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Looking Forward Toward The Past
Christie's New York
7 PM, May 11, 2015
Sale 3739

Picasso Algiers


Lot 16, "Les Femmes d'Alger (Version O)," by Pablo Picasso, oil on canvas, 44 7/8 by 57 3/8 inches, 1955 

By Carter B. Horsley

The May 11, 2015 "Looking Forward Toward The Past" curated auction at Christie's New York is a discombobulating affair that mixes works from 1902 and 2011 that would normally fall into either the Impressionist and Modern Art auctions and the Contemporary Art auctions.  It also played havoc with the traditional auction schedule.

These were steps not taken lightly by Christie's.  Two of the offered works had opening bids of $100 million each and the catalogue for the 35 offered lots weighed more than 7 pounds with a complex folding front cover.

The auction was "curated" by Loic Gouzer, "international specialist, Post-War and Contemporary Art" at Christie's who had put together a "curated" auction last May at Christie's entitled "If I Live I'll See You Tuesday."  Mr. Gouzer is a relative "Johnny-come-lately" to the auction business.

In a preface to the huge catalogue, he wrote that "for some, it may be quite unexpected to offer works by Claude Monet and Urs Fischer in one sale," adding that "Yet the auction is an attempt to illustrate the enduring dynamics  at the root of artistic creation."  "The majority of 20th Century artists were influenced by their predecessors, and through an exploration of the past they were able to venture into new and exciting territory of their own.  The art of now is an endorsement of the art of the past, an idea expressed perfeclty by Pablo Picasso's majestic Les Femmes d'Alger (version 'O')."

Some observers, of course, may consider artists who do not endorse "the art of the past" more interesting and important," but as the bartender in the movie "Irma La Douce" is always saying "but that is another story."

The audience, both in the room and on the phones, was undaunted and all but one of the lots sold for $705,858,000 including the buyers' premiums, vastly higher than the "curated" auction total of $134.6 million in May.  The pre-sale high estimate for this auction was about $500 million.

An article by Scott Reyburn in the May 12, 2015 edition of The New York Times said that "a high success rate had been ensured by 18 of the works being given pre-auction guarantees financed either by third parties or Christie's itself," adding that "five lots, with a total lower estimate value of more than $200 million, guaranteed by the auction house."  Guarantees lure consignments, but they also tend to tarnish the auction process because of their association with price-rigging.

The top lot was Lot 16, "Les Femmes d'Alger (version O)," by Pablo Picasso (1881-1973).  An oil on canvas, it measures 44 7/8 by 57 3/8 inches and was painted February 14, 1955.  It was one of 15 works in a series  that Picasso did based on "Les femmes d'Alger," a famous 1834 painting by Eugene Delacroix that is owned by the Louvre.  The catalogue entry maintained that Picasso's series is "surely Picasso's greatest achievement in the decades following the end of the Second World War.

The painting had once been owned by Victor and Sally Ganz who had acquired the entire series by Picasso.  A Saudi collector bought this painting for $31.9 million at Christie's in 1997.  It had an estimate on request at this auction that was reported to be $140 million.  It sold for $179,365,000, a world auction record for any work of art, surpassing the $142.4 million paid two years ago for "Three Studies of Lucian Freud" by Francis Bacon.
 

Giacommeti

Lot 29, "L'homme au doigt (Pointing Man)," by Alberto Giacommeti, bronze, 69 7/8 inches high, conceived in 1947, numbered 6/6

Lot 29 is a large and impressive "L'homme au doigt (Pointing Man)," a bronze sculpture by Alberto Giacommeti (1901-1966).  It is 69 7/8 inches high and is number 6/6.  It was conceived in 1947.  It was consigned by Sheldon Solow, the real estate developer.  It has been widely exhibited and published.  


Giacommeti detail

Detail of Lot 29

The catalogue entry notes that the artist originally planned a companion sculpture for this work and eventually made it in plaster but then decided the concept did not work and never executed it in bronze.

It has an estimate on request that was reported to be $130 million.  It sold for $141,285,000, a world auction record for any sculpture.
 Subsequently  a news report said that the buyer was Stephen Cohen, who operates a hedge fund.

Monet

Lot 24, "Le Parlement, soleil couchant," by Claude Monet, oil on canvas, 32 by 36 3/8 inches, 1900-1

Lot 24 is a great painting of Parliament in London at Sunset by Claude Monet (1849-1926).  An oil on canvas, it measures 32 by 36 3/8 inches and was painted 1900-1.

The painting had sold at Sotheby's New York in the spring of 2001 for $14,580,750 when it had an estimate of $9,000,000 to $15,000,000 and it had previously sold at auction in 1989 for about $9,000,000.

The 2001 catalogue entry for the painting gave the following commentary:

"More than any other artist, Monet is famed, justly, for his series of paintings, most notably depicting the cathedral in Rouen, poplars, the Houses of Parliament, water lilies and haystacks. He made several trips to London between 1899 and 1904 and in 1904 allowed his dealer, Durand-Ruel, to show 37 of his views of the Thames. There are 19 "identified" Houses of Parliament paintings, 14 of which are in public institutons such as the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C., the Art Institute of Chicago, the Pushkin Museum in Moscow, the Musée Marmottan and the Musée d'Orsay in Paris, and the High Museum of Art in Atlanta.

The catalogue provides the following quotation by Monet about London's fog: "The fog in London assumes all sorts of colors; there are black, brown, yellow, green, purple fogs, and the interest in painting is to get the objects as seen through all these fogs. My practiced eye has found that objects change in appearance in a London fog, more and quicker than in any other atmosphere, and the difficulty is to get every change on canvas." In 1903, he wrote to Durand-Ruel that "I cannot send you a single canvas of London, because, for the work I am doing, it is indispensable to have all of them before my eyes, and to the tell the truth not a single one is definitely finished. I work them all out together or at least a certain number, and I don't yet know how many of them I will be able to show because what I do there is extremely delicate. One day I am satisfied, and the next everything looks bad to me, but anyway there are always several good ones."

"The backlit mass of the Houses of Parliament is counterpointed by swirling, vivid reds, yellows, oranges and purples, thickly applied, that capture the light o the setting sun in the sky and the water," the catalogue stated.

The catalogue for the current auction noted that "compared with the sooty, almost impenetraable fog of the Metropolitan Museum of Art's Le Parlement, effet de brouillard, the present work appears all the more like a fantastical vision: backlit by a luminous pink, breaching through the crevices of the clouds, the Gothic silhouette of Parliament appears like a blue mirage, wavering above the water like a castle in fairy tale."

 It has a modest estimate of $35,000,000 to $45,000,000.  It sold for $40,485,000.

Rothko

Lot 13, "No. 36 (Black Stripe)," by Mark Rothko, oil on canvas, 61 7/8 by 67 inches, 1958

Lot 13 is a fine orange, red and black abstraction by Mark Rothko (1903-1970) entitled "No. 36 (Black Stripe)."  An oil on canvas, it measures 61 7/8 by 67 inches and was painted in 1958.  It has been widely exhibited.  It has an estimate of $30,000,000 to $50,000,000.  It sold for $40,485,000.

Doig

Lot 5, "Swamped," by Peter Doig, oil on canvas,  77 1/2 by 95 inches, 1980

Lot 5 is a good landscape by Peter Doig (b. 1959) entitled "Swamped."  An oil on canvas, it measures 77 1/2 by 95 inches and was painted in 1980.

Doig detail

Detail of Lot 5

It has an estimate on request.  It sold for $25,925,000, a world auction record for the artist.


Kippenberger

Lot 20, "Untitled (from the series Jacqueline: The Paintings Pablo Couldn't Paint Anymore," by Martin Kippenberger, oil on canvas, 94 by 79 inches, 1996

Lot 20 is a large and ravishing oil on canvas by Martin Kippenberger (1953-1997) entitled "Untitled (from the series Jacqueline: The Paintings Pablo Couldn't Paint Anymore."  It measures 94 by 79 inches and was painted in 1996.  It has an estimate of $8,000,000 to $12,000,000.  It sold for $12,485,000.

Polke

Lot 6, "Ohne Trial," by Sigmar Polke, acrylic on printed fabric, 56 1/4 by 47 1/2 inches, 1993

Lot 6 is a very good acrylic on printed fabric by Sigmar Polke (1941-2010) entitled "Ohne Trial."  It measures 56 1/4 by 47 1/2 inches.  It was painted in 1993.  It has an estimate of $2,000,000 to $3,000,000.  It sold for $2,853,000.

Eiffel Tower by Delaunay

Lot 10, "La Tour Simultanée," by Robert Delaunay, gouache, pen and India ink and brown ink, colored pencils over pencil on parchment, 24 7/8 by 18 7/8 inches, 1910-1911

Lot 10 is a great gouache, pen and India ink and brown ink, colored pencils over pencil on parchment by Robert Delaunay (1885-1941) entitled "La Tour Simultanée."  It measures 24 7/8 by 18 7/8 inches and was painted in 1910-1911.  It has an estimate of $2,500,000 to $3,500,000.  It sold for $2,405,000.

Mondrian

Lot 11, "Komposition II, with Red. 1926," by Piet Mondrian, oil on canvas, 19 7/8 by 20 1/8 inches, 1926

Lot 11, "Komposition II, with Red, 1926," is a 1926 oil on canvas by Piet Mondrian (1872-1944).  It measures 19 7/8 by 20 1/8 inches.  It once belonged to Edgar J. Kaufman Jr. of New York and has been widely exhibited and published.  It has an estimate of $7,000,000 to $9,000,000.  It sold for $9,349,000.


Ernst

Lot 7, "Le Couple," by Max Ernst, oil on canvas, 28 1/4 by 21 3/8 inches, 1924

Lot 7 is a good oil on canvas by Max Ernst (1891-1976) entitled "Le Couple."  It measures 28 1/4 by 21 3/8 inches and was painted in 1924.  It has an estimate of $6,000,000 to $8,000,000.  It sold for $9,125,000.


de Kooning

Lot 31, Untitled XVIII, by Willem de Kooning, oil on canvas, 80 by 70 inches, 1982

Lot 31 is a swirling and bold abstraction by Willem de Kooning (1904-1997) entitled "Untitled XVIII."  An oil on canvas, it measures 80 by 70 inches and was painted in 1982.  It has an estimate of $8,000,000 to $12,000,000.  It sold for $9,125,000.

Peyton

Lot 4, "Gavin on the Phone," by Elizabeth Peyton, oil on board, 14 1/4 bny 11 1/4 inches, 1998

Lot 4 is a very strong oil on board by Elizabeth Peyton (b. 1965) entitled "Gavin on the Phone."  It measures 14 1/4 by 11 1/4 inches and was painted in 1998.  It has an estimate of $300,000 to $500,000.  It sold for $725,000.


Picasso head

Lot 18, "Buste de femme (Femme a la resille)," by Pablo Picasso, oil on canvas, 25 5/8 by 21 1/4 inches, 1938

Lot 18 is a simple but colorful oil on canvas portrait of a Dora Maar with a hat by Pablo Picasso.  It measures 25 5/8 by 21 1/4 inches and was painted in 1938.  It has been widely exhibited and published.  It has an estimate on request.  It sold for $67,365,000.


Liz by Warhol

Lot 19, "Silver Liz (diptych)," by Andy Warhol, 40 by 80 inches, 1963-1965

Lot 19, "Silver Liz (diptych)," is a portrait of Elizabeth Taylor by Andy Warhol that was executed in 1963-5.  It measures 40 by 80 inches.  It sold for $18,338,500 when it was offered with an estimate of $10,000,000 to $15,000,000 at Christie's New York May 11, 2010.  At this auction it has an estimate of $25,000,000 to $35,000,000. It sold for $28,165,000.

World auction records were set for Chaim Soutine whose "Le Boeuf" sold for $28,165,000, Jean Dubuffet, whose "Paris Polka" sold for $24,805,000, Diane Arbus whose "Child with a Toy Hand Grenade in Central Park" sold for $785,000, and Cady Noland whose "Bluewalk" sold for $9,797,000.  A world auction record for a work on paper by Jean-Michele Basquiat was set by "Untitled" that sold for $13,605,000.


See The City Review article on the Fall 2014 Impressionist & Modern Art auction at Sotheby's New York
See The City Review article on the Spring 2014 Impressionist & Modern Art auction at Sotheby's New York

See The City Review article on the Spring 2014 Impressionist & Modern Art auction at Christie's New York
See The City Review article on the Fall 2013 Impressionist & Modern Art auction at Sotheby's New York
See The City Review article on the Spring 2013 Impressionist & Modern Art auction at Christie's New York
See The City Review article on the Spring 2013 Impressionist & Modern Art evening auction at Sotheby's New York

See The City Review article on the Fall 2012 Impressionist & Modern Art auction at Sotheby's New York
See The City Review article on the Fall 2012 Impressionist & Modern Art day auction at Sotheby's New York
See The City Review article on the Spring 2012 Impressionist & Modern Art auction at Sotheby's
See The City Review article on the Spring 2012 Impressionist & Modern Art auction at Christie's
See The City Review article on the Fall 2011 Impressionist & Modern Art auction at Sotheby's
See The City Review article on the Fall 2011 Impressionist & Modern Art auction at Christie's
See The City Review article on the Spring 2011 Impressionist & Modern Art auction at Sotheby's
See The City Review article on the Spring 2011 Impressionist & Modern Art auction at Christie's
See The City Review article on the Fall 2010 Impressionist & Modern Art evening auction at Sotheby's
See The City Review article on the Fall 2010 Impressionist & Modern Art evening auction at Christie's
See The City Review article on the Spring 2010 Impressionist & Modern Art evening auction at Sotheby's
See The City Review article on the Spring 2010 Impressionist & Modern Art evening auction at Christie's
See The City Review article on the Fall 2009 Impressionist & Modern Art evening auction at Sotheby's
See The City Review article on the Fall 2009 Impressionist & Modern Art evening auction at Christie's

See The City Review article on the Spring 2009 Impressionist & Modern Art evening auction at Sotheby's
See The City Review article on the Spring 2009 Impressionist & Modern Art evening auction at Christie's
See The City Review article on the Fall 2008 Impressionist & Modern Art evening auction at Christie's
See The City Review article on the Fall 2008 Impressionist & Modern Art evening auction at Sotheby's

See The City Review article on the Spring 2008 Impressionist & Modern Art evening auction at Christie's
See The City Review article on the Spring 2008 Impressionist & Modern Art evening auction at Sotheby's
See The City Review article on the Fall 2007 Impressionist & Modern Art evening auction at Sotheby's
See The City Review article on the Spring 2007 Impressionist & Modern Art evening auction at Christie's
See The City Review article on the Spring 2007 Impressionist & Modern Art auction at Sotheby's
See The City Review article on the Fall 2006 Impressionist & Modern Art auction at Sotheby's
See The City Review article on the Spring 2006 Impressionist & Modern Art evening auction at Sotheby's
See The City Review article on the Spring 2006 Impressionist & Modern Art evening auction at Christie's
See The City Review article on the Fall 2005 Impressionist & Modern Art evening auction at Christie's
See The City Review article on the Impressionist & Modern Art evening auction at Sotheby's November 2, 2005
See The City Review article on the Impressionist & Modern evening sale at Sotheby's in the Spring, 2005
See The City Review article on the Impressionist & Modern Art evening auction in the Fall, November, 2005
See The City Review article on the Impressionist & Modern Art day auction at Sotheby's November 5, 2004
See The City Review article on the Impressionist & Modern Art evening auction at Christie's May 4, 2004
See The City Review article on the Impressionist & Modern Art day auction at Christie's May 5, 2004
See The City Review article on the May 5, 2004 evening auction at Sotheby's of Property of the Greentree Foundation from the Collection of Mr. and Mrs. John Hay Whitney
See The City Review article on the Impressionist & Modern Art evening auction at Sotheby's May 6, 2004
See The City Review article on the Spring 2004 Impressionist & Modern Art day auction at Sotheby's
See The City Review article on the Fall 2003 Impressionist & Modern Art evening auction at Sotheby's
See The City Review article on the Fall 2003 Impressionist & Modern Art evening auction at Christie's
See The City Review article on the Spring 2003 Impressionist & Modern Art evening auction at Christie's
See The City Review article on Spring 2003 Impressionist & Modern Art day auction at Christie's
See The City Review article on the Spring 2003 Impressionist & Modern Art evening auction at Sotheby's
See The City Review article on the Spring 2003 Impressionist & Modern Art Part 2 day auction at Sotheby's
See The City Review article on the Fall 2002 Impressionist & Modern Art evening auction at Sotheby's
See The City Review article on the Fall 2002 Impressionist & Modern Art evening auction at Phillips de Pury & Luxembourg
See The City Review article on the Spring 2002 Impressionist & Modern Art day auction at Christie's
See The City Review article on the Spring 2002 Impressionist Art evening auction at Sotheby's
See The City Review article on the Spring 2002 Impressionist Art Part Two day auction at Sotheby's
See The City Review article on the Nov. 5, 2001 auction of the Smooke Collection at Phillips de Pury & Luxembourg
See The City Review article on the Nov. 5, 2001 auction of the Hoener Collection at Phillips de Pury & Luxembourg
See The City Review article on Phillips May 7, 2001 Impressionist & Modern Art auction
See The City Review article on the November 9, 2001 Impressionist & Modern Art auction at Sotheby's
See The City Review article on Phillips Fall 2000 Impressionist & Modern Art auction
See The City Review article on the Christie's evening sale of Impressionist and Post-Impressionist Art May 8, 2000
See The City Review article on the Christie's evening sale of Twentieth Century Art May 9, 2000


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