Object lessons

Object lessons: from a spring-time Alma Thomas to an enamel lamp representing an 'ecstatic orgasm'

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Our pick of highlights from this week's auctions and fairs

Ed Clark, Untitled (Acrylic #1) (1978). New Now, Phillips, New York, 4 March. Estimate: $200,000-$300,000. ©Phillips

The late African American artist Ed Clark, best known for “push-broom” technique in which he used a household broom as a brush, produced a series of abstract paintings in 1978 that depict his home state of Louisiana. This 5ft by 8ft work is the largest and one of the earliest paintings by Clark to come to auction and was given by the artist to the consignor. “Given its overall quality, scale and history, this piece is poised to capitalise on the recent surge in demand for Clark’s works,” says Samuel Mansour, Phillips’s head of the New Now sales. Christie’s New York set Clark’s auction record last year with Untitled (Paris Series) (1998), which sold for $495,000 (est $200,000-$300,000).

Georgia O’Keeffe, Abstraction (1946, cast around 1979-80). Alfred Stieglitz, Georgia O’Keeffe, Juan Hamilton: Passage, Sotheby’s, New York, 5 March. Estimate: $200,000-$300,000. © Sotheby's

The third in an edition of ten, this swirling, white-lacquered bronze sculpture is reminiscent of the artist’s bone paintings. It is being offered at auction for the first time from the collection of the ceramicist Juan Hamilton, Georgia O’Keeffe’s assistant and friend. Hamilton met O’Keeffe in 1973 and “encouraged her to pursue pottery making while her eyesight was failing [and] to cast her earlier sculptural works in bronze,” says Kayla Carlsen, Sotheby’s head of American Art.

Alma Thomas, Flash of Spring (1968). Post-war to Present, Christie’s, New York, 5 March. Estimate: $450,000-$650,000. © Christie’s

Demand for work by Washington Colour School artist Alma Thomas has been steadily on the rise as the importance of her work within the American Modern art cannon is being re-evaluated. Major collectors such as the Obamas have also helped fuel her market. Flash of Spring belongs to the highly coveted body of work created toward the end of the 1960s, inspired by the abstract design of the gardens around her home in Washington, DC, where the prolific African American artist taught elementary school children for 35 years. Thomas’s work made its evening sale debut last November, when A Fantastic Sunset (1970) sold at Christie’s New York for a record-setting $2.6m.

Dorothy Iannone, Forever True (2019). Air de Paris, Object & Thing pop-up at Independent New York fair, 6-8 March. $4,950. © Air de Paris

The psychedelic feminist artist Dorothy Iannone uses a traditional cloisonné enamel technique from the Manufacture des Émaux de Longwy in France to create her Forever True lamp, produced as an edition of 30 by We Do Not Work Alone. The design originated from a drawing she made for the cover of the vinyl Ewig Grün, an audio recording the American artist made in 1975 of her singing a German folk song of the same name while masturbating. She describes the motif of falling stars and sprouting flowers as “a metaphor for the moment of ecstatic orgasm”. If only achieving such moments of ecstasy were as easy as flipping a light switch.