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Philip Guston all set to beat his own record at Sotheby’s auction 

Philip Guston might hit his highest ever auction bid next month. His 1950s Abstract Expressionist painting, Nile (1958), going under the hammer at Sotheby’s New York on 17 May is estimated to fetch between $20m and $30m, the highest ever for a work by the artist at an auction. The Art Newspaper reports that the work comes from the collection of the Dallas-based couple Peter and Edith O’Donnell. All sale proceeds will go towards the O’Donnell philanthropic foundation, which supports science and arts initiatives. 



“It was during his period with his peers of the New York School that Guston developed his signature technique and style that is epitomised by Nile…. Working so close that he lost all sense of space and depth, sometimes close enough for paint splatters to get in his eyes, Guston forged a new type of painterly intensity, reaching its apex in Nile,” says a Sotheby’s statement. Nile will be on view in Sotheby’s London galleries from 8 to 13 April, followed by Hong Kong from 24-27 April. It will be exhibited in New York between 6-17 May. 


Earlier, Guston’s paintings and drawings featuring hooded figures resembling the Ku Klux Klan (KKK) caused much furore within the art world for their racial undertones. Last November, Ominous Land (1972), featuring a hooded figure, was auctioned for $9.4m (with fees) at Sotheby’s in New York against a much lower estimate. This made the work Guston’s most expensive picture to incorporate a KKK motif to be sold publicly, notes The Art Newspaper


Philip Guston was born in Montreal, Quebec in 1913, in a family of Russian immigrants. While growing up in Los Angeles, his early murals were inspired by the masters of the Italian Renaissance. Largely self-taught, he gained early success as a figurative painter. After moving to New York, he turned to abstraction, joining contemporaries such as Pollock, De Kooning, Kline and Rothko. Guston abruptly withdrew from the art scene in the mid-1960\’s and, despite being a reigning figure of the Abstract Expressionism movement, Guston surprised many when he returned to figuration in 1968, working in near seclusion. He continued painting till his death in 1980, weeks after the opening of a major retrospective.