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Art Among Friends Is Up for Sale

September 22, 2009

Bill Cunningham/The New York Times

Robert Rauschenberg, far left in 2006, and Jasper Johns, center, made art for Merce Cunningham, right, that is to be auctioned in November.

Sometime in 1981 Jasper Johns gave Merce Cunningham an abstract painting with the artist’s familiar crosshatch pattern. Near the center is a delicate, dotted vertical line, like the spine of a dancer, and stenciled along the bottom are jumbled letters spelling out the title: “Dancers on a Plane, Merce Cunningham.”

“I made it for Merce because he was the thought in my mind,” Mr. Johns said in a telephone interview last week.

“I don’t recall whether or not it was for a special occasion,” added Mr. Johns, who was Cunningham’s friend and an adviser to his dance company from 1967 to 1980. “Someone in Merce’s studio told me I brought it over, propped it against a wall and said, ‘Don’t touch it, it’s still wet.’ But I don’t remember that.”

What Mr. Johns didn’t know at the time was that “Dancers on a Plane” would be a gift that keeps on giving.

Read more at: The New York Times, Art Among Friends Is Up for Sale

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