Twentieth-Century American Books Reach New Heights at Swann Galleries
New York—Swann Galleries’ June 13 auction of Art, Press & Illustrated Books offered a spectrum of books that doubled as objets d’arte, with records for important twentieth-century works celebrating art and typography.
The top lot of the sale was a signed and inscribed first edition Arthur Szyk’s Haggadah, 1939, printed on vellum with 14 full-page sumptuous color plates. The tome was purchased for $17,500*.
A rare first edition of Grapefruit, 1964, Yoko Ono’s first “event score,” doubled its high estimate to sell for $13,750, a record for the work. Another auction record was achieved for Helen West Heller’s woodcut poetry book Migratory Urge, 1928, which included an introduction by Llewellyn Jones; the signed association copy sold to a collector for $8,750. Specialist Christine von der Linn noted, “The interest in hotly contested lots including Ono's Grapefruit and Heller's Migratory Urge spoke to current political and artistic sensibilities.”
She added, “I was thrilled to see that important art-historical material was sought-after, as evidenced by the great interest in the Masters of Abstract Art exhibition book,” referring to the only known signed copy of the exhibition catalogue for Masters of Abstract Art: An Exhibition for the Benefit of the American Red Cross, 1942, which included such artists as Fernand Léger, Jacques Lipchitz, Piet Mondrian. The book was purchased by an institution. “As we move further into the twenty-first century, these time capsules of twentieth-century art movements are becoming ever more valued and understood.”
Several classic works printed with stunning illustrations by Salvador Dalí were offered, led by a limited special edition of Dante’s La Divina Commedia, bound in sculptural copper covers and printed on paper salvaged from the flood of Florence in 1966, and a 1969 signed limited edition of Lewis Carroll’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, each of which sold for $5,250.
Specialist Christine von der Linn said of the sale, “In a diverse sale celebrating visual printed works spanning five centuries, it was clear throughout the exhibition that American works dominated the scene. As interest in typography and visual expression explodes in the printing world, the contemporary artist's books and works on design drew viewers' excitement.”
The next sale of Art, Press & Illustrated Books at Swann Galleries will be held in Spring 2018. For more information or consign quality materials, contact Christine von der Linn at [email protected].
Image: Lot 159 Arthur Szyk, The Szyk Haggadah, limited first edition on vellum, signed, London, 1939. Sold June 13, 2917 for $17,500. (Pre-sale estimate $15,000 to $25,000)