Prestige sales in New York



On 3 and 4 May 2011, Christie’s and Sotheby’s will kick off the annual series of multi million-dollar auctions with their Impressionist & Modern Art sales, followed by their Post-War & Contemporary Art sales on 10 and 11 May.
Last November the two majors posted respective results for their Impressionist & Modern Art sales of 185.15 and 180.45 million dollars. This month, the revenue estimates for their Impressionist & Modern Art sales in New York amount to $160m and $150m.

In the Impressionist and Modern segment, Sotheby’s and Christie’s are both gambling on major works by Pablo PICASSO (ten Picassos at Sotheby’s and five at Christie’s). On 3 May, Sotheby’s is offering Femme Lisant (Deux Personnages) estimated $25m – $35m and the following day Christie’s will present Les femmes d’Alger, version L with an estimate of $20m – $30m.
Among the other masterpieces in the Sotheby’s catalogue there is an extremely rare wood sculpture entitled Jeune Tahitienne by Paul GAUGUIN with the characteristic lines of his paintings. Estimated $10m – $15m, this delicate sculpture could well fetch beyond its high estimate considering the rarity of the work (only eight pieces of a similar type created during Gauguin’s 1st period in Tahiti still exist). Another major piece in the 3 May sale is Alexej VON JAWLENSKY’s Frau mit Gruenem Faecher estimated at $8m – $12m. In 1975 this work sold for just £46,200 ($93,370) at Christie’s. The artist’s record is $16.5m for Schokko at Sotheby’s in February 2008.
In the Christie’s catalogue there is the blue and green-toned Les Peupliers by Claude MONET which fetched $6.4m in 2000 (at Christie’s New York) and which now carries a $20m – $30m estimate. The piece dates from 1891, an emblematic year for the Impressionist movement with Monet’s Haystack series. Over the last twenty years only three works by Monet with poplar trees as their subject have been offered on the auction market.
Another star of the Christie’s catalogue is a superb Fauvist work by Maurice DE VLAMINCK entitled Paysage de banlieue and created in 1905/1906. In 1994 the painting fetched $6.2m at Christie’s in New York. This time round, Christie’s is hoping to generate $18m – $25m, i.e. double Maurice de Vlaminck’s current personal record for Les pêcheurs à Nanterre (which fetched €9.4m at Loudmer in Paris) as no other work of equivalent quality by the artist has been offered at auction since 2002.
Of the 57 lots at the Christie’s evening sale, 27 are expected to generate 7-figure results.

One week after these Impressionist & Modern Art sales, Sotheby’s, Christie’s and Phillips de Pury will hold their Post-War & Contemporary Art sales. As usual these days, all three will be depending quite heavily on Andy WARHOL. The centrepiece of the Phillips de Pury sale is a portrait of Liz Taylor, Liz #5, a rare Warhol work, carrying an estimate of $20m – $30m (the sale of the work was announced two days after the actress died). The previous day at Christie’s, collectors will be offered 2 self-portraits by the artist, one of which is the gigantic red and black Self-Portrait (271 x 270 cm) carrying a pre-sale estimate of $30m – $40m. The work is one of a series of seven self-portraits in different colours. All the others are museum-owned. Indeed, as Picasso’s primary rival, Warhol could possibly step up to the global number 1 auction position with this Self-Portrait. The other self-portrait by the Pop artist – an acrylic and silkscreen ink on canvas in four parts – comes from the Barron family collection and has been estimated by Christie’s at $20m – $30m.At Sotheby’s, Warhol will be represented by Sixteen Jackies in the same price range ($20m – $30m) The auctioneer is also proposing a Pink Panther by Jeff KOONS (estimated $20m – $30m) one edition of which fetched $1.65m in 1999 (Christie’s New York).
The Christie’s catalogue also contains a bright red and pink painting by Mark ROTHKO with an estimate of $18m – $22m. The work is in fact relatively unknown since it has only recently been attributed to the artist, and it could sell for beyond its estimated price range.
Christie’s is expecting to generate $230m for its Post-War & Contemporary Art session on 11 May, with Francis BACON’s Three Studies for Self-Portrait expected to attract strong bidding, as is Urs FISCHER’s giant sculpture Untitled (Lamp/Bear) measuring over 7 metres tall.

The current weakness of the US dollar enhances the attractiveness of the New York market and the sales are bound to generate numerous million-plus results. The estimated revenue total from all the sales combined (Impressionist, Modern, Post-War and Contemporary) is close to a billion dollars, and a dozen works are carrying price tags around $20 million dollars).