Atlantic Richfield’s Corporate Art Collection – Upcoming Auction

I’m continually amazed at the responses stimulated by some of the things I post on the Gazette, and nothing has surprised me more than the number of folks interested in the Atlantic Richfield Company’s (ARCO) Corporate artwork collection. Two decades after ARCO was assimilated by and subsumed into BP (affectionately known as The Borg by we who are completely over it), I’m still getting regular inquiries from folks wanting to know if I can provide either an identification of or additional information about a piece of artwork they’ve acquired and which carries an Atlantic Richfield identifier. (I almost never can, by the way. Most of these inquiries come from the West Coast or the Chicago area, and all of my information relates to the Midland offices.)

I also get notes like this one that came to my inbox a couple of days ago.

Hi Eric,
I came across your blog and really enjoyed reading about the history of ARCO’s art collection. I found your writing as I was doing research on a corporate art collection we are offering for auction that came in from TXU Energy here in Dallas.
Once we got all the art to the gallery, we found ARCO labels on everything. I hope you’ll enjoy taking a look at everything we have in the collection–it will all be sold at auction November 17th. Please let me know if you have any questions–we’d be thrilled for you to include this update and then the auction results in your blog.
Here is the link for the full auction:
Here is a listing of everything from the ARCO/TXU collection:
Katy Alexander
Dallas Auction Gallery

I agreed to help them publicize the auction since it ties closely with the running theme of previous ARCO artwork posts on the Gazette.

A little history is in order. ARCO spent almost $200 million to build a 48 story tower — designed by I.M. Pei — in downtown Dallas to house the headquarters staff for its ARCO Oil & Gas operating company (AOGC). In 1994, AOGC was split into four operating units, and the tower was sold to Texas Utilities (later TXU) for a reported $29 million. Apparently, some of the artwork in the tower was included in the sale, and some or all of those pieces are now in this auction.

The second link in Katy’s email above is a bit misleading. There are 51 pieces listed on the auction page, but I went through the descriptions of each of them and only 42 refer to the ARCO connection. I’ve compiled a list of the lot numbers that explicitly reference ARCO as the source of the piece. [Update (11/7): Katy informed me that they believe that all of the pieces originated with ARCO, but some may have lost their labels over the years. I have no reason to doubt that, but, as they say, caveat emptor.]

0037 0038 0039 0040 0053 0054
0077 0078 0079 0080 0081 0082
0083 0105 0106 0107 0108 0109
0111 0112 0125 0126 0128 0130
0131 0152 0153 0154 0155 0156
0157 0158 0159 0160 0164 0177
0178 0179 0180 0220 0234 0235

The artist most often represented in this collection is Sol LeWitt (1928-2007), an American artist known for his conceptual and minimalistic works. Clyde Connell (1991-1998) is also represented by several pieces; she was generally known as a sculptor but the artwork here is ink on paper.

The estimated values (auction house estimates) for these pieces range from $300 to $15,000 (the latter being for Lots 0157 and 0158, both being 20-piece sets of framed serigraphs by LeWitt.

Image of Herbert Bayer's tapestry entitled 'Event'
Herbert Bayer tapestry – “Event” (1980) – 60″w x 61″h
Image via Live Auctioneers, Dallas, Texas

For me personally, the most interesting piece is Lot 0161, a 1980 framed tapestry (shown above) by Bauhaus student/teacher and prolific artist Herbert Bayer (1900-1985). It’s not described as being from ARCO’s collection, although we know that ARCO did have quite a few pieces by Bayer in various offices, and he worked closely with ARCO’s curators when they were building the corporate collection.

If you’re an ARCO (or TXU) alumnus or simply interested in art, you should peruse this collection. Who knows? You, too, could end up with a piece of American corporate history!

[Note: This post was made as a courtesy — in addition to being something of personal interest to me — and there is no commercial relationship or financial consideration whatsoever between the Fire Ant Gazette and Live Auctioneers. The Gazette does not accept paid advertising or unsolicited guest articles.]