Francis Bacon, Three Studies of Lucian Freud (1969), Image via Christie’s
Tonight, the week of Post War & Contemporary Art Evening Sales commence with Phillips kicking off the week long auctions. After last week’s mixed results in sales, with Christie’s and Sotheby’s hosting their respective Impressionist & Modern Art Sales, the contemporary art offerings will provide a more definitive litmus test of the international art market’s power and predilections. A great deal of press and attention has been drawn to the forthcoming sales, both nationally and internationally, attributed to exceptional offerings in all three houses, and a multitude of enormous price tags to accompany the museum-quality works.
Andy Warhol, Silver Car Crash (Double Disaster) (1963), Image via Sotheby’sOf the most notable works being auctioned is Francis Bacon’s Three Studies of Lucian Freud, from 1969, for Christie’s which anticipates a range of about $85 million. It is an absolutely outstanding work of art by the artist in three parts, which depicts his fellow artist and longtime friend, the late painter Lucian Freud. This triptych has been separated since its creation, but has found its way back together, and it is only one of two Freud triptychs in existence – the third being permanently disassembled. There have been continual murmurs that this work could fetch upwards of $100 million.
Jeff Koons, Balloon Dog (Orange) (1994 – 2000), Image via Christie’s
Another truly seminal work being auctioned is Andy Warhol’s Silver Car Crash (Double Disaster) – the infamous large scale silkscreen, in which the artist discusses horror and devastation as commodity. The massive artwork juxtaposes cluttered and repetitive images from a car crash next to an equally sized open-field silver canvas. This dichotomy lends itself to interpretations surrounding loss, death, destruction, religion, and the afterlife. It is markedly more weighty in context and subject matter than a vast majority of his work, and is expected to achieve in excess of $60 million.
Mark Rothko, No. 11 (Untitled) (1957), Image via Christie’s
At Christie’s, a vast majority of their lots are being offered for well over the $10 million dollar range. Of the 73 artworks offered, 18 have high estimates at or above $10 million. They have a collection of work to sell at auction that is truly remarkable, as their Head of the Department for Post War & Contemporary Art, Brett Gorvy, stated in rather enthusiastic letters “I am rendered rather rather speechless by the works..” Among the top lots is Jeff Koon’s Balloon Dog (Orange) priced between $35 – 55 million. This iconic contemporary work is one of five editions created, each distinguished by their color. Additionally, Mark Rothko’s No. 11 (Untitled) – a warm and stylistically mature painting that is on par with the record breaking Rothko that fetched $87 million previously at Christie’s. It is estimated at $24 – 35 million. Other notable highlight include Warhol’s Coca Cola (3) valued at $40 – 60 million, Jean-Michel Basquiat’s Untitled at $25 – 30 million, as well as Gerhard Richter’s Abstraktes Bild (809 – 1), expected to take in $20 million.
By contrast, Sotheby’s is hoping to boost over $10 million for 11 of their 64 lots. The prices are slightly more modest in price point than those offered at Christie’s. The anticipated second highest grossing lot belongs to Willem De Kooning’s Untitled V, which is valued at $25 – 35 million. This brushy, vibrantly abstract painting belongs to the later part of the artist’s oeuvre. Also, two Warhols, a Richter, and a Basquiat all claim places in the expectant top lots of the evening at Sotheby’s. Notably, there is also a Clyfford Still painting, 1960-F, which is a rare-to-market painting, estimated at $15 – 20 million.
In comparison with the two major houses, Phillips has more modestly priced lots in a vastly smaller 42 lot sale. Only three works are thought to sell for within the $10 million and upwards range. Leading at estimates of $10 – 15 million, are Rothko’s Untitled (Black on Grey) and Lichtenstein’s Woman With Peanuts. Following closely behind, Warhol’s Nine Gold Marilyns (Reversal Series) is priced at $8 – 12 million. Though possessing a lower estimate of $5 – 7 million, David Hammons‘ Untitled, 2000 is a luminous and rather political contemporary work by the artist, which is additionally remarkable for its price tag, considering just how recent the work is.