Christie’s to Auction Major Works by Basquiat, Doig and Warhol

For the first time ever in London, a major work by Jean-Michel Basquiat, “Brother Sausage” (estimate: $9-12 million) and two seminal works from Andy Warhol’s pivotal Death and Disaster series, “Most Wanted Men #3, Ellis Ruiz B.” (estimate: $5.5-6.5 million) and “Tunafish Disaster” (estimate: $6-8 million), will be exhibited to the public. One of Peter Doig’s greatest masterpieces will also go on public view in London, for the first time since it dominated the central room of the artist’s Retrospective at Tate Britain in 2008.

Peter DoigThe works, which will be offered at auction in New York on November 10, are on view as part of a series of exhibitions and auctions dedicated to Post-War and Contemporary Art at Christie’s London from October 14 to 17 to coincide with Frieze. The leading highlights from the London auctions which will be on public view at Christie’s include significant works by Martin Kippenberger, Lucio Fontana, Damien Hirst, Gerhard Richter, Pino Pascali and a rare, early rediscovered drawing by Lucian Freud.

Brett Gorvy, International Co-Head of Christie’s Post-War and Contemporary Art, commented: “We are thrilled to be presenting this monumental work by Basquiat, which is bound to electrify audiences and inspire collectors. Last fall at Christie’s Basquiat’s Boxer achieved the second highest price ever for the artist, a resounding vote of confidence for his market, which remains consistently strong and sustainable despite the economic downturn. We also look forward to bringing visitors the chance to view two extraordinary works from Warhol’s legendary Death and Disaster series, and one of the great masterpieces by Peter Doig for whose work we have realized the second and third highest auction prices during the last 6 months. It is a unique and exciting opportunity to bring these paintings by Basquiat, Warhol and Doig to London, where the international art world will gather for Frieze.”

Featured on the cover of Jean-Michel Basquiat’s catalogue raisonné, Brother Sausage is one of the artist’s epic masterpieces. Presented like a cartoon strip, the painting is composed of six panels hinged together to form a narrative frieze of multiple drawings and Xeroxed overlays, laden with themes of racial inequality and prejudice, wealth and corporate greed in a frenetic fame-and consumer-obsessed Americana. The work is steeped in Basquiat’s signature ingenious poetic expressiveness, raw energy, and loaded layering. Brother Sausage exemplifies Basquiat at the pinnacle of his career. More ambitious in its construction and in its complex synthesis of structure, the work is an extraordinary culmination of the different sources of inspiration – from street art to abstract expressionism- that so characterized the very best of Basquait’s creative output.

Andy Warhol’s Death and Disaster series – created between late 1962 and early 1964 – are among the most fascinating, challenging and provocative paintings made by the artist. For these works, Warhol sourced images from powerful, strange and disturbing subject matter.

“Tunafish Disaster,” 1963 is seemingly composed of the mundane, pedestrian images of suburban life: two housewives and cans of tunafish. However, beneath the charming and banal idyll of suburban life, there lurks a somber reality of horror and catastrophe. Warhol had been inspired by the freakish story of the gruesome incident of two Detroit housewives, Mrs. McCarthy and Mrs. Brown, who had died tragically after ingesting contaminated cans of tuna. The extraordinary contrast between the mundane normality of everyday suburbia and the exceptional, absurd tragedy that periodically strikes at its heart is a leitmotif persistent throughout Warhol’s career.

Offered for the first time at auction, “Most Wanted Men #3,” Ellis Ruiz B., 1964 is a rare and fascinating work belonging to one of the starkest, but most important and scandalous series of paintings in Warhol’s career, “Thirteen Most Wanted Men.” The paintings were installed on the exterior of Philip Johnson’s pavilion at the 1964 World Fair in New York. Comprised of portraits replicating police department head-shots of felons, rapists and murderers, the work resulted in public outrage and the immediate removal of the mural ensued.

The work presented here is a grainy newspaper-print image of Ellis Ruiz Baez, who was wanted by the police for a brutal murder charge and never caught for his heinous crimes. Because the killer was at large, no mug-shot was available and the police distributed a snapshot from an unknown source. “Most Wanted Men #3, Ellis Ruiz B.” is only one of three images in the series Warhol did not appropriate from a mug-shot. Warhol’s raw and detached treatment of the subject reflects Baez’s cold and expressionless demeanor. In this work Warhol explores a fascination with both the macabre and the ‘celebrity status’ unwittingly bestowed upon criminals who reach the ‘most wanted’ classification. Imbued with mystery and discomfort, the painting reconciles the ordinary with the iconic, permanency with the ephemeral, and the transcendental nature of these themes that preoccupied much of Warhol’s work. In addition to underscoring Warhol’s morbid fascination with the fleeting aspect of life, “Most Wanted Men #3, Ellis R.B.” and “Tunafish Disaster” also demonstrate Warhol’s supreme ability to critique the moral complacency of 1960’s suburban existence.

Peter Doig’s “Reflection” (What Does Your Soul Look Like), 1996, is one of the artist’s great masterpieces (estimate: $4-6 million). At the artist’s celebrated Retrospective at Tate Britain in 2008, this work dominated the central room. The title is a reference to a track by DJ Shadow, whose album Endtroducing, released the same year that this work was painted, contained several versions of his 1994 single, What Does your Soul Look Like. DJ Shadow is a modern master of sampling various forms of music to create an atmospheric audioscape. Doig himself is a form of artistic sampler: this picture can be seen to echo Gustav Klimt’s landscapes, Caspar David Friedrich’s figures, Monet’s waterlilies, Pollock’s drip. As with DJ Shadow’s samples, these strands have been reconfigured to create an image and atmosphere that carry completely new implications and philosophies, tackling the conceptual hurdles of contemporary art while introducing a timeless and poetic nostalgia. In the last six months Christie’s has established two of the three highest auction prices for a work by Peter Doig; in May 2009 at Christie’s New York, Night Fishing, 1991, sold for $4.7 million and in June 2009 in London, Night Playground, 1997-98, realised £3 million.

Jean-Michel Basquiat’s “Brother Sausage,” Peter Doig’s “Reflection” (What does your soul look like) and Andy Warhol’s “Most Wanted Men #3, Ellis R.B.” and “Tunafish Disaster” form part of an exceptional selection of works Christie’s will offer in the Post-War and Contemporary Art Evening Sale on November 10 in New York. The paintings will be on public view at Christie’s King Street in London from October 14-17.

Christie’s Post-War & Contemporary Art Department leads the market for works by Andy Warhol, selling 8 of the top 10. In May 2007 Christie’s Post-War & Contemporary Art Evening Sale became a landmark event for the Warhol market when his epic Death and Disaster series painting, Green Car Crash (Green Burning Car I) sold for $71.7 million and set a world auction record for any work by a Post-War artist.

Image: Peter Doig (b. 1959), “Reflection” (What Does Your Soul Look Like). Oil on canvas, 108 x 78 7/8 in. (274.4 x 200.4 cm.) Executed in 1996. Estimate: $4,000,000 – 6,000,000. Photo: Christie’s Images Ltd 2009.

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