Lichtenstein painting purchased for $27.50 sells 45 years later for $128,700 Out of the public eye for 45 years, a Roy Lichtenstein painting bought at a community auction for $27.50 has re-emerged and sold at auction for $128,700 at Quinn's of Falls Church, Virginia.
he knew the work was one that the foundation had been searching for, and said he would be by in the morning to examine it.
“Upon seeing the painting, Jack Cowart literally danced around my living room,” Enid said. “He was so happy to have located it.”
The Lichtenstein foundation knew who had originally purchased The Statesman in 1951 from the John Heller Gallery in New York, but beyond that, the ownership trail was a mystery. The Foundation had been trying for decades to determine its whereabouts.
Quinn said that with Cowart’s imprimatur on the painting, all the elements for auction success were now in place – a bankable artist, a long-missing artwork and indisputable provenance. But auctions being as unpredictable as they are, Quinn said he wasn’t going to start the celebration too soon.
“Then on Friday, the day before the sale, the requests started coming in for phone lines. There were some major players registering, and at that point, we were no longer wondering if the painting would meet its reserve, but rather, how much farther it would go,” Quinn said.
At around 11:30 on the morning of the auction, The Statesman was announced to a full house. Bidding opened at $20,000 and slowly increased against an absentee bid of $40,000. “When the bidding got up to $60,000, I looked over at the Liesses. With a wink, Mr. Liess smiled at me,” Quinn said. “Moments later, tears of joy came across both of their faces.”
The bidding concluded at $110,000 on the hammer ($128,700 with the addition of a 17% buyer’s premium). “As I understand it, that’s a record price for a Lichtenstein of that period,” said Quinn.
Appropriately for a painting titled The Statesman, the Lichtenstein artwork is going to remain in the Washington, D.C. area. It is believed that it will be displayed in the home of its new owner, a private collector from suburban McLean, Va., who prefers not to be identified.
Quinn said he and his colleagues at the gallery felt honored to have been part of such an important art discovery, but that the true reward came from helping a couple in financial need. “After the auction we received a very nice thank-you letter from the Liesses,” said Quinn. “That’s when you know you’ve done your job well.”
Enid Liess with the painting she acquired for $12.50 in the early 1960s, The Statesman, by Roy Lichtenstein. The artwork was auctioned on Dec. 4, 2010 for $128,700 at Quinn’s Auction Galleries in Falls Church, Virginia. Image courtesy of Quinn’s Auction Galleries.