Great expectations for New York’s May auctions



On 8 November last year, Christie’s New York managed to far outstrip its principal competitor Sotheby’s with a record sale that generated USD 491 million from 78 lots! This year Sotheby’s is planning a spectacular response with its New York sales of ‘Impressionist and Modern Art’ and ‘Contemporary Art’ that it estimates will generate between 416 and 561 millions dollars.

Sotheby’s has paid particular attention to the contemporary and post-war art section which will include an exceptional work by Mark ROTHKO entitled White Center (Yellow, Pink and Lavender on Rose) that could well go under the hammer at over 40 million dollars. The sale will also include an important piece by Francis BACON, Study from Innocent X, 1962 which is expected to generate close to 30 million dollars. In a more contemporary vein, a large painting by Jean-Michel BASQUIAT – estimated at 6 to 8 millions dollars – looks set to generate a new record for the artist. For its part, Christie’s has estimated its total sales revenue from its similarly entitled sales at 405 to 545 millions dollars. In its session ‘Post War and Contemporary Art’ on 16 May, Donald JUDD heads the bill with an Untitled piece from 1977 made of 10 plexiglass and steel units being offered at between 5 to 7 million dollars which could well set a new record for the artist. Two works by Andy WARHOL, the number 2 artist in Artprice’s ranking of artists by revenue generation, are also expected to generate high prices: Lemon Marilyn from 1962 and Green Car Crash (Green Burning Car I) from 1965, which could both set a new record for the artist (still held by Orange Marilyn when it sold for USD 15.75 million in 1998).

In the segment ‘Impressionist and Modern Art’, Sotheby’s and Christie’s are both offering major works by Pablo PICASSO. On 8 May, Sotheby’s will propose a Tête d’arlequin (1905) estimated at 14 to 18 million dollars and the following day, Christie’s will be offering Tête et main de femme (1921), a piece acquired for 12 million dollars in 2005. On the back of no less than thirty-five sales that generated at least a million dollars each in 2006 and boosted Picasso’s annual revenue figure by 112%, Picasso remains the star of the segment. Another artist whose works were highly prized during 2006 and who comes 12th in Artprice’s ranking of artists by revenue generation – Ernst Ludwig KIRCHNER – will also feature in the Christie’s sale with a female nude entitled Dodo mit grossem Fächer estimated at 12 to 18 million dollars. His record sale was generated last November by a painting entitled Berliner Strassenszene/Bäume from 1913-1914 which went under the hammer for 34 million dollars.Among the impressionist and modern art works that Sotheby’s will be offering, we note Paul CÉZANNENature morte au melon vert, a watercolour carrying an estimate of 14-18 million dollars which, if it its sells in that range, will become the artist’s most expensive drawing. The star lot of the sale should be Henri MATISSE’s Odalisque grise et jaune (1925) estimated at 15 to 20 million dollars.