Mark Tobey - 20th Century & Contemporary Art Day Sale, Morning Session New York Tuesday, May 14, 2019 | Phillips

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  • Provenance

    Willard Gallery, New York
    Betty McClean Gallery, Dallas
    Galerie Jeanne Bucher, Paris
    Michel Tapié, Paris (acquired by 1961)
    Galerie Beyeler, Basel
    Martha Jackson, Buffalo
    Mr. & Mrs. David K. Anderson, New York (acquired thence by descent)
    Christie's, London, June 21, 2007, lot 380
    Private Collection, New York (acquired at the above sale)

  • Exhibited

    San Francisco, California Palace of the Legion of Honor, 5th Annual Exhibition of Contemporary American Painting, January 24 - March 2, 1952, n.p. (illustrated)
    The Renaissance Society at the University of Chicago, Mark Tobey, April 18 - May 14, 1952, no. 13
    Paris, Galerie Jeanne Bucher, Tobey, November 27, 1959 - January 16, 1960
    Turin, Civico Padiglione d'Arte Contemporanea, da Boldini a Pollock, Pittura e scultura del XX secolo, October 12 - November 5, 1961, p. 154 (illustrated, p. 130)
    Basel, Galerie Beyeler, Tobey, on the occasion of his 80th birthday, December 1970 – February 1971, no. 10
    Washington, D.C., National Collection of Fine Arts, Smithsonian Institution, Tribute to Mark Tobey, June 7 - September 8, 1974, no. 17, p. 107 (illustrated, p. 43)
    New York, Haunch of Venison, Abstract Expressionism - A World Elsewhere, September 12 - November 12, 2008, no. 60, pp. 122, 149 (illustrated, p. 123)

  • Literature

    Louise Baillard, “Art, San Francisco”, Arts & Architecture, vol. 69, no. 3, March 1952, p. 7
    Mark Tobey, Basel, 1971, no. 11, pp. 23, 93 (illustrated, p. 37)

  • Catalogue Essay

    Created at a time when Mark Tobey began garnering widespread critical acclaim and achieving significant international recognition, Desert Town (Wild City), 1950, is a stellar example of the artist’s series of City paintings. Intricate and obsessive in their detail, Tobey’s web-like forms exist within the vast expanse of a soft, rose-hued field of color simultaneously evoking the serenity of a desert landscape and the frantic movement found in everyday urban life. As William Seitz has noted, “…if one is willing to look long enough, the eye and mind are led to enter a unique world of form, space, and meaning” (William Seitz, “Tobey’s World View”, in Mark Tobey, exh. cat., The Museum of Modern Art, New York, 1962, p. 9).

    The abstract, calligraphic symbols laid atop Desert Town (Wild City) are redolent of Tobey’s fascination for – and sustained interaction with – various cultures, consolidated through voracious reading, chance encounters and a peripatetic lifestyle. Spanning the iconographic heritage of Western painting and the contemporary legacies of Asian art, as well as the supreme spirituality of the Bahá'í religion, which Tobey adhered to in 1918, the work’s multifarious, cosmopolitan associations profess an unapologetic sense of dynamism that has since come to define the artist’s unique pictorial language.

    Desert Town (Wild City)’s storied provenance and exceptional exhibition history attest to its unique position within the artist’s oeuvre. Having resided in the collections of the acclaimed French art critic, curator and collector Michel Tapié, the legendary Galerie Beyeler in Basel, and Mr. and Mrs. Anderson – whose collection spanned the most significant movements of postwar American art – the work was created a time of consolidated success for Tobey. A year following its execution, the artist gained his first major retrospective at Legion of Honor in San Francisco, immediately followed by another important retrospective at the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York. Subsequent shows and prizes cemented Tobey's place in the art historical canon, bringing further attention to the hand of a true master.

Propert from a Private Collection, New York


Desert Town (Wild City)

signed and dated “Tobey 50” lower right
oil and gouache on card mounted on Masonite
43 x 27 1/8 in. (109.2 x 68.9 cm.)
Executed in 1950.

Achim Moeller, Managing Principal of the Mark Tobey Project LLC, has confirmed the authenticity. The work is registered in the Mark Tobey archive with the number MT [132-1-3-11].

$100,000 - 150,000 

Sold for $87,500

Contact Specialist
John McCord
Head of Day Sale, Morning Session
New York
+1 212 940 1261
[email protected]

20th Century & Contemporary Art Day Sale, Morning Session

New York Auction 15 May | On View at 432 and 450 Park Avenue