Sol LeWitt - Photographs New York Tuesday, April 4, 2023 | Phillips
  •  The seminal Minimalist and Conceptual artist Sol Lewitt utilized photographs throughout his career, as documents of performative work and, as is the case here, as found imagery from which he extrapolated personal meaning. Working with a found aerial view of Manhattan, Lewitt excised a triangular portion of the cityscape according to coordinates of personal significance. This work is further personalized by Lewitt’s inscription to Rosa Esman on the reverse. The companion piece to this work, the full photograph from which it was cut, appears as the following lot in this sale.   


    Lots 283 through 303 in the present auction come from the collection of Rosa and Aaron Esman. The Esmans assembled an outstanding collection of Modern, Post-War, and Contemporary art and photography over the course of their seventy-year marriage. The collection’s highlights mirror that of Rosa’s career as a gallerist and art book publisher (which Aaron, a psychoanalyst, strongly supported), with interests in Modernism, Dada, Russian Constructivism, and American Pop Art taking center stage. Rosa got her start publishing artists’ books of prints in the 1960s, including the New York Ten Portfolio, 1965, and Ten for Leo Castelli, 1967, which featured works by rising contemporary artists such as Andy Warhol, Roy Lichtenstein, and Robert Rauschenberg, and helped pioneer the field of artist’s editions and multiples. Her eponymous gallery exhibited in Manhattan for over twenty years, and she was a founding partner of Ubu Gallery, which is still in operation today.

    “I think a good dealer is also a collector.”
    —Rosa Esman
    When asked about her wide artistic tastes in 2009, Rosa emphasized her love of drawing, ‘the quintessential bit of the art,’ which can be seen across her and Aaron’s collection, regardless of genre. The importance of her and Aaron’s relationship to Rosa’s development as a consummate supporter of the arts, too, was paramount. The pair bonded over gallery visits when dating in the late 1940s, and bought their first artwork, a drawing by Miró, together; these early experiences with Aaron, more than anything else, established Rosa’s love for art. In her gallery days, Aaron’s passion for art helped decide which works stayed with the couple, too. Rosa recalled: ‘sometimes we look at something, and I say, “Oh, isn’t that marvelous?”’ and Aaron would respond, ‘It’s for us.’ Founded on lifelong love, the Collection of Rosa and Aaron Esman gives a unique vision of the art movements of the 20th century that shaped New York’s art scene.

    • Provenance

      Gift of the artist

    • Artist Biography

      Sol LeWitt

      American • 1928 - 2007

      Connected to the Conceptual and Minimalist art movements of the 1960s and '70s, the artist and theorist Sol LeWitt was a pivotal figure in driving 'idea' art into the mainstream art discourse. Redefining what constituted a work of art and its genesis, LeWitt explored these ideas through wall drawings, paintings, sculptures, works on paper and prints.

      Using a prescription to direct the creation of a work, the artist's hand subordinated to the artist's thoughts, in direct contrast to the Abstract Expressionist movement earlier in the century. Actions, forms and adjectives were broken down into terms, serially repeated and reconfigured: grids, lines, shapes, color, directions and starting points are several examples. These directives and constructs fueled an influential career of vast variety, subtlety and progression.

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Property from the Collection of Rosa and Aaron Esman


Two prints: Photograph of Manhattan with the area between Jojo (160 E 64 St.) Union Sq. (21 E 64 St.) Nobu (105 Hudson St.) & Canton (54 Division St.)

Triangular gelatin silver print and gelatin silver print with triangular cutout.
15 x 2 1/2 in. (38.1 x 6.4 cm) and 20 x 16 in. (50.8 x 40.6 cm)
Each signed, titled, and inscribed 'For Rosa Esman' in ink on the reverse.

Full Cataloguing

$15,000 - 25,000 

Sold for $38,100

Contact Specialist

Sarah Krueger
Head of Department, Photographs

Vanessa Hallett
Worldwide Head of Photographs and Chairwoman, Americas


New York Auction 4 April 2023