In the spiraling art boom of just a couple of years ago, fewer artists were hotter than Barnaby Furnas. He was represented by the well-connected powerhouse dealer Marianne Boesky and in the collection of Charles Saatchi; his candy-colored “history” paintings of war battles set him apart from almost everyone else in contemporary art. He became most famous, perhaps, for 2002′s Hamburger Hill, in which he portrayed the Confederate Army at Gettysburg as spindly, manic cartoons. In private sales and at auction, his best works sold for about $600,000. Then the recession hit, denting demand for artists a notch short of household-name status. Works by Mr. Furnas disappeared from the block, at least briefly.
This week, works by the artist are for sale at Christie’s auction house, and Phillips de Pury is auctioning the artist’s 2004 painting Duel (July 4th). Phillips is predicting a price of $400,000 to $600,000-a full estimate considering the recent market. It shows two Lincoln-esque statesmen blowing each other to bits, in the style of Hamburger Hill. Around them, bombs explode, entrails splatters willy-nilly and the earth is soaked black with blood.
Is the painting worth that estimate? The artist still has his influential fans: One of his paintings hangs in the Core Club, real estate developer Aby Rosen’s private midtown enclave for collectors. So potential bargain hunters, take note: Like the South, Barnaby Furnas may rise again.