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Selling Cream of Art Collector's Crop : Art: Some of Betty Asher's collection, including her artist-designed cups, will be previewed in Beverly Hills before going on the auction block in New York.


Sotheby's auction house will sell about 100 artworks from the estate of Betty Asher, a Los Angeles-based collector, curator and dealer whose eye for contemporary art and cultural patronage helped to develop the local art scene.

The most valuable pieces from the Asher collection--paintings and sculpture by such well-known artists as Claes Oldenburg, Robert Gober, Roy Lichtenstein and Jonathan Borofsky--will go on the block in New York May 2-3, according to Nora Halpern, Sotheby's director of fine arts. The remaining works will be offered in various auctions, including a print sale in Los Angeles on Oct. 12, she said.

In an effort to promote interest in the Asher material, Sotheby's will present a preview exhibition in its Beverly Hills showroom Wednesday through April 12. Among the 24 pieces to be shown are Oldenburg's painted plaster "Coffee Cup" (valued at $35,000 to $45,000) and mixed-media "Coconut Cream Pie" ($40,000 to $50,000), and Borofsky's 10-foot-tall painting-and-sculpture combination "Black El Salvador Painting and Chattering Man" ($30,000 to $40,000).

Works by Lichtenstein include a stainless steel and plexiglass "Modern Sculpture" ($20,000 to $30,000) and nine six-piece place settings of china ($15,000 to $20,000).

Asher, a pioneering collector of Pop art who died last year at age 80, settled in Los Angeles in 1941. She served as a curatorial assistant at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art from 1966 to 1979 and opened a contemporary art gallery with Patricia Faure in 1979. Ever present on the art scene, Asher was probably best known for her collection of unique artist-designed cups, many of which she donated to LACMA.

Her fondness for art that took its cues from functional objects is apparent in several works in the preview exhibition. A mixed-media sculpture by Gober is a realistic likeness of a sink. A painting by Philip Guston depicts a cup, and a charcoal drawing by Andrew Lord portrays a teapot. Another work by Lord is a set of three 6-foot-tall bronze lamps with paper shades.

Also represented will be abstract works Asher collected, such as a 1947 painting by John McLaughlin and two stainless steel sculptures by George Rickey.

Viewing hours, at 308 N. Rodeo Drive in Beverly Hills, are Wednesday through April 12, 11 a.m.-5 p.m.

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