Ken Price - Contemporary Art & Design Evening Sale New York Thursday, March 6, 2014 | Phillips
  • Provenance

    Ferus Gallery, Los Angeles
    Betty and Monte Factor, Beverly Hills, acquired from the above, 1964
    Acquired by the present owner from the above through Frank Lloyd Gallery, Santa Monica, 2004

  • Exhibited

    Los Angeles, Ferus Gallery, An Exhibition of Sculpture by Kenneth Price, from March 3, 1964
    Pasadena Museum of Modern Art, The Betty and Monte Factor Family Collection, April 24-June 3, 1973
    Los Angeles County Museum of Art, Art in Los Angeles: Seventeen Artists in the Sixties, July 21-October 4, 1981, then traveled to San Antonio Museum of Art (November 20-January 31, 1982)
    Los Angeles, Olympic Arts Festival, Art in Clay: 1950's to 1980's in Southern California: Evolution, Revolution, Continuation, June 1-July 12, 1984, then traveled to Los Angeles Municipal Art Gallery (July 24-August 26, 1984)
    Paris, Le Centre Pompidou, Los Angeles 1955-1985 Birth Of An Art Capital, March 8-July 17, 2006
    New York, Nyehaus and Franklin Parrasch Gallery, Ken Price: Sculpture and Drawings, February 25-March 27, 2010
    Los Angeles County Museum of Art, Ken Price Sculpture: A Retrospective, September 16, 2012-January 6, 2013, then traveled to Texas, Nasher Sculpture Center (February 9-May 12, 2013), New York, The Metropolitan Museum of Art (June 18-September 22, 2013)

  • Literature

    Maurice Tuchman, ed., Art in Los Angeles: Seventeen Artists in the Sixties, exh. cat., Los Angeles County Museum of Art, 1981, illustrated p. 50, cat. no. 98, p. 94, cat. no. 98
    Betty Warner Sheinbaum, Art in Clay: 1950's to 1980's in Southern California : Evolution, Revolution, Continuation, exh. cat., Olympic Arts Festival, Los Angeles, 1984, illustrated p. 51, cat. no. 129
    Catherine Grenier, ed., Los Angeles 1955-1985 Birth Of An Art Capital, exh. cat., Le Centre Pompidou, Paris, 2006, illustrated p. 135, cat. no. 12
    The Cool School: The Story of the Ferus Gallery - How LA Learned To Love Modern Art, DVD, Directed by Morgan Neville, Tremolo Productions, 2008
    Kristen McKenna, The Ferus Gallery - A Place To Begin, 2009, illustrated p. 279
    Ed Hardy: Tattoo The World, 2010, DVD, Directed by Emiko Omori, New Video Group, Inc., 2010
    Mary Davis MacNaughton, ed., Clay's Tectonic Shift, 1956-1968: John Mason, Ken Price, Peter Voulkos, exh. cat., Ruth Chandler Williams Gallery, Scripps College, Claremont, 2012, illustrated p. 118, cat. no. 37
    Stephanie Barron, Ken Price Sculpture: A Retrospective, exh. cat., Los Angeles County Museum of Art, 2012, illustrated pp. 137, 221

  • Catalogue Essay

    Pink Egg (1964), among the most iconic works of Ken Price’s long career, represents an important early transition for the artist as he embarked on an extended exploration into color, surface and form. His series of Egg sculptures, vivid personalities elevated on pedestals, rose up from the artist’s subdued Mounds of the late 1950s and signaled the arrival of a fearsome new talent, independent and daring. Price’s ceramic sculptures are formally characterized by his treatment of color and by the unsettling forms that might more often be described as organic if they were not so alien.

    Price’s Eggs from this period are noted for a shocking characteristic: orifices open onto dark depths revealing amoeba-like forms that threaten to protrude—and sometimes they do. On the topic of viewer’s reaction to the Eggs, Price recounted: “People would come and tell me that they were repulsed and fascinated…like looking at a bad automobile accident or something, that you can’t take your eyes off, you know what I mean? With the eggs, I got that response from a lot of people, that they really didn’t like them, but there was something about them that made them keep coming back for another look.” (Michele D. De Angelus, interview with Ken Price, 1980, Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution, p. 33)

    Have we seen these shapes before? The Eggs in particular invite critics to draw comparisons with other artists enamored of this universal form. In her catalogue essay for a 1966 LACMA exhibition, Lucy Lippard argues that Price’s use of egg shapes was in fact ahistorical, “a logical evolution from the last of the conical or mound-shaped pots he made around 1959.” (Lippard, “Kenneth Price,” Robert Irwin / Kenneth Price, exh. cat., LACMA, 1966, n.p.) But Constantin Brancusi casts a long shadow over the 20th century—he died in 1957 as Price gave birth to his own postgraduate career. What symmetry to think that the early 20th Century’s most otherworldly sculptor passed his torch to an equal in the latter half. Brancusi’s icons, raised on elaborate pedestals of carved wood and stone, would seem logical progenitors to Price’s later distortions: the former’s egg-like Newborn (1915) achieved a supreme distillation of the terror and primacy of childbirth; his fractured, oblong Mademoiselle Pogany (1912) tilted away into air. But Price famously resisted analysis of his work: “Why give up ambiguity for naming and categorizing.” (Mary-Kay Lombino and Constance Glenn, ed. Ken Price: Small is Beautiful, exh. cat. University Art Museum, Long Beach, 2002, p. 2) The younger artist may have been impatient with such explicit comparisons to others. Regardless, Price no doubt would have felt kinship with Brancusi’s statement: “When one is immersed in beauty, there is no need for explanations.”
    Price’s use of color merits as powerful a response as his forms. He describes awareness of its effect in a 2007 interview with Vija Celmins: “Color has been an integral part of most of the work I’ve made, but there’s not much to say about it. Color is complete in itself. It doesn’t need any support from art, representation, language, or anything else. It’s hard to control. There’s no formula for using color successfully on 3-D forms. Color conveys emotion, but you can’t really control that either.” (Vija Celmins, “Ken Price with Vija Celmins,” Ken Price, exh. cat. Matthew Marks Gallery, New York, 2007, p. 7)

    Price pushed clay out of bounds; that is to say, he got weird. As fellow Ferus Gallery alumnus Ed Ruscha stated, “Those eggs and dome-shaped ceramics were psycho-erotic. They made you scratch your palms.” Despite his outpourings and effusive eruptions—all those inhibitions—Price wasn’t looking for cheap thrills. His earnest desire outstripped animal lust and lumps. From an early point in his career, when he began to coat his ceramics in automotive enamel, he revealed a greater ambition. “I’m trying for an organic fusion of color with surface and form…If the viewers can touch the pieces, and feel how smooth they are, it helps create the illusion that they’re made out of color like things in nature are.” In his search for pure color, in his desire to touch “the things in nature,” Price held out for a deeper union.
    Over the last fifty years, Pink Egg has traveled widely, appearing first in March 1964 at Ferus Gallery, Los Angeles; years later at the Centre Pompidou, Paris; and most recently in the triumphant exhibition, Ken Price Sculpture: A Retrospective, which traveled from the Los Angeles County Museum of Art to the Nasher Sculpture Center in Dallas and finally to the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York.



Pink Egg

glazed and painted ceramic, artist's painted wood pedestal
Sculpture: 6 x 5 3/8 x 5 5/8 in. (15.2 x 13.7 x 14.3 cm)
Pedestal: 59 5/8 x 12 x 12 in. (151.4 x 30.5 x 30.5 cm)

$300,000 - 400,000 

Sold for $509,000

Contact Specialist
Zach Miner, Contemporary
Head of Sale
+1 212 940 1256

Alex Heminway, Design
+ 1 212 940 1268

Contemporary Art & Design Evening Sale

New York Evening Sale 6 March 2014 7pm