executed in the early 1960s, the present work belongs to a series of unique works by Joseph Cornell called Dovecotes or Colombiers. As their title suggests, the concept pulls from the birdhouses that were created to breed pigeons, giving them access to sheltered holes that were small enough to avoid the entry of predators. The present work, with its rectangular grid, is reminiscent of Piet Mondrian's geometric works, yet Cornell’s interpretation of the form is not quite as measured. The inner boxes and their individual elements are handmade, recalling the abstract rectangular compositions of artists such as Adolph Gottlieb. Cornell was also deeply influenced by the Surrealists, evidenced by the originality and mystique of his assemblages. This work particularly recalls Max Ernst’s Vox Angelica from 1943, with its grid of seemingly disparate images. Held in the same collection since it was gifted by the artist in the 1970s, this work is an intimate example of one of these rare and elegant Dovecotes, and a testament to Cornell’s uniqueness in the 20th century American art scene.


    "When we have a beautiful Dovecote box, it is just gridded out little spaces and little white cubes or little marbles there-as formal and classic as a Mondrian, in its white way. Cornell's most abstract works, the pure white grid structure and all the little cubes therein-would literally be three-dimensional Minimalist works eventually. He covered that as well."
    —Walter Hobbs on Joseph Cornell’s Dovecotes

    • Provenance

      Gifted by the artist to the owner

    • Exhibited

      New York, Menconi + Schoelkopf, Joseph Cornell’s Eternidays, December 2–18, 2020

Property From the Collection of Susan Graham



mixed media in glass-faced wooden box construction (with printed paper collage on the reverse)
5 x 4 x 1 3/4 in. (12.7 x 10.2 x 4.4 cm)
Executed circa 1960.

Full Cataloguing

$50,000 - 70,000 

Sold for $63,000

Contact Specialist

Annie Dolan
Specialist, Head of Day Sale, Morning Session
+1 212 940 1288

20th Century & Contemporary Art Day Sale, Morning Session

New York Auction 19 May 2022