AO Auction Preview – New York: Sotheby’s, Christie’s, and Phillips de Pury to Hold Contemporary Art Sales May 9-12, 2011

May 9th, 2011

Jeff Koons, Pink Panther, 1988 (est. $20-30 million), via

This week Sotheby’s, Christie’s, and Phillips de Pury will hold Contemporary art auctions in New York. After an anemic week of Impressionist and Modern art sales, the auction houses hope to broker nearly half a billion dollars of Contemporary art. On Monday Sotheby’s will offer forty-three lots during two parts of a three part sale of the collection of Allan Stone (consisting mostly of works by Wayne Thiebaud and Willem de Kooning), followed by their fifty-nine lot Contemporary art evening sale on Tuesday. The next night Christie’s will offer sixty-six works expected to fetch at least $230 million. The week ends with Phillips de Pury’s fifty-one lot sale that carries an estimate of $85-120 million.

Andy Warhol, Sixteen Jackies, 1964 (est. $20-30 million), via

More text and images after the jump…

The cover lot of the Sotheby’s sale is a 1988 Jeff Koons sculpture of a voluptuous and bare breasted woman embraced by a bewildered looking Pink Panther. The piece, rendered in porcelain, comes from Koons’ Banality series, which also includes Michael Jackson and Bubbles, an edition of three porcelain sculptures showing the late Pop star reclining with his arm around his pet chimp, Bubbles. Pink Panther is expected to bring between $20-30 million, as is the evening’s other top lot – Andy Warhol‘s Sixteen Jackies of 1964. The catalogue notes that Sixteen Jackies is a “complex and extraordinarily rare declaration of the twin pedestals on which Warhol’s artistic genius rest: ubiquitous public icons and serial imagery.”

Lucio Fontana, Concetto Spaziale, 1965 (est. $6-8 million), via

Willem de Kooning, Untitled VII, 1986 (est. $4-6 million), via

A large slashed canvas by Lucio Fontana is among the top lots at Sotheby’s. Concetto Spaziale of 1965, which contains twelve slashes, is expected to bring at least $6 million. A 1986 Willem de Kooning in  primary colors carries a presale estimate of $4-6 million. The work belongs to the late and often overlooked chapter of the artist’s career. Known for his densely painted canvasses that are built up with aggressive brush strokes, de Kooning’s largely white paintings with fluid lines in primary colors from the 1980s are almost unrecognizable as his. They’ve been both dismissed as being a product of the mental degradation de Kooning suffered from at the end of his life and celebrated as the true culmination of his artistic output.

Ed Ruscha, Honey…I Twisted Through More Damned Traffic to Get Here, 1984 (est. $3.5-4.5 million), via

Ed Ruscha‘s Honey…I Twisted Through More Damned Traffic to Get Here of 1984 will be offered at Sotheby’s and is expected to bring as much as $4.5 million. It was last at auction in 1988, where the present owner picked it up at Christie’s Los Angeles for $107,000.

Urs Fischer, Untitled (Lamp and Bear), 2005-06 (est. unpublished), via

The headlining lot (and the largest piece to be offered this week) at Christie’s Contemporary sale is a monumental piece by Urs Fischer that is being consigned by collector and dealer Alberto Mugrabi. Untitled (Lamp and Bear) is currently installed in front of the Seagram’s building in New York and is one of an edition of two plus one artist’s proof. Though the auction house has not published an estimate for the lot, a statement by Brett Gorvy, deputy chairman of Christie’s, suggests that the piece is expected to bring in a Koons-like price: “We have seen contemporary sculpture works by Jeff Koons selling at $25 million and Urs Fischer is the leading pretender to the throne. He is considered the most important, the most provocative of contemporary artists today.”

Francis Bacon, Three Studies for Self-Portrait, 1974 (est. unpublished), via

A tryptic by Francis Bacon will also be offered at Christie’s on Wednesday night. Works by Bacon virtually disappeared from the market during the recession, but recent sales have reaffirmed demand for the artist’s work. Like the Fischer, Christie’s has not published an estimate for Three Studies for Self-Portrait. A similar tryptic titled Three Studies for Portrait of Lucian Freud was one of the most sought after pieces in February during the Contemporary sales and brought in £23 million against a presale estimate of £7–9 million at Sotheby’s London.

Andy Warhol, Self-Portrait, 1986 (est. $30-40 million), via

Andy Warhol, Self-Portrait, 1963-64 (est. $20-30 million), via

Two Warhol self-portraits with twenty years between them will be offered at Christie’s. The later one of 1986 shows the artist in his “fright wig” in red on black ground. It is rumored to come from the collection of San Francisco based collectors Norman and Norah Stone and carries a presale estimate of $30-40 million. The earlier piece is a four-part self-portrait of 1963-64 that is being sold by the family of Detroit collector Florence Barron. Barron had originally commissioned the artist to paint her portrait, but changed her mind and suggested the artist depict himelf instead. The result is the present work, which Christie’s hopes will bring at least $20 million.

Mark Rothko, Untitled No. 17 (est. $18-22 million), via

A previously undocumented Rothko canvas rounds out the top five lots at Christie’s. The painting, which carries an estimate of $18-22 million, is being considered for inclusion in an addendum to the 1998 catalogue raisonné of works on canvas by Mark Rothko, to be published in the forthcoming catalogue raisonné of works on paper, currently being compiled by the National Gallery of Art, Washington. The addendum will document those works which had not been located at the time of the 1998 publication.

Andy Warhol, Liz #5, 1963 (est. unpublished),via

Andy Warhol, Flowers, 1964 (est. $8-12 million), via

Collector and hedge-fund manager Steven Cohen, who had a success last week at Christie’s when his Maurice de Vlaminck landscape sold for $22.5 million and set the auction record for the artist, will be selling a Warhol portrait of the late Elizabeth Taylor at Phillips de Pury on Thursday. Liz #5 is the evening’s top  lot and though Phillips has not published an estimate, expectations are rumored to be in the $30 million range. Phillips will also offer a Warhol flower painting that is rumored to be sold by Jose Mugrabi, who bought it at Christie’s in 2007 for about $5 million.

Roy Lichtenstein, Still Life with Mirror, 1972 (est. $6-8 million), via

Richard Prince, Wayward Nurse (Crashed), 2006-2010 (est. $4-6 million), via

Roy Lichtenstein‘s Still Life with Mirror carries an estimate of $6-8 million. It was last sold at the same 2007 Christie’s sale as the Warhol flowers for about $8 million. A large and suggestively gruesome Richard Prince canvas from his Nurses series is being sold by Gagosian Gallery and was last exhibited  at Gagosian London in 2010. It is expected to bring as much as $6 million at Phillips on Thursday night.

Ellsworth Kelly, Green White, 1968 (est. $3-4 million), via

Follow ArtObserved on Twitter for live tweeting at the auctions, and check back here for results.

-J. Mizrachi

Related articles:

Sotheby’s e-Catalogue [Sotheby's]
Christie’s e-Catalogue [Christie's]
Phillips de Pury’s e-Catalogue [Phillips de Pury]
Cohen’s ‘Liz,’ $10 Million Bear Star in $1.4 Billion Art Sales [Bloomberg]
New York auctions: Titans vie for supremacy [The Telegraph]
The Art Market Snaps Back [Wall Street Journal]