'Clamdigger' Captivates DeKooning Collectors

New York City -- Willem de Kooning didn’t start sculpting in earnest until he was 65.

When he did, he discovered that “in some ways, clay is even better than oil,” he told Craft Horizons magazine, because if he didn’t like what he had done or changed his mind, he could simply “break it down and start over,” he said. “It’s always fresh.”

“Clamdigger", (estimate $25-35 million) one of his best-known bronze sculptures, comes up for sale at Christie’s on Nov. 12. It will be a test of whether that freshness has endured.

Art collectors of ArtKabinett social media network are excited about this amazing auction entry.

Executed in 1972, while he was living and working in the Springs on the eastern end of Long Island, the work was inspired by the clam diggers he would see working on the beach every day.

This sculpture — one of 25 he created from 1969 to 1974 — is his only full-size male figure. It us nearly 60 inches tall.

For these large sculptures, he would first construct an armature out of wood and metal over which he would then mold the wet clay, building up layers of what became a gnarled, tactile figure with somewhat Neanderthal features: a small head, sunken eyes and oversize feet.

“It is a depiction of the artist himself,” said Brett Gorvy, Christie’s worldwide chairman of postwar and contemporary art. “It is the closest de Kooning came to a self-portrait and was created specifically at a time when he was pushing the boundaries.”

What makes this particular “Clamdigger” special is that the artist had kept it for himself, placing it at the entrance to his studio as if it were a mirror into his soul.

When he died in 1997, his daughter, Lisa de Kooning, inherited the sculpture.

She died two years ago, and it became part of a trust for the benefit of her three daughters, who decided to sell “Clamdigger” to pay taxes on their mother’s estate.

In a statement, they said, “We certainly hope it will find a new home as wonderful as the de Kooning studio, where it guarded the entryway for so many years.”

Today's homepage Featured Ar Video offers a glimpse of De Kooning's studio in 1966. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=L0aW1hzJP78&sns=em