Sotheby's to sell the first-ever work to come to auction by the greatest artist who never lived: Nat Tate


18 October 2011

Sotheby's, announces the sale of the first work by abstract expressionist post-war artist Nat Tate ever to appear at auction as part of the forthcoming Modern & Post-War British Art Sale, on Wednesday 16th November 2011.

The drawing, estimated at £3,000-5,000*, is one of only 18 works by the artist remaining in existence. The drawing will be publicly exhibited for the first time prior to the auction, and proceeds from the sale will benefit the Artist’s Benevolent Institution.

Memorably, in 1998 it was revealed that the art of a good hoax might very well be the hoax of good art, and that Nat Tate was in fact a fictitious figure created by bestselling British author William Boyd in his biography Nat Tate: An American Artist 1928-1960. Grounded in vintage photographs of the unknown (picked up at various junk shops and car boot sales), fake New York galleries with real addresses and a group of well-executed drawings and paintings, the great literary ruse of Nat Tate had tricked even the most sophisticated in the art world. Today, however, the artist continues to have a meta-life more real than some of his contemporaries and still the lines of fact and fiction continue to be blurred.

William Boyd comments on the sale, 'I am delighted that Nat Tate’s fame and popularity as an artist continue to fascinate and entertain, and that his artworks have been met with sufficient appreciation by the discerning art world to now appear at auction to raise funds for an extremely worthy cause.'

The Art of a Great Hoax
In 1998 David Bowie hosted a party at Jeff Koons’s Manhattan studio to promote his new art publishing house (21 Publishing) and its first publication, the biography Nat Tate: An American Artist 1928-1960 by William Boyd. The guest list ran like the who’s who of the New York art world, with highprofile revellers ranging from the iconic supermodel Imam, to Gore Vidal, and the most important media critics of the time. The party was a rather decadent affair, one that was meant to be a celebration by New York art aficionados of the mysterious man 'behind the bridges', some of whom had reportedly visited the galleries that had held Nat Tate’s exhibitions and others even recalled crossing paths with this somewhat mysterious artist.

According to the biography, the illustrious artist Nathwell Tate (1928-1960) -lover of Peggy Guggenheim and protégée of the New York School, who stepped onto the Manhattan scene alongside such contemporaries as Jackson Pollock, Franz Kline, William de Kooning, Picasso and Braque - had destroyed ninety-nine per cent of his entire output of Abstract Expressionist art the weekend before the tragic death. Tate had gathered together his works from his various patrons by persuading them to part with them temporarily under the ruse that he had been inspired to re-work them following an inspirational meeting with Picasso and a visit to the studio of Georges Braque.


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