Ken Price - The Betty Lee and Aaron Stern Collection New York Tuesday, December 17, 2013 | Phillips

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  • Provenance

    James Corcoran Gallery, Santa Monica, CA, circa 1980

  • Exhibited

    "Ken Price: Happy's Curios," Los Angeles County Museum of Art, Los Angeles, April 4-July 2, 1978

  • Literature

    Maurice Tuchman, Ken Price: Happy's Curios, exh. cat., Los Angeles County Museum of Art, Los Angeles, 1978, illustrated pp. 28, 29, 32 and p. 83
    Bernard Kester, "Kenneth Price," Craft Horizons, vol. 38, June 1978, p. 57 for a discussion of the present lot
    "Ken Price: a Talk with Slides," Chinati Foundation Newsletter, vol. 10, Marfa, October 2005, illustrated p. 28, fig. 53 and 54

  • Catalogue Essay

    The present lot was one of ten “units” on view during “Ken Price:
    Happy’s Curios”, the artist’s seminal 1978 exhibition at the Los Angeles
    County Museum of Art. Comprising multiple ceramic vessels displayed
    in purpose-built cabinets, the units appeared together with two Death
    Shrines, two Showcase Windows, various wall hangings, works on
    paper, and individual ceramic cups in cases. Happy’s Curios ranged not
    only across the museum but farther back across the decade. Those
    works exhibited at LACMA represented the core of Price’s six-year
    series by the same name, an extended project that encompassed forms
    as varied as ceramic tequila cups and Zapotec weavings, drawings and
    painted erotic wares—“a bombardment of images and color.”1

    “Here’s the Curios Store,” Price noted during a 2004 slide presentation
    at the Chinati Foundation in Marfa, Texas, “but it’s hard to explain
    this thing.”2 Bookended by his Geometric Cups of the early 1970s and
    80s, singular abstractions produced before and afer Happy’s Curios,
    the jocular wares of the “Curios Store” (as he also called it) crowd in
    like visitors from a warm and distant country, where Price had been
    on sabbatical. “I grew up around Mexican pottery and really liked it
    and was impressed by it…I got turned on and thought I would make
    a tribute to Mexican pottery in the form of a curios store. It was kind
    of a fantasy. It was supposed to be a small store with some billboards
    outside, and a storefront window…I fgured it would take me about a
    year, maybe two, to make it. It took about six…”3

    A passage without apparent end, the fantasy foundered on practical
    considerations: “I hadn’t realized that in order to make this thing I would
    have to buy a store and build it in.”4 In response, Price packed up the shop
    (literally), divided the work into cohesive units for the LACMA exhibition,
    then moved east from New Mexico to Massachusetts, where he returned
    to focused, individual sculptures. But the view out to sea remained.

    Both Maurice Tuchman, former Senior Curator at LACMA, and Douglas
    Dreishpoon, Chief Curator of the Albright-Knox Art Gallery, have related
    Happy’s Curios to Roden Crater, James Turrell’s ongoing, decadeslong
    earthwork in the Arizona desert.5 Ambitious, environmental
    installations, both works represent what Tuchman called “a single
    overriding win-or-lose gesture.”6 Like Turrell’s crater, Price’s “Store”
    rose up from the desert, an elaborate construction of the heart.

    1-4 “Ken Price: A Talk with Slides”, Chinati Foundation Newsletter, vol. 10, Oct. 2005, p. 23
    5 Douglas Dreishpoon, Ken Price: Slow and Steady Wins the Race, Works on Paper 1962-2010, exh. cat., The Drawing Center, New York, 2013, p. 39
    6 Maurice Tuchman, Ken Price: Happy’s Curios, exh. cat., Los Angeles County Museum
    of Art, Los Angeles, 1978, p. 5


"Unit 6" from "Happy's Curios," 1972-1978

Ceramic, acrylic, painted plywood, wood, glass, Plexiglas, fluorescent bulbs.
Case: 100 x 96 x 28 in. (254 x 243.8 x 71.1 cm) high
Largest vessel: 9 7/8 in. (25.1 cm)

Interior of each "Bomb" numbered consecutively on paper labels 390, 391, 392, 393, 394, 395.

$300,000 - 400,000 

Sold for $293,000

Contact Specialist
Ben Williams
Senior Specialist, Head of Sale
+ 44 207 318 4027

The Betty Lee and Aaron Stern Collection

New York 17 December 2013 10am