Would the recent flooding in Northwest Arkansas and the Delta persuade Alice Walton and her curatorial staff to buy Thomas Hart Benton's "Flood Disaster" at auction at Sotheby's this morning?
The painting sold for $1.87 million; $670,000 more than the auction house estimate. Benton's painting refers to the devastating 1951 flood of Kansas City that displaced more than half a million people. The painting was political; he was urging the government to provide flood relief for the area. Too political for Walton and Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art? We'll find out in November.
The other highlight of the auction: Milton Avery's "March Playing the Cello," a 1943 painting that sold for $1.4 million, also higher than the auction house estimate of $800,000 to $1.2 million. The Sotheby's background on the painting quotes art critic Clement Greenberg as saying Avery's work was the "harbinger" of New York school stain painting by Frankenthaler et al.
That the[se] younger "anti-Cubist" abstract painters who admire Avery do not share his naturalism has not prevented them from learning from him any more than it has prevented them from admiring him. His art demonstrates how sheer truth of feeling can galvanize what seem the most inertly decorative elements ... into tight and dramatic unities. ...
As a bridge between cubism and stain painting, the painting would fit nicely in the modern art pavilion that will span the Crystal Bridges lower pond. Again, we'll find out in November.