RELEASE: RUTH ASAWA: OBJECTS & APPARITIONS | Private Sales Exhibition May 6—May 31

New York

“I was interested in wire sculpture because of the economy of a line, making something in space, enclosing it without blocking it out. It’s still transparent. I realized that if I was going to make these forms, which interlock and interweave, it can only be done with a line because a line can go anywhere.”
                                                                                    - Ruth Asawa

New York - Christie’s is proud to present a survey exhibition dedicated to one of America's most talented artists of the 20th century, Ruth Asawa. Objects & Apparitions is Asawa’s first major solo show in New York in over 50 years. This curated exhibition will feature an extraordinary grouping of approximately 50 works including sculpture and works on paper — for private sale or on loan— and will afford a rare and comprehensive view of the artist’s body of work. This exceptional three-week exhibition will take place on the 20th floor of 1230 Avenue of the Americas, at Rockefeller Center in May 2013. The exhibition coincides with the New York Post-War and Contemporary Art auctions in May of this year, and will be accompanied by a fully-illustrated catalogue, with original texts by poet and art critic, John Yau, and Nicholas Fox Weber, Executive Director of the Josef and Anni Albers Foundation. At the May 15th evening sale auction, Christie’s will offer a major sculpture from the Ruth Asawa Family Collection.

It is an honor to present this survey of amazing and singular works by Ruth Asawa. The exhibition will trace Asawa’s artistic journey from her works on paper, created while studying with Josef Albers at Black Mountain College, to her career as a pioneering modernist sculptor currently gaining international recognition. The large scope and stature of Asawa’s work will come into vivid focus in this exhibition that I had the pleasure of assembling with the assistance and guidance of Asawa’s incredible family. We are privileged to be able to present thirty-four sculptures and fourteen works on paper, with additional documentary source materials including vintage photographs of the artist and her work taken by the renowned photographer Imogen Cunningham. This exhibition is the artist’s first solo exhibition in New York City in over fifty years and Christie’s is pleased to be able to host this incredible event” stated Jonathan Laib, Christie’s, Senior Specialist, Post-War & Contemporary Art, curator of the exhibition.  

On a journey to Mexico in the summer of 1947, Asawa was captivated by the looped-wire baskets used in markets to sell eggs and other produce. Intrigued with wire as an exploratory medium for her own studies, she began to loop and twist wire in a similar fashion. Asawa began creating three-dimensional forms that played with their surrounding space using one continuous line made of wire. These looped wire sculptures with their multi-layered exterior and interior forms invoke a sense of wonder that immediately turns to a curiosity about how they were made. These sculptures rely on the language of transparency that is associated with the formulation of modernism and design promoted by the Bauhaus.

Asawa's looped wire forms were often executed in her home, with her six children surrounding her, creating a poetic narrative in which life intertwines with art. The maternal character of Asawa’s art recalls the organic forms of another important 20th century female artist, Louise Bourgeois, whose oversized outdoor bronze spider sculptures possess a similar sense of labored domesticity. Both artists touch on the notion of a mother figure weaving and threading her way through art and life as a means of reflecting upon personal experience. Similarly, Asawa's process and rhythmic wire loops bring to mind the early “Infinity Nets” created concurrently by Yayoi Kusama in the 1950s and 1960s. Though Kusama's nets were primarily graphic works on canvas, her paintings, like Asawa's looped wire sculptures, were created through the infinite repetition of a single calligraphic motion. Like Yayoi Kusama, Ruth Asawa creates mystery and profundity through deceptively simple means while giving form to the ineffable.

If Asawa became a groundbreaking modernist sculptor of abstract forms, she was first an extremely talented painter. The exhibit will present a series of works on paper from her time studying at the famed Black Mountain College and additional works created during her residency at the legendary Tamarind Institute. These works feature variations and meanders, bird and chevron motifs, and overlapping forms, creating multiple optical illusions, a vocabulary inspired by her studies with Josef Albers.

Evening sale Post-War and Contemporary Art - May 15, 2013

A major work from the Ruth Asawa Family Collection will be offered at auction on May 15. Estimated at $250,000-350,000, Untitled (S.108, hanging, six lobed, multi-layered continuous form within a form) — illustrated on page 2 — is one of the artist's largest and most intricate sculptures, incorporating her best-known form-within-a-form motif. With a length of 137 inches, Untitled (S.108) exists essentially as a drawing in space, an intertwining network of brass and copper wire. It was exhibited in the American Pavilion at the 1970 Osaka World’s Fair. 

Ruth Asawa has lived a rare and unique life as an artist. Her life, like her art, has been shaped by social and political impositions, unjust restrictions on her liberties and supposed inalienable rights.  As a teenager in the early 1940's, Asawa and her family were sent by Executive Order to an internment camp along with approximately 120,000 fellow Japanese-Americans. Under the tutelage of professional artists who were also held captive in the camps, Asawa began exercising freedom through her art while the government stripped her of her civil liberties. Despite the suffering she endured. Asawa exhibited great humility and harbored little resentment more than fifty years after the event, saying, "I hold no hostilities for what happened; I blame no one. Sometimes good comes through adversity. I would not be who I am today had it not been for the Internment, and I like who I am."

By 1946, Asawa had been recruited by fellow student Ray Johnson to attend Black Mountain College where, for the next three years she was mentored by such visionaries, as Josef and Anni Albers, Ilya Bolotowsky, Merce Cunningham and Buckminster Fuller. From the teachings of these legendary artists, Asawa absorbed fundamental lessons that instilled a “less is more” approach to art making. Asawa gained prominence with her wire sculptures in the 1950s. Her work appeared several times in the annual exhibitions at the Whitney Museum of American Art and in the 1955 São Paulo Art Biennial, but also in solo and group shows at the San Francisco Museum of Art, the Oakland Art Museum, the Museum of Modern Art in New York, and the M.H. de Young Memorial Museum in San Francisco. She had major solo retrospective exhibits at the San Francisco Museum of Art (1973), the Fresno Art Center (1978 and 2001), the Oakland Museum (2002), the M.H. de Young Memorial Museum (2006), and the Japanese American National Museum (Los Angeles, 2007). Her work can be found in major collections including the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum and Whitney Museum of American Art in New York. She has received numerous awards including the Fine Arts Gold Medal from the American Institute of Architects and the Award for Outstanding Achievement in the Visual Arts from the Women’s Caucus for Art. In 1982, February 12th was declared Ruth Asawa Day in San Francisco. The same year she was the driving force behind the creation of the public high school for the arts, which is now the Ruth Asawa San Francisco School of the Arts.


RUTH ASAWA: OBJECTS & APPARITIONS (48 Works of Art, including Sculptures and Works on Paper)

Rockefeller Center, 20th Floor on 1230 Avenue of the Americas

May 6 – 31, 2013

Monday to Sunday 10 am – 5 pm


Untitled (S.108, hanging, six lobed, multi-layered continuous form within a form)

Christie’s 20 Rockefeller Plaza

May 11 – 15, 2013

Auction May 15, 7pm


About Christie’s

Founded in 1766, Christie’s is a world-leading art and luxury business. Renowned and trusted for its expert live and online auctions, as well as its bespoke private sales, Christie’s offers a full portfolio of global services to its clients, including art appraisal, art financing, international real estate and education. Christie’s has a physical presence in 46 countries, throughout the Americas, Europe, Middle East, and Asia Pacific, with flagship international sales hubs in New York, London, Hong Kong, Paris and Geneva. It also is the only international auction house authorized to hold sales in mainland China (Shanghai).

Christie’s auctions span more than 80 art and luxury categories, at price points ranging from $200 to over $100 million. In recent years, Christie’s has achieved the world record price for an artwork at auction (Leonardo da Vinci’s Salvador Mundi, 2017), for a single collection sale (the Collection of Peggy and David Rockefeller, 2018), and for a work by a living artist (Jeff Koons’ Rabbit, 2019).

Christie’s Private Sales offers a seamless service for buying and selling art, jewellery and watches outside of the auction calendar, working exclusively with Christie’s specialists at a client’s individual pace.

Recent innovations at Christie’s include the groundbreaking sale of the first NFT for a digital work of art ever offered at a major auction house (Beeple’s Everydays, March 2021), with the unprecedented acceptance of cryptocurrency as a means of payment. As an industry leader in digital innovation, Christie’s also continues to pioneer new technologies that are redefining the business of art, including the creation of viewing and bidding experiences that integrate augmented reality, global livestreaming, buy-now channels, and hybrid sales formats. 

Christie’s is dedicated to advancing responsible culture throughout its business and communities worldwide, including achieving sustainability through net zero carbon emissions by 2030, and actively using its platform in the art world to amplify under-represented voices and support positive change.

Browse, bid, discover, and join us for the best of art and luxury at: or by downloading Christie’s apps. The COVID-related re-opening status of our global locations is available here.