The Impressionist &
Modern Art and the
Post-War and Contemporary Art auctions at Christie's in London
in February, 2007 are highlighted by an iconic painting by Francis
Bacon, two excellent paintings by Egon Schiele, two fine works
by Amedeo Modigliani, a good René Magritte, and a selection
of works from The Tettamanti Collection, the most important
modern and contemporary art collection from Italy to appear at
The works reproduced here were
exhibited in January at Christie's in New York.
& Modern Art sale in New York in November, 2006, it will
the largest ever London evening sale of Impressionist & Modern
Art on February 6, 2007. This sale features 130 works, incorporating
a section dedicated to 'The Art of the Surreal,' with a pre-sale
estimate of approximately 75 million pounds. René Magritte's
(1898-1967), "La pretre marie," painted in 1961 appears
at auction for the first time, and depicts two masked apples consorting
together in a barren desert. Magritte was unusually attached to
this painting, and hoped that the intended buyer would not come
to collect it, but he did. The painting has an estimate of 2 to
3 million pounds.
Christie's will open its London
Post War and
Contemporary Art evening sale on February 8, 2007 with "Study
of Portrait II," by Francis Bacon (1909-1992). Painted in
1956, it is one of his most famous papal portraits - in an ongoing
series of about 50 popes he painted in his career that have now
attained mythic status. Bacon was obsessed by Velazquez's 1650
Portrait of Pope Inncoent X that awoke a powerful sensation in
him. Although we are now accustomed to Bacon's mesmerizing popes,
they were shocking and provocative when they first appeared in
the 1950s. While his previous popes were reminiscent of domineering
father figures, authoritarian and and forbidding, this portrait
depicts a more vulnerable man, worn down by time, hunched under
the weight of responsibility, "a prisoner unto himself."
The estimate for this painting is upon request. The current auction
record for a work by Bacon is "Version No. 2," of a
lying figure with a hypodermic syringe, (1968), which sold at
Sothebys New York in November, 2006 for $15,024,000. "Study
of Portrait II" sold for $27,549,300 to Andrew Fabricant
for the Richard Gray Gallery and the Post-War and Contemporary
sale February 8 totalled $138,393,378, a record for such an auction
"We are thrilled with
record breaking results which demonstrate Christie's driving dominance
of the Post-War and Contemporary art market," declared Pilar
Ordovas, director and head of Christie's department of Post-War
and Contemporary Art in London, adding that "this evening's
sale built on the continuing strength of the market as we welcomed
a significant number of new clients, the majority of which were
private international buyers. Increased interest and bidding from
the new markets, including Russian, Middle Eastern and Asian clients,
has had a significant effect on the art market over recent years
and it is particularly encouraging to see the majority of works
this evening bought by European-based clients, highlighting the
intrinsic role of London within the international art market."
There are so many significant
artworks on offer
at this sale in different categories it is impossible to mention
them all, but "Brigitte Bardot," (1974), by Andy Warhol,
is a show stopper. She was impossible to photograph at the preview
because an enormous video camera (and attached cameraman) laid
claim to her for an inordinately long time - well, she was the
sex symbol of the 1960s, and if this pre-view is anything to go
by, nothing much has changed. The gentleman was smitten, and I
had to move on without my photograph for lack of time. Her famously
large, mascara-lashed eyes, full pink lips and big blond hair
have established the sex kitten look for future generations of
women, and her legacy endures on contemporary TV shows, MTV videos,
and on the runways and red carpets of the 21st century. The amazing
thing is she did not like fame and celebrity very much, and gave
it all up for retirement when she was still young and in her prime.
The synthetic polymer paint and silkscreen inks on canvas measures
47 1/4 inches square and was executed in 1974. It has an estimate
of $3 to $3.9 million. It sold for $10,603,140.
There is also a classic Warhol
in this sale that he created for his first show at the Leo Castelli
Gallery in New York in the summer of 1964. Both the Warhols are
from the Tettamanti collection, (included in the Post War and
Contemporary Art Day Sale on February 9th, 2007). Other artists
whose work is featured in this sale are Gerhard Richard, Cy Twombly,
Roy Lichtenstein, Tom Wesselman, Enrico Castellani, Richard Prince,
Francesco Clemente, and "Sacco et rosso," by Alberto
Burri, (1915-1995), an artist and sculptor who extended the boundaries
of painting by cutting, layering and burning diverse materials.
The Burri sold for $3,780,660 setting a new record for the
artist. Records were also set or Anselm Hiefer, Sigmar Polke,
Antonio Saura, Hiroshi Sugimoto, Keith Haring, Dan Flavin and
Michael Raedecker and records for works on paper were set for
Mark Rothko and Lucien Freud.
Leading the German and Austrian
the Impressionist and Modern Art auction February 6 is Egon Schiele's
(1890-1918) exceptional "Prozession", (1911), with a
pre-sale estimate of $9.8 to 14 million. This is one of Schiele's
quasi-religious paintings produced at the height of a period of
mystical revelation between 1910 and 1912, characterized by what
the auction house describes as "an autumnal atmosphere of
death and decay that shocked many of Schiele's contemporaries."
"Prozession" has a timeless quality - medieval sorceresses,
fairytale witches stirring strange potions, contemporary "goth"
MTV musicians with heavily outlined eyes - all come to mind. Not
to mention Anslem Kiefer's exquisite color pallette, drawn from
According to an article by
Linda Sandler in
the February 5, 2007 edition of The New York Sun,
was consigned by the Neue Gallerie in New York on behalf of the
estate of Serge Sabarsky, which forms part of the gallery's collection.
It was one of five of 10 Schieles offered that did not sell.
Schiele was only nineteen years
old when he
painted this elegant, highly stylized self-portrait, "Selbstbildnis
mit gespreizten Fingern," (1909), and his huge talent had
already drawn the recognition of his artistic peers, including
Gustav Klimpt, who regarded him as one of the greatest hopes for
the future of Austrian art. The idosyncratically elongated painting
evokes Schiele's famous drawings, although this one is not anywhere
near as erotically charged as his famous works on paper. It has
overtones of Gustav Klimpt's exquisite goddessess engulfed in
orientalia, but the hard-core somberness is pure Schiele. He is
one of the great geniuses of modern art and this unusual portrait
should exceed its pre-sale estimate of 4 to 6 million pounds.
It sold for $8,824,500.
The Christie's London sale
includes two mouth-watering
Amedeo Modigliani's (1884-1920), although his famously elongated
figures are rarely as "film noir" as the handsome, rough,
"Homme au chapeau," painted in 1915, who looks as if
he has stepped out of a Dashiel Hammet novel. With his stylish
hat rakishly angled, and jaw firmly set, the only thing missing
is a cigar. The somber tones exaggerate the "gangsta"
mood of this painting, without the customary piercing blue eyes
to relieve the tension. Modigliani was notoriously non-conformist
and hedonistic, tailor-made for life in Paris. There are faint
echoes of Cézanne in the angularity of the portrait, who
influenced many artists active in Paris at the turn of the 20th
century. It has an estimate of 2.7 to 3.4 million pounds. It
sold for $7,726,000.
Almost the polar opposite of
the rakish "homme"
is Modigliani's winsome young girl, "La Fillette au béret,"
painted in 1918, which captures the innocence and purity of childhood.
Those signature Modigliani piercing blue eyes have the magnetic
quality associated with his most famous faces, and this one is
a real stunner. It is curious that such a hedonist was able to
capture the emotions of childhood so accurately, but then there
is something of the child in every artist. The pre-sale estimate
for this lively portrait is $5.9 to $7.8 million. It sold for
Family and children, flowers
and nudes are
synonomous with Pierre-Auguste Renoir, (1841-1914), and "La
leçon," (Bielle, l'institutrice et Claude Renoir lisant),
above, shows the teacher and two children reading, one supposedly
Claude Renoir, or Coco, the third son of the artist who was born
in 1901. Renoir's famously soft, sensuous brushwork transforms
a mundane activity into a far more idealized moment than it probably
was for the child. Bielle oozes patience, but it is questionable
if young Claude was focused on the task at hand, while Renoir's
brush rustled quietly on canvas. There never has been brushwork
quite like this, heavily influenced by painting flowers and leaves
on porcelain at the Limoges factory, where Renoir worked as a
young boy. Those days were far behind him in this quiet scene
of domestic bliss. Like Bonnard, Renoir had great reverence for
family life. The pre-sale estimate for this pleasant work is $4.9
to $6.8 million.
"Compotier et Guitar" was
in 1927-29, early in Picasso's long and prolific career, (1881-1973),
and it is bursting with energy and confidence. This painting is
a sophisticated hybrid, fusing order with the informality of Cubism.
There are strong overtones of Léger's Purism, and more
than a hint of Braque, with whom Picasso collaborated and had
a close working relationship for many years, until Picasso branched
off more emphatically into Cubism. This giant of twentieth century
art was a self-proclaimed plagarist, borrowing from whoever or
whatever caught his imagination, yielding superb compositions
like this. The pre-sale estimate is $2.2 to 3.1 million. It
sold for $5,969,284.
still life, "Nature Morte," by Pablo Picasso has quite
a history, in addition to being a wonderful work of art in its
own right. It was painted on April 25, 1937, the day before the
planes of the German Condor Legion bombed the Basque town of Guernica.
This was immotalized in one of Picasso's most famous anti-war
paintings "Guernica," and it gives some idea of the
artist's feelings about the totalitarian regime that he would
not allow the painting to be exibited in a Fascist ruled Spain.
When the country finally attainted democracy and became a free
Republic, "Guernica" returned home. Sadly, this was
after Picasso's death. The pre-sale estimate for "Nature
Morte" is $4 to 5.9 million, and it should go for more. Another
important Picasso offered at the sale is ""Femme Dans
Un Rocking-Chair," painted in 1956, reminiscent of the cut-outs
of Henri Matisse, who died only two years earlier. It sold
for $4,871,124. Complimenting a prime selection of Picasso's
is "Mousquetaire assis," painted in Mougins in April
fine cut-out work
by Henri Matisse (1869-1954) sold for $4,431,860 and a nice landscape
by Paul Gauguin (1848-1903) sold for $3,992,596. New auction records
were set for Giorgio Morandi, August Macke, Christian Schad, and
Henrich Maria Davringhausen. The top lot of the auction was "Les
Maisons dans les arbes" by Fernand Léger (1881-1955),
which sold for $12,300,000. Jussi Pylkkaenen, president of Christie's
Europe and international director of the Impressionist and Modern
Art Department and the auctioneer for the sale, said that the
sale realized $175,870,324, "the highest total for an Impressionist
and Modern Art sale ever at Christie's in Europe," adding
that 46 lots sold for over $1 million. "European buying,"
he continued, "continues to dominate with 9 out of 10 of
the leading works selling to European clients who represented
71.5 percent of the buyers."
Lucien Freud is full of
surprises. Who would
have thought that the world's most eminent figurative painter,
(mainly of nudes drained of emotion, often with pets or objects),
including a news making portrait of the Queen, (extremely respectable
of course), a lounging nude of super-model Kate Moss, and a series
of extraordinary, unsettling portraits that echo the psychological
preoccupations of his famous grandfather, Sigmund Freud, could
have changed lanes and painted this diminutive and tender still
life? Humans are set aside, momentarily, for the simple strawberry.
The choice of subject is as unexpected - for Freud - as it is
refreshing, recalling the wonderful artist Albrecht Durer, and
his penchant for portraying the grandiose, the humble, and the
disturbing. The miniscule oil on copper was painted circa 1950
and has an estimate of $240,000 to $340,000.
The sampling on view in New
York was impressive,
especially "Nature Morte" by Picasso, far more moving
in the "flesh" than any reproduction could possibly
convey. The mythic pope imprisoned in his robes by Bacon is hauntingly
beautiful, if sad: power extracts its pound of flesh, and the
artist has captured this to perfection.
"Untitled," (Black, Red, Black
Brown)," by Mark Rothko, painted in 1968 is typically moody
"I am interested in expressing
human emotions - tragedy, ecstacy, doom - and if you are moved
only by their color relationships then you miss the point,"
said the artist.
An oil on paper laid downon
canvas, it measures
32 1/4 by 25 1/8 inches and was painted in 1968. It is part of
the Tettamanti Collection and has an estimate of $2 to $2.9 million.