Sotheby’s Debuts New Carl Pickhardt Selling Exhibition Downtown

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Artwork by Carl Pickhardt
Artwork by Carl Pickhardt

Photo Credit: Demian Becerra

Although its known as an international auction house, Sotheby’s is experimenting with a modern new showroom concept. The private sale and gallery arm of Sotheby’s Contemporary Art Department is called S|2. Its first San Francisco exhibit recently premiered downtown at One Sansome Street, inside the art institution’s office. “S|2 offers exceptional works of art through unique exhibitions worldwide,” Helen Hatch, Sotheby’s assistant vice president told Haute Living. “The goal of this exhibition is to bring fresh material at a reasonable price point to a discerning and educated arts community in the Bay Area. We are excited to offer our collectors an opportunity to discover new work outside of Sotheby’s regular auction calendar.”

Helen Hatch
Helen Hatch

Photo Credit: Demian Becerra

A room, that’s just off of the reception desk and generally reserved for meetings, has been transformed into a contemporary gallery. The first exhibit, that’s currently on display, is a retrospective of 16 works, executed between 1954 and 1990, by American abstractionist Carl Pickhardt. The show—Carl Pickhardt: Free Form—is on view (and for sale) through the end of September. “We are thrilled to reinvigorate a dialogue around Carl Pickhardt’s important contributions to 20th century American painting,” Hatch explains. “Carl Pickhardt: Free Form situates the artist within the canon of mid-century abstraction and presents collectors with unique access to Pickhardt’s innovative achievements.”

A painting by Pickhardt
A painting by Pickhardt

Photo Credit: A painting by Pickhardt

Pickhardt’s works are pieces of plywood that he cut into interesting geometric shapes and painted with vibrant colors and designs. “Like his contemporary Jackson Pollock, Pickhardt used movement as a guiding aesthetic principle,” Hatch says. “Where Pollock found liberation in gesture, Pickhardt found it in form by allowing the shape of the canvas to dictate internal order. Form is a controlled explosion! Pickhardt proclaimed. Indeed, his sculptural shapes explode from the inwards out, rejecting the confines of a traditional rectangle and enlivening the walls around them.”

Sotheby's lobby
Sotheby’s lobby

Photo Credit: Demian Becerra

Unfortunately, Pickhardt did not experience great acclaim for his artwork during his life. A professor of art, Pickhardt’s contribution to the American art scene was often overlooked. Until now. With the exhibit, Sotheby’s hopes to bring his present-day aesthetic to life. His mastery of the shaped canvas preceded Frank Stella and Kenneth Noland and Hatch believes that Pickhardt laid the foundation for their later development.

Hatch, Liz Sterling, and Jennifer Biederbeck
Hatch, Liz Sterling, and Jennifer Biederbeck

Photo Credit: Demian Becerra

To celebrate the launch of S|2 in the Bay Area, Hatch, Liz Sterling, Sotheby’s senior specialist of impressionist and modern art, and Jennifer Biederbeck, Sotheby’s senior vice president and head of the San Francisco office, threw an opening party. People like Sayre Batton, the director of the San Jose Museum of Art, gathered in the exhibition room, sipping wine and checking out the collection.

The exhibit Carl Pickhardt: Free Form is open now through September 28. 

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