Alice Karle Appraisal

Fine & Decorative Art

Carel Visser

Carel Visser
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Carel Visser

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Last year we had the honor of appraising and then later representing two works for a very nice couple we only met through the phone and virtually. We still believe a five minute phone call or Zoom can replace ten emails, and save everyone time at the commencement of an assignment. If you have already read Part I about the John Harrison Levee painting in the Discoveries tab of the Menu, the following paragraph may be repetitious but could still be interesting. This article concerns the Carel Visser sculpture, which is related in provenance to the painting by John Levee in the Discoveries section.

A gentleman called about a Carel Visser (1928-2015) sculpture that was displayed outdoors at his relatively new downsized home. He and his wife also had a painting they had inherited from the same relatives, who were important collectors. So important that the gentleman told me when he was little, he thought everyone owned Picasso, Degas, Modigliani, and Kandinsky paintings, similar to the work he saw when he visited his relatives. Much of that collection helped form the 20th Century Galleries at Los Angeles County Museum of Art. His relatives had also actively supported up-and-coming artists in the 1950’s-1960’s, mostly until the husband passed in 1965. His wife survived him and continued to collect. She collected the Visser sculpture in 1968, the same year Visser won the prize for sculpture established by her husband. Both the Visser sculpture and the previously unidentified large painting by John Levee were auctioned on behalf or our clients, and both set records for the artists. Research was undertaken on the artworks to determine value and marketing strategy. For more information about the John Levee painting see the Discoveries tab in the menu.

Carel Nicholas Visser was a minimalist, mid century modern sculptor from the Netherlands. Visser was the leading Dutch sculptor of his generation. The states Visser was “a master of minimalism who could turn plain steel sheets and blocks of metal or concrete into powerful and beautiful shapes of great elegance…. A major break came in 1960, when at 32 he was offered an exhibition at the Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam, an important venue for contemporary art.” 

Dubbelvorm 1 (Double Form 1) is a geometric abstraction of two birds. The sculpture has an oxidized patina, as is often seen in Visser’s sculpture. How does Dubbelvorm 1 relate to our clients’ relatives? Our clients’ relatives, were David E. Bright and Dolly Bright. Both the Visser and Levee were acquired from the artist or their agents when new. David and Dolly were not only interested in Picasso, Kandinsky and Modigliani, they purchased and helped promote emerging mid 20th century artists.

In collaboration with UCLA, Bright established the David E. Bright Foundation, focused on charitable work with civic, cultural, and educational institutions in Los Angeles. The Foundation also funded five awards for emerging artists at the Venice Biennale in Italy, where David E. Bright was the first American sponsor. Dutch minimalist sculptor Carel Visser was the recipient of the David E. Bright sculpture prize at the 1968 Venice Biennale. That same year Visser’s work was exhibited at Documenta 4 in Kassel, Germany.

Both the Visser sculpture and Levee painting set auction records for the artists. They are excellent examples of each artist’s work. As both were associated with the same provenance, and both were mid 20th century examples, our thought was that interest would be piqued if they were offered in the same sale. It worked.

Please note, we only list values on our website for works with public records that we have represented as agents. Thanks to Sharon Squires, Jason Stein, and Isabel Norsten at Bonhams for the wonderful sale, and for letting us participate in the cataloguing and research.