The Value of the Work of Josef Albers
Josef Albers is considered to be one of the most important contributors to color theory and is known as one of the leading progenitors of Geometric Abstraction. “Homage to the Square” is his most well-known and regarded body of work and he created through a variety of other mediums including printmaking, mural painting, poetry, critical writing, and architectural commissions.
The Life of Josef Albers
Josef Albers was born in Bottrop, Germany in 1988. He studied at the famed Bauhaus school of design alongside other influential artists and became a teacher at the same institution in 1922.
When the school closed in 1933 due to the rise of fascism in Germany, Albers emigrated to the United States. Here he taught art at several top schools including Black Mountain College, Harvard, and Yale. Cy Twombly, Robert Rauschenberg, and Eva Hesse were some of his most notable students during this period.
Albers made art throughout his time teaching. His first exhibition was in 1919 and he continued to rise after he moved to the US. The Museum of Modern Art organized a solo exhibition of Albers’ work in 1964, which traveled to 22 exhibition spaces around the world.
Albers is well-known for his publications on color theory, including Interaction of Color in 1963. The artist was highly productive throughout the rest of his life up until his death in New Haven, Connecticut in 1976. His work is still a mainstay in private and public collections around the world including the Museum of Modern Art, the Centre Pompidou, and the Tate Modern.
Albers’ Revolutionary View on Colors
Albers had a revolutionary view that different colors could create emotional or psychological effects in the viewer. He developed his theories on colors alongside Wassily Kandinsky, Paul Klee, and László Moholy-Nagy. The influence of his philosophy and practice can be seen throughout the pantheon of post-war American art. His views solidified Albers as one of the most influential artists of the Twentieth Century.
Albers most famous work is his “Homage to the Square” series, which comprises a succession of highly geometric and abstract paintings. First conceived in 1950, these make color as important as the formal composition itself. Albers emphasized an approach that was based on dialogue, juxtaposition, and experimentation. He came to his conclusion that color is dependent on context through trial and error. Despite the title, the shape used by Albers was primarily used as a vehicle for color rather than as a focus.
Chromatic impressions are heightened and intensified further as Albers replaced the traditional canvas medium with the rough side of Masonite. He applied the paint by hand with a palette knife to create a homogenous surface allowing the viewer to become immersed in the effects of the colors responding to each other. The yellow in the center appears to float above the bands of gray and green in an illusion of three-dimensional space.
In total, there are more than 3,000 unique paintings by Albers in existence and roughly two-thirds of those are works from the Homage series.
Value at Auction
Homage to the Square: White Nimbus was estimated at 400,000 USD – 600,000 USD and sold at auction for 2,210,500 USD. This composition was painted in 1964 and was signed with the artist’s monogram.
Homage to the Square: Light Inside is a quintessential model of the artist’s belief in the primacy of color as well as his experimentations with the chromatic spectrum. This work radiates tones of sumptuous yellow and luxuriant green. It was estimated by Sotheby’s auction house at 1,200,000 USD – 1,800,000 USD and sold for 2,055,000 USD.
Albers’ painting, Gay Desert, was estimated at 200,000 USD – 300,000 USD. This work speaks to the impact of the artist’s frequent travels to New Mexico and Mexico. It was painted between 1948 and 1953 and evokes the landscapes and architecture Albers experienced as he and his wife traveled through the country. The piece sold at auction for 287,500 USD at Phillips auction house.
Another in his most popular series, Homage to the Square: Endless was done in 1964. It sold at auction at Phillips for $287,500 USD. This work encapsulated the artist’s exploration of color, rhythm, and spatial movement. As Albers was more than a decade into the series at the time he created Endless, it truly demonstrates his technical mastery of color and form. The artist viewed the yellow hue of this work as caring, curing, and uplifting.
Recent Exhibitions of Josef Albers
Albers’ work has been exhibited all over the globe since he rose to prominence in the art community. Some recent exhibitions of his works include:
2019 Krefeld, Germany
Kaiser Wilhelm Museum, Von Albers bis Zukunft. Auf den Spuren des Bauhauses (From Albers to the Future: In the Footsteps of the Bauhaus), 7 June 2019–27 April 2020
2019 New York
Museum of Modern Art, Taking a Thread for a Walk, 21 October 2019–17 May 2020
2020 Brooklyn, New York
Brooklyn Museum, Out of Place: A Feminist Look at the Collection, 24 January–13 September 2020
2020 Sweet Briar, Virginia
Pannell Art Gallery, Sweet Briar College, Josef Albers and the Interaction of Color, 30 January–15 June 2020
2020 Lincoln, Nebraska
Sheldon Museum of Art, University of Nebraska, Small Abstractions: Highlights from Sheldon’s Permanent Collection, 31 January–5 July 2020
2020 Jacksonville, Florida
MOCA Jacksonville, Breaking Boundaries: The Vision of Jacqueline B. Holmes, 21 February–2 August 2020
Daimler Contemporary, 31: Women, 29 February 2020–7 February 2021
2020 New Britain, Connecticut
New Britain Museum of American Art, In Thread and On Paper: Anni Albers in Connecticut, 19 March–14 June 2020
Add the Works of Josef Albers to Your Own Collection
If you would like to add some of the works of Josef Albers to your collection, keep an eye out on your live auction at Dania Beach. There are often opportunities for art collectors and connoisseurs to participate in auctions from around the world using phone bidding and online bidding platforms.