Mary Heilmann - 20th c. & Contemporary Art Day Sale, Morning Session New York Thursday, July 2, 2020 | Phillips

Create your first list.

Select an existing list or create a new list to share and manage lots you follow.

  • In Focus

    Lil Totem, 1997, is a quintessential example of Mary Heilmann's subversive approach to abstract painting. Fusing minimalist geometries with the spontaneous ethos of the Beat Generation and West Coast, Heilmann's paintings are suffused with a joyous approach to form and color that equally draws on the rich history of modern painting, popular culture and her everyday experiences.

    "Well, I didn’t know how to make a composition, so I chose the grid. Most of them are cool, hardedged, austere. I wanted to do something else with a grid, not be so rigid about it."
    —Mary Heilmann


    As Konrad Bitterli observed of the paintings Heilmann created in the late 1990s, "In general, the oil paint, applied in differing consistency alla prima, seems to have whipped up the picture plane to a state of great excitement. The hectic movement on the surface contrasts with a subtle oscillation between picture surface and picture depth. The varied brightness of the different blue and violet tones break up the closed surface into serially-set floating levels" (Konrad Bitterli, "Painting—Deconstructed Reconstructed Two Works by Mary Heilmann", Mary Heilmann, Little 9 x 9 (1973) / Blue Room (1997),  Kassel, 2000, online).


    Detail of the present lot



  • Cut from the Archives

    On the occason of Mary Heilmann: Looking at Pictures at Whitechapel Gallery in London in 2016, the artist reflected on over four decades of painting.  

    • Provenance

      Pat Hearn Gallery, New York
      Acquired from the above by the present owner


Lil Totem

signed, titled and dated "MARY HEILMANN LIL TOTEM 1997" on the stretcher
oil on canvas
30 x 22 1/8 in. (76.2 x 56.2 cm)
Painted in 1997.

Full Cataloguing

$50,000 - 70,000 

Sold for $137,500

Contact Specialist

John McCord
Head of Day Sale, Morning Session
New York
+1 212 940 1261

20th c. & Contemporary Art Day Sale, Morning Session

New York Auction 2 July 2020