Design Masterworks 17 November 2016

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Louise Nevelson

Moon Zag XI

USA, 1979
black painted wood construction
28 h x 29¾ w x 6½ d in (71 x 76 x 17 cm)

result: $131,000

estimate: $80,000–120,000

provenance: Pace Gallery, New York | Private Collection | Tepper Galleries, Inc., 3 March 2008 | Private Collection
exhibited: Louise Nevelson Wood Sculptures and Collages, Pace Wildenstein, 2 May - 27 June 1980
literature: Louise Nevelson Wood Sculptures and Collages, Shirey, unpaginated, illustrates this work

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Louise Nevelson


Louise Berliawsky was born in Ukraine in 1889. Due to the rising discrimination against Jewish citizens in Ukraine, her father immigrated to the U.S., where he was soon followed by his wife and children. Nevelson’s father worked in a lumberyard, which paved the way for Louise’s love for the medium of wood. In 1920, Louise married Charles Nevelson and moved to New York with him. Feeling trapped by both her marriage and the societal conventions of being an upper-class woman in New York, Nevelson separated from her husband in 1931. The same year, Nevelson traveled to Europe to study Cubism under the renowned painter Hans Hoffman at the School for Modern Art in Munich. While visiting Paris in 1930, Nevelson frequently visited the Musée de l’Homme. She greatly admired the African and Native American work she saw on display there, which inspired her to create powerful and solid works of sculpture. Returning to New York, Nevelson continued her studies at the famed Art Students League, where she became friends with Diego Rivera and Frida Kahlo. Her first official gallery show was with the Karl Nierendorf Gallery in 1941. However, it was not until the 1950s that she began to exhibit her art consistently. The Whitney Museum bought her work Black Majesty, in 1956, which was followed by her first solo retrospective at the Whitney eleven years later in 1967. During the 1960s and 1970s, Nevelson began receiving commissions for large-scale works of outdoor sculpture, the most notable being the Louis Nevelson Plaza in New York. Nevelson died in 1988. She left behind an incredible œuvre of hauntingly commanding monochromic art that defied the traditional conception of sculpture. The works of Nevelson are housed in the permanent collections of the Yale Art Gallery, the Museum of Modern Arte, New York, and the Tate Modern.

What about black… the illusion of black… means to me; I don’t think I chose it for black. I think it chose me for saying something. You see, it says more for me than anything else. In the academic world, they used to say black and white were no colors, but I’m twisting that to tell you that for me it is the total color. It means totality. It means: contains all

—Louise Nevelson