On 12 May 2015 Sotheby’s New York will present Roy Lichtenstein’s 1962 comic book masterpiece The Ring (Engagement) in the Contemporary Art Evening Sale. The painting has had only two owners in 53 years and comes from the collection of Chicago businessman and philanthropist Stefan T. Edlis. The Ring (Engagement) encapsulates all of the major themes of the artist’s most acclaimed and sustained body of work. Lichtenstein created a series of paintings based on scenes from love and war comic books between 1961 and 1965 and at 48 x 70 inches the current work is one of the largest from this period. It has also been included in major museum exhibitions at Tate in 1968, Fondation Beyeler in 1998, and the most recent traveling retrospective at Tate Modern, National Gallery of Art, Art Institute of Chicago, and Centre Pompidou in 2012. Estimated to fetch in the region of $50 million, the work has been in the same private collection since Mr. Edlis acquired it at Sotheby’s New York in 1997. It goes on view at Sotheby’s Los Angeles on 25-26 March. Following the exhibition in Los Angeles, the work will travel to Hong Kong and London ahead of its 12 May sale in New York.
Alexander Rotter, Co-Head of Sotheby’s Worldwide Contemporary Art Department, commented: “The Ring (Engagement) is classic Lichtenstein. Dating from the key period and drawing on the artist’s most important theme of romance and love, the painting is one of the most significant Lichtenstein’s to appear at auction. In addition, the esteemed provenance and exhibition history make this an essential work by the revolutionary Pop master.”
Stefan T. Edlis added: “Having amazed me from the moment I saw it, I find The Ring as beautiful today as it was all those years ago. We have lived with this iconic painting for nearly 20 years and hope it brings as much pleasure to the new owner as it has to me and my
Prior to entering Mr. Edlis’ collection, The Ring (Engagement) had only one other owner, legendary antiques-dealer Jean Marie Rossi. Rossi purchased The Ring in 1963 from the Ileanna Sonnabend Gallery in Paris for the equivalent of $1,000 when he was only 25. The Ring (Engagement) was created at a time of emotional flux for the artist. Lichtenstein was in the midst of divorcing his first wife Isabel Wilson but was also in the early throws of romance with Letty Lou Eisenhauer, a graduate student he lived with while negotiating his divorce. This tension is evident in a painting that both depicts a joyful and life-changing event, as well as capturing a moment so commonplace in popular culture that it has become a pastiche.
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