KENNETH NOLAND (1924-2010)
signed, inscribed, dedicated and dated ’FOR MARTHA BAER WITH LOVE 24 MARCH 1975 Kenneth Noland SHAFTSBURY VT.' (on the overlap)
acrylic on canvas
658 x 1814 in. (16.8 x 46.4 cm.)
Painted circa 1975.
Acquired directly from the artist by the late owner
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Lot Essay

When Martha Baer arrived at Christie’s in 1978, she had little idea of what she was letting herself in for. Enticed from the respected art gallery Acquavella to establish a new contemporary art department at the auction house, within a short period of time Martha had established what is now regarded as one of the most important departments in the company, helping to strengthen not only Christie’s reputation as an art market leader, but also New York’s reputation as the global centre of contemporary art.

Her four decades at the auction house were marked by many highlights. In 1983, she was responsible for the successful sale of Willem de Kooning’s Two Women for $1.2 million, at the time the highest amount ever paid for a painting by a living artist. Then, in 1991, she secured the consignment of the collection of Burt and Emily Tremaine. Considered by many to be the greatest private collection of twentieth century art in the world, this group of fifty works included major paintings by Fernand Leger, Piet Mondrian, Jackson Pollock, Andy Warhol, and Jasper Johns amongst many others. Winning these consignments was often the result of relationships which Martha had spent years nurturing. She was adored by collectors who turned to her for advice, guidance which Martha was always keen to share. Stephen Lash, Chairman Emeritus at Christie’s and someone who had known Martha since her early days at the company, recalled: “She was devoted to her clients. She had access to all the top collectors and would dedicate considerable time and energy to developing a relationship with them. She would introduce them to new artists she believed in, and dissuade them from acquisitions that she felt weren’t right for them or their collection. Consequently, she was rewarded with their trust, and both Christie’s and her clients benefited tremendously.”

Christopher Burge, who perhaps worked with Martha most closely throughout her career at Christie’s sums up her influence on both the auction house and the wider art world. “She knew a lot of artists and their work, but she also had a very, very strong sense of getting a good deal done. She was both fearless, and a feared competitor. Her colleagues respected her, and her clients adored her. She was a magnificent example of the best kind of specialist.”

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