AO Auction Preview – London: Post-War and Contemporary Sales at Christie’s, Sotheby’s, and Phillips de Pury, June 26 – 28, 2012

June 26th, 2012

Yves Klein, Le Rose du bleu (RE 22) (1960)

This week in London, the focus will shift towards Contemporary Art, for the second consecutive week of  summer auctions. According to the Telegraph, these contemporary sales hold the highest pre-sale estimates ever offered by the London houses. Total sales expected from Sotheby’s range from £57.51 – 82.48 million, while Christie’s are in excess of £120 million. Last week’s Impressionist and Modern Sales were more subdued than the record breaking auctions held in New York this past May. Based upon these record pre-sale estimates, there may be similar hopes for this week’s round of sales.

Yves Klein, Rélief éponge bleu (RE 51) (1959)

Christie’s leads the sales with three artworks whose “estimates are on request.” The cover lot of the sale is Yves Klein‘s Le Rose du bleu (RE 22)  – a magnificent magenta -hued color theory painting from his Menil collection. It has been included in every major Klein exhibition, as well as Christie’s catalogue for the sale. When inquired about the anticipated pre-sale estimate, Christie’s deemed it is “in the region of £17 to £20 million.” At May’s Post-War and Contemporary Evening Sale at Christie’s, Klein’s FC1 (Fire Colour 1) was auctioned for $36.4 million, breaking the artist’s former record at auction. Additionally, Klein’s Rélief éponge bleu (RE 51) among the top anticipated grossing lots at Christie’s with an estimate of £6 – £9 million, making it the fifth highest priced work.

Francis Bacon, Study For A Self-Portrait (1964)

Francis Bacon, Study For A Self-Portrait (1980)

Following is Francis Bacon‘s Study for Self-Portrait – which is another estimate available upon request – is hoped to achieve in the region of £15 to £20 million. This painting was created in 1964 – shortly after his major retrospective at the Tate – and is a one of twelve self portraits executed by Bacon. Most notably, it is a mash-up of himself and fellow friend and artist Lucian Freud. The body is based off photographs of Freud sitting on a bed, and Bacon’s face is adorned with lush and visceral features dissipating into a black void. There is controversy surrounding this sale, as it was offered up previously in November of 2008 and was also the subject of a lawsuit this past July, according to the New York Times. Sotheby’s is also offering their own smaller and more somber Bacon – coincidentally titled Study for Self-Portrait – for an estimated £5 -7 million.

Jean-Michel Basquiat, Untitled (1981)

Jean-Michel Basquiat, Warrior (1982)

Also topping the estimates at Christie’s is Basquiat‘s Untitled – the third estimate on request – is hoped to gross between £10 – 15 million. This energetic and brightly colored painting from 1982 is a quintessential example of Basquiat’s combination of graffiti, cultural figures, and art history – it was also formerly owned by the Israel Museum.  At Sotheby’s, Basquiat’s Warrior is among the top lots at an estimated sale of £5 – 7 million. Additionally, Sotheby’s is offering Basquiat’s Saxophone at an estimated price of £2 – 3 million.

At the boutique auction house Phillips de Pury, Basquiat works are also among the highlighted works to be auctioned on Thursday. An Andy Warhol and Jean-Michel Basquiat spacious scroll-like collaboration – Olympics is priced at £2 -3 million. Their cover lot is Basquiat’s own Irony of Negro Policeman priced at an estimated £6 – 8 million. Last May, Phillips de Pury auctioned a Basquiat for the record breaking price of $16 million.

Gerhard Richter, Struktur (2) (1989)

Gerhard Richter, Jerusalem (1995)

Gerhard Richter, Untitled (1989)

There are three Gerhard Richter‘s among the expected top lots at both houses. At Christie’s, Richter’s Struktur (2) leads with an expected estimate of £9 – 12 million. After stellar Richter sales in recent auctions – namely for his famous abstract squeegee series – it is possible that this painting will acheive it’s high estimate. Following, at Sotheby’s, is Richter’s Jerusalem  for £3 – 5 million – a muted landscape in his notorious blurry style. Also at Sotheby’s, Richter’s Untitled  – a painting very similar in color and style to Struktur (2) – is being offered for an expected £2.5 – 3.5 million.

Alexander Calder, Rouge triomphant (Triumphant Red) (1959 – 1963)

Another highlight of this week’s sales is Alexander Calder‘s Rouge triomphant (Triumphant Red) , which is hoped to boost £6 – 8 million, at Christie’s on Wednesday. Calder’s mobiles broke several records in the May Contemporary Auctions in New York, and were among the notable sales.

Roy Lichtenstein, Girl In Mirror (1964)

Roy Lichtenstein, Reflections on Jessica Helms (1990)

Roy Lichtenstein has two works among the top lots at both houses. At Christie’s, a later work – Reflections on Jessica Helms – hoped to earn £3.5 – 4.5 million. At Sotheby’s, Girl In Mirror is thought to boost £2.2 – 2.8 million. This painting is very close in style to Lichtenstein’s Sleeping Girl which sold for $44.8 million – tying with Francis Bacon’s Figure Writing Reflected In Mirror for highest grossing lot at Sotheby’s recent May Sales. 

Lucian Freud, Naked Portrait II (1974)

Glenn Brown, The Tragic Conversation of Salvador Dali (After John Martin) (1998)

Additional highlighted sales include Lucian Freud‘s Naked Portrait II, priced at £3.8 – 4.5 million, at Christie’s. Also, at Sotheby’s, Glenn Brown‘s The Tragic Conversation of Salvador Dali (After John Martin) is expected to garner  £2.2 – 2.8 million – an exceptional price for such a recent work.

-A. Roemer

Related Links:

Portrait of Bacon-Freud Back Up For Auction [New York Times]
Market News: Masterpiece Sales, Master Drawings London and Master Paintings Week [Telegraph]