Jane Fonda will sell a treasure of Outsider art at Christie’s
Christie’s annual Art Brut and Vernacular auction in New York on January 18 will include a remarkable group of lots from Jane Fonda’s personal collection: 14 works of art by the late American artist Thornton Dial, her brother Arthur Dial and his son Thornton Dial Jr.
Acquired by the actor and activist over the past two decades, works range from painted animal-shaped benches by Dial Jr., each estimated at $2,000 to $4,000, to large-scale murals by Thornton Dial , estimated for sale. between $50,000 and $100,000.
An untitled work by Thornton Dial, made in 1993, is expected to sell for between $50,000 and $100,000 at auction. Credit: Courtesy of Christie’s Auction House
Fonda has long collected the works of self-taught black artists from the American South, including missionary Mary L. Proctor, Purvis Young, and Dial’s cousin Ronald Lockett.
She was introduced to the Dial family through the late collector Bill Arnett, whose Atlanta home she visited in the 1990s. According to Christie’s, Fonda had previously collected primarily paintings of women en plein air, but she was deeply moved by the works she saw by artists such as Dial, Lonnie Holley and Joe Minter.
Of the 14 works up for auction, several have lived with Fonda over the years. Leading the sale are two early 1990s assemblages by Thornton Dial, the son of Alabama sharecroppers who, in his 60s, rose to prominence through the dynamic sculptures and wall hangings he constructed from found objects, paint and other materials.
An animal bench of Thornton Dial Jr. Credit: Courtesy of Christie’s Auction House
Other works by Dial include a circa 1988 oil on wood painting that depicts four trees and is four feet high and 10 feet wide, which could fetch up to $50,000; a 1989 larger-than-life painted canvas and plywood image of Uncle Sam, expected to sell for $20,000 to $40,000, and several small works on paper depicting women estimated to be priced at $3,000 and $5,000. His brother Arthur, who turned more to narrative figuration, is represented by two mixed media works on boards, both from 1989.
“Eve and Adam” (1989) by Arthur Dial. Credit: Courtesy of Christie’s Auction House
Fonda considers the Dials to be part of the canon of high American art. “Found objects are a tradition of 20th century art. It’s Marcel Duchamp, his conversion of urinals into so-called fountains, to my friend Bob Rauschenberg and Jasper Johns – it’s not unique to these southern artists,” she added. said in a statement. “(Thornton) Dial used objects found in his environment, which I find so beautiful. He gave abandoned objects a second life, brilliantly reusing materials with an impact that very few artists have ever had.”
In addition to collecting art, Fonda partnered with Tinwood Books in 2001, Arnett’s foundation to support black vernacular art that promoted the works of quilters from Gee’s Bend, Alabama through exhibitions and a book. She is also a trustee of the Souls Grown Deep Foundation, the non-profit organization dedicated to championing the works of black artists from the South.
Fonda has already sold at least one work by Dial at auction, the highly textured 1999 assemblage “Trophies (Doll Factory)”. Donated to Christie’s in 2019, the work sold above its high estimate of £200,000 ($246,000), for £225,000 ($277,000).
Top image caption: Jane Fonda at the Fire Drill Fridays event on December 2, 2022 in Washington, D.C.