On The Square

Ruth Asawa: A Legacy of Creativity, Resilience, and Accessibility

By Derek Koffi-Ziter

May 17,2023 | 16:00 EDT

The name Ruth Asawa is synoynmous with the transformative power of wire sculpture and a steadfast commitment to accessibility in art. She worked long hours, attended meetings and performances in the evenings, and often drew late into the night. She was curious about how things were made and enjoyed hearing from others how to make them.

Adding to the allure of Ruth Asawa's artistic legacy, Fine Estate Inc., a San Rafael-based gallery, is currently featuring Untitled S.391 in their upcoming ‘California Dreaming Fine Art and Jewelry’ auction on May 21st. This captivating wire sculpture, crafted circa 1958, showcases six interlocking brass wire trumpets. Notably, the piece has never been offered for sale or publicly exhibited until now, making it a truly fresh discovery for art enthusiasts. Originally, Asawa exchanged this sculpture for piano lessons for three of her six children, and it adorned the home studio of her piano teacher, Florence Oertel Hartford, until her passing.

During the final stages of World War II, Ruth Asawa, while still interned at the Rohwer War Relocation Center in Arkansas, found herself granted permission to enroll at Black Mountain College. Under the guidance of influential teachers like Josef Albers, Asawa's artistic abilities blossomed. This blog post explores her journey, from early experiments with form and repetition to the remarkable legacy she left behind.

Born in 1926 into a family of seven children on a modest truck farm in Norwalk, California, Ruth Asawa exemplified the resilient American spirit. Throughout her early life, she faced numerous challenges but refused to be deterred. Asawa's unwavering determination propelled her forward as she tirelessly pursued her artistic aspirations while simultaneously establishing programs to foster artistic expression in others. Her devotion to her craft and family formed the core of her being, guiding her through every hardship she encountered.

Today, the impact of Ruth Asawa's artistic contributions can be witnessed in various public spaces, including the Educational Tower of the De Young Museum. These breathtaking wire sculptures, showcased on a permanent basis, are freely accessible to all visitors—a testament to Asawa's belief in making art available to everyone. One such notable artwork is "Mermaids," an enchanting sculpture located in Ghirardelli Square. Inspired by her friend Andrea Jepson, Asawa skillfully captured the essence of aquatic life in this masterpiece. Moreover, Asawa's dedication extended beyond her own creations, as she played a vital role in starting 50 school art programs and served as a member of the San Francisco Arts Council.

As the legacy of Ruth Asawa continues to inspire and captivate art lovers, the upcoming auction of Untitled S.391 presents a unique opportunity to own a piece of her remarkable journey. With an estimated value of $200,000-300,000, this exquisite wire sculpture carries the essence of Asawa's ingenuity and personal connections, further enriching its artistic significance.

Other special lots include Lot 226: 1946 Indian Chief Roadmaster; Lot 142: Patek Phillippe Calatrava 18k  wristwatch; Lot: 85 David Webb diamond and enamel Chevron ring; Lot 107 Burma Ruby and Diamond ring: Lot 167 and 168 Gubi Beetle dining Chairs; Lot 177 and 178 Pair of Herman Miller Eames Chair and Ottomans

Browse all of the lots and register to buy these unforgettable lots in the upcoming ‘California Dreaming Fine Art and Jewelry’ sale on Sunday, May 21, 2023 at 2pm EDT.


Derek Koffi-Ziter | Social Media and Content Manager at Bidsquare

Don't have a Bidsquare account? Sign up here!

Be in the know about upcoming auctions and exciting post-sale results by following us on Facebook and Instagram.