Bonhams is hosting an exhibition of works dedicated to the American Abstract-Expressionist painter Lynne Drexler, following a surge in interest in the artist’s works in the second year of the market.
The exhibit, titled “Lynne Drexler: Play of Color,” will run through April 14 at the Bonhams gallery in New York. It features 29 works by the artist from his early to mid-career, including oil paintings, works on paper and works on board. The exhibit has prices from US$25,000 to US$950,000.
Highlights of the exhibition include the sale of oil paintings; Blue feather1968; Raucous Green1965; Green Gage III, 1959; vellum on paper from 1959; and untitled crayon and watercolor on paper from 1960.
The sale of the exhibition is managed by California-based gallerist and art consultant John Kenneth Alexander.
Drexler (1928-1999) studied in New York in the 1950s under the tutelage of Abstract Expressionists Robert Motherwell and Hans Hofmann. Feeling frustrated with the commercial scene in New York, where he saw limited success, he moved to the remote Monhegan Island in Maine in 1971 and became a self-styled “hermit” painter.
Maritime recreation proved both deeply spiritual and fruitful for the artist, akin to Giverny for Claude Monet, Tahiti for Paul Gauguin, New Mexico for Georgia O’Keeffe, Bonhams said.
Drexler painted voraciously in the following years, but was almost forgotten on the art market. It was not until 2008, a decade after his death, that the only exhibition of his works was presented by the Monhegan Museum and the Portland Museum of Art in Maine.
Today, his works are in the collections of major institutions including the National Gallery of Art in Washington DC, the Art Institute of Chicago, the Museum of Modern Art in New York, and the Hammer Museum in Los Angeles.
However, his work in the secondary market until last year would be under the radar of the tycoons. While none of his works fetched more than US$10,000 on the public market before 2020, three paintings were bought for close to US$1 million at auction in 2012.
In March 2022, Drexler’s painting A hundred blossoms (1962), sold for US$1.2 million at a Christie’s auction in New York, double the presidential estimate. Two months later, his 1960 painting Herbert’s Garden Christie’s sold it to the Farnsworth Art Museum in Maine for US$1.5 million, a record price for an artist at auction.
The momentum in the case continued when Bonhams sold it Grass Symphony (1962) just shy of US$1 million at auction in Los Angeles, against a presale estimate of between US$500,000 and US$700,000.
“Bonhams is honored to continue to champion Drexler, who has finally earned the enormous acclaim for his extraordinary works,” says Andrew Huber, head of Post-war and contemporary art at Bonhams in New York.
One highlights that Green Bail II, 1959, priced at US$ 250,000. “This painting is an example of an artist finding his unique style, ‘let it be,’ now it’s instantly recognizable,” says Huber.
He is the special star of the show Blue featherAn award-winning artist in the late 1960s, which is worth US$950,000.
“At this point in the artist’s maturation, the ‘uneven’ signatures have broadened and become more deliberate with additional shapes and forms, more noticeable being wavy, vertical brushwork punctuated by significant impasto,” says Huber. “The execution is strongly similar to Van Gogh’s cypress.