Pablo Picasso, Femmes Lisant (Deux Personnages), 1934 (est. $25-35 million), via Sothebys.com
The New York spring sales begin this week as Sotheby’s and Christie’s hold their Impressionist & Modern evening auctions on May 3rd and 4th, respectively. Sotheby’s 59-lot sale is estimated to fetch $158.9-227.9 million, while Christie’s 55-lot sale is expected to bring in at least $160 million. Five works to hit the auction block (one at Sotheby’s and four at Christie’s) carry estimates of $20 million or more. The headlining work at Sotheby’s is a 1932 portrait by Picasso of his mistress, Marie-Thérèse Walter. The painting is similar to the portrait of Walter that led the February Impressionist and Modern sale at Sotheby’s London and sold for £25.4 million (about $42.4 million) against a high estimate of £18 million ($30 million). Femmes Lisant (Deux Personnages) last changed hands in 1981 and is expected to fetch between $25-35 million.
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The most anticipated piece of sculpture to be offered in either sale is a portrait bust in wood by Paul Gaugin. Jeune Tahitienne carries the second highest estimate at the Sotheby’s sale and is expected to fetch upwards of $10 million. Gaugin sculpted this portrait of a young Tahitian woman during his first trip to Tahiti between 1890-1893. The artist promised to bring Jeanne Fournier, the nine year old daughter of the critic and collector Jean Dolent, a present from the tropics, and so a few months after his return he gave her the present work. It stayed in her possession until 1961, when she entrusted a Dominican priest to sell it on her behalf at Sotheby’s London, where it was acquired by the present owner.
The Sotheby’s sale will feature ten works by Picasso that span the artist’s career and date from 1901-1970. The latest canvas, Couple a la Guitare, comes from the collection of San Francisco-based collector Dodie Rosekrans. Painted when the artist was 88 years old, the work is expected to bring between $10-15 million.
Another work inspired by the artist’s lover is among the top lots at Sotheby’s. Alexej von Jawlensky‘s richly colored portrait of his wife, Helene, is expected to fetch as much as $12 million. The artist’s record was set at the height of the art market bubble in 2008 with the sale of another portrait painted around 1910 for 9.4 million GBP (or $18.6 million in 2008).
Both the Sotheby’s and Christie’s sales feature a handful of Surrealist works. Surrealist works performed extremely well during the last round of auctions in February, most notably when Dali’s auction record was set first at Christie’s and then shattered the next night at Sotheby’s with a £13.5 million sale. Interest in works by Rene Magritte was also strong in February, and a work by the artist is among the top lots at Sotheby’s. Quand L’Heure Sonnera is estimated to bring $5-7 million. A portrait of Helena Rubenstein by Dali is expected to bring $1-1.5 million, also at Sotheby’s.
Christie’s Impressionist & Modern evening sale boasts four lots with high estimates at or above $20 million. The featured lot is a Monet poplar painting that last sold at Christie’s in 2000 for $7 million. This time around the canvas is estimated to fetch between $20-30 million. It is the largest of twenty-four views of poplar trees on the bank of the river Epte that Monet painted in 1891. Another emphatically vertical work by Monet, this one much larger, is also among the top lots at Christie’s. Measuring over six feet long, Iris Mauves is expected to bring at least $15 million.
The Christie’s sale includes five Picasso lots, the star of which is one in a series of paintings that pay homage to Delacroix’s 1934 Les Femmes D’Alger. Picasso created fifteen works in this series, each designated as versions A through O. The work for sale on Wednesday night carries the same presale estimate as the featured Monet lot, though Les Peupliers snagged the cover of the catalogue.
Billionaire collector Steven A. Cohen is rumored to be the present owner of a Fauvist landscape by Maurice de Vlaminck that will be offered at Christie’s. The radiant canvas carries the third highest presale estimate and is expected to bring as much as $25 million.
Also at Christie’s is an early (and charming) Picasso showing two young children playing with toys. Les Enfants et les Jouets was painted in 1901, when the artist was 19, and is estimated to bring $5.5-7.5 million. Buyers interested in Picasso’s early period will have the present work and a similar one offered at Sotheby’s (seemingly featuring the same baby in a red polka dot dress) to chose from. The Sotheby’s canvas, also of 1901, carries a slightly higher presale estimate of $6-8 million.
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Sotheby’s e-Catalogue [Sotheby’s]
Christie’s e-Catalogue [Christie’s]
The Art Market Snaps Back [Wall Street Journal]
The Art Market: Bubble Gazing [Financial Times]
Early Picasso to Highlight Christie’s Impressionist & Modern Art Evening Sale on May 4 [ArtDaily]
Sotheby’s to Hold Impressionist & Modern Art Evening Sale in New York in May [ArtDaily]