Auction PR Publicity Announcements News and Information
Auction PR Publicity Announcements News and Information

Christie’s New York to Auction Private Collection of Modern and Contemporary Art

Christie’s announces the upcoming sale of an outstanding private American collection of Modern and Contemporary Art: Property from a Distinguished West Coast Collection. Remarkable for the extraordinary quality, rarity and iconic status of its works, the collection boasts masterpieces by René Magritte, Georgia O’Keeffe, Hans Hofmann, Jean Dubuffet, Joan Miró, Kees Van Dongen, Marc Chagall and Ed Ruscha. The total combined value of the works, which will be offered across three sale categories this November, is estimated to exceed US$ 21 million.

Assembled with great care and a discerning eye, this exceptional collection spans the entire spectrum of the most-sought-after movements in 20th century Modern Art and Contemporary Art, from Surrealism to Modernism, Abstract Expressionism and Pop Art. Among the leading highlights is Magritte’s La fin du monde. Painted in 1963, this Surrealist masterpiece employs one of the artist’s most recognizable symbols ? the bowler-hatted man. Two vibrant O’Keeffe paintings, My Autumn, 1929, and Black Iris, 1936, show the American Modern artist’s mastery of color and form through magnified images of flowers and leaves. As quintessential examples of Abstract Expressionism and Pop Art, respectively, Hofmann’s Terpsichore, 1958, and Ruscha’s Real Estate, 1982, both resonate with color and energy. Finally, a rare Cubist work carved in stone by Alexander Archipenko, Porteuse (The Bearer), 1911-12, shows the collectors’ equally refined tastes in sculpture.

“This magnificent collection is one of the most comprehensive and highly selective collections of Modern and Contemporary Art in private hands today. Together, the works constitute an authoritative survey of the most important artists and major movements from the 20th century,” said Laura Paulson, Deputy Chairman and International Director, Post-War and Contemporary Art. “As witnessed at our May Evening sales in New York, and our October Evening Sales in London, the appetite among major collectors for the best examples of works from the major movements remains very strong, and continues to drive exciting prices in the saleroom.”

Six pieces from the collection will be included as a special group in Christie’s Evening Sale of Impressionist and Modern Art on November 1, and more works will be highlighted in the Post-War and Contemporary Evening and Day sales on November 8 and 9 and in Christie’s sale of Important American Paintings, Drawings and Sculpture on November 30.

The owners of the Collection were skilled connoisseurs who sought out paintings, drawings and sculpture by major 20th century artists, amassing a collection that is both highly personal and of the highest quality. Among the star lots to be featured is René Magritte’s (1898-1967) La fin du monde (estimate: $4,000,000-6,000,000), one of only seventeen oils and ten gouaches in the “L’Empire des lumières” series, one of his most famous and sought-after themes. This work depicts both day and night, and includes Magritte’s private persona and surrogate, the Man in the Bowler hat, also seen as a symbol of the anonymous 20th century man on the street.

Another highlight of the sale is Joan Miró’s (1893-1983) Personnages dans la nuit, 1942 (estimate: $800,000-1,200,000), a vibrant work on paper that depicts a trio of monumental figures drawn from charcoal, chalk and strawberry jam. It stands as both a remarkable example of Miró’s draftsmanship and command of color and a subversive satire of the Franco Regime. Further highlights from the collection include Marc Chagall’s La fiancée revant, 1952 (estimate: $700,000-1,000,000) and Kees Van Dongen’s La commère de revue, circa 1908-1909, (estimate: $2,500,000-3,500,000), as well as two exceptional sculptures ? Alexander Archipenko’s Porteuse (Bearer), 1911-1912 (estimate: $250,000-350,000), the artist’s only surviving Cubist carving and one of only three works in stone from this period, and Henry Moore’s Two Three-Quarter Figures on Base, conceived in 1984 (estimate: $600,000-800,000).

Resonating with color and energy, which are defining forces throughout this distinguished collection, Hans Hofmann’s (1880-1966) Terpsichore, 1958, (estimate: $2,000,000-3,000,000) is a spectrum of warm and brilliant color, achieved by building layers of paint to produce a surface that is rich in both visual and textural details. As one of the major figures of Abstract Expressionism, Hofmann represents a crucial bridge between European movements such as Cubism and Fauvism and the new bravura style of American painting. Using “slabs” of color with great intensity and depth, Terpsichore is a bold statement inspired by the Greek muse of dance and dramatic chorus. The spirited brushwork, rich palette of color and almost molten impasto all serve to demonstrate Hofmann’s total mastery of his medium.

Edward Ruscha’s (b. 1937) Real Estate (estimate: $800,000-1,200,000), painted in 1982, playfully explores and dismantles many of the traditional notions of painting by combining both written and painted content into a large-scale landscape with a glowing, nearly cinematic quality. With the emphasis on the word “Real” rendered in a mock Oriental typescript that recalls outmoded restaurant signage, the work presents an eerie, surreal world that ? not unlike Magritte’s La fin du monde ? mysteriously merges daytime into night while capturing the essence of the California landscape that is Ruscha’s greatest muse.

Additional highlights include Jean Dubuffet’s (1901-1985) Le Montreur d’agate, 1952 (estimate: $800,000-1,200,000), a simple yet complex portrait of a man raising his arm to show an agate stone in his hand. Throughout the painting, Dubuffet worked deliberately to create a surface of chance and hazard resulting in a sculptural, almost dazzling surface. This magical surface invites the viewer to scrutinize every inch of the painting in order to appreciate the great diversity of materials and the human form.

Among the sculptural highlights of the sale is Barry Flanagan’s Hare on Pyramid, 1988, (estimate: $300,000-500,000), from the artist’s well-known series featuring a leaping rabbit in various poses, one of which is prominently displayed at the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts in Richmond.

Christie’s sale of American Paintings in New York will boast two tour-de-force paintings from the Collection by Georgia O’Keeffe (1887-1986). Painted seven years apart, My Autumn, 1929 (estimate: $2,000,000-3,000,000) and Black Iris, 1936 (estimate: $1,200,000-1,800,000) are exemplary of O’Keeffe’s highly personal and thoroughly modern aesthetic and of her sensual and evocative depictions of nature. My Autumn captures the intensity of Adirondack fall colors and was painted in the pivotal year between a decade of summers and falls spent at the Stieglitz family compound in Lake George, N.Y., before the artist’s move to New Mexico. The painting was displayed in her husband Alfred Stieglitz’s highly influential New York gallery, An American Place. Though both paintings are meditations on nature and color, Black Iris is from a later series O’Keeffe worked on during a period of intense focus on a type of heightened realism that approaches abstraction. Most of the other paintings from this series are hanging in museum collections.

Another highlight from the Collection, Milton Avery’s (1885-1965) Nude on the Beach, 1943 (estimate: $300,000-500,000), was painted during the most critical period in Avery’s career. Avery’s bold abstractions exerted a highly important influence on Post-War American paintings and have been seen as critical forerunners to paintings by Mark Rothko and Adolph Gottlieb, among many others. His use of color and form to indicate depth and dimension, presented in a compressed pictorial space, represents the breadth of the American Modern aesthetic. As a key link between early 20th century art and Post-War art movements, Avery tends to appeal to collectors of both periods.

Image: Georgia O’Keeffe, My Autumn, 1929. Oil on canvas, 40 x 30 in. Estimate: $2,000,000 – 3,000,000. Photo: Christie’s Images Ltd 2011.

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