Tag Archives: Christie’s

Utamaro Woodblock Print Sets Auction Record

The Japanese art of woodblock printing has a very long history, with its fair share of masters whose work is in high demand from collectors . One of these masters was Kitagawa Utamaro, an artist nonpareil at the time for his beautiful depictions of women. At a Paris auction, held by the Beaussant Lefevre auction house in association with Christie’s, Utamaro’s sensual skill was brought to the forefront again with an auction of his ‘Deeply Hidden Love’ (Fukaku Shinobu Koi) print. It fetched around 745,000 euros, and went way beyond the initial estimate of 100,000 euros – setting a record for both prints of the Ukiyo-e genre, as well as prints by the artist of course.

Auction of the Portier Collection

The auction held in Paris was focused on Asian art and objects from a collection held by the Portier family – mainly consisting of Japanese earthenware including chawan (tea bowls) and kogo incense boxes. All 90 lots put up were sold after intense bidding, which is an extraordinary result. Some of the other major lots sold included a portrait of actor Tanimura Torazo created by artist Toshusai Sharaku (101,000 euros), and a bust of comedian Iwai Hanshiro by Utagawa Kunimasa (78,680 euros).

“(The Portiers’) expertise has been a reference for the Asian art market for the past four generations,” said the auction house in a statement.

There was also a set of eight exceptional Edo stamps that mainly depicted portraits of actors done by leading artists at the time. Each stamp was acquired by Henri Portier and his son Andre, major figures in the Asian art market in France, in sales at the Drouot auction house over the past century.

Utamaro, Master of Japanese Woodblock Prints

Compared with more popular forms of art like painting, the techniques behind woodblock printing are less known. It was a complicated process that involved three people working in tandem with one another. The artist himself usually only made the initial sketch of the final product, before sending it over to a carver to carve out the block, and a printer to apply inks to the block. Especially troublesome was the fact that each block could only be used for a single color (although some used blocks repeatedly to get special effects). Multiple woodblocks had to be prepared for a single print.

When the whole process worked out, under the conception of a skilled artist, you get the masterful combinations of color and form that characterize the best works in the medium. The powerful contrasts of blues and whites, for example, that blends together, for example, in Hokusai’s ‘The Great Wave Off Kamigawa’. Utamaro, on the other hand, was more focused on using those colors to create a light and idealized form of femininity – and captured subjects like courtesans and Geisha from the Yoshiwara district – or bustling scenes of human life.

The methodology of Japanese woodblock printing has fallen out of favor, especially in view of newer mediums like linocut and lithography (and not to mention digital printing today). Still, the effects and techniques achieved by the Ukiyo-e artists have inspired countless others in the East and West – including great painters such as Van Gogh, most famously. The prints are being perpetuated all over the globe and can gather up new fans over the years. Hopefully, that’ll continue.

Christie’s Sells Cullinan Dream, Sets New Record

Back in May, the auction house Christie’s announced the sale of the fancy intense blue diamond called the Cullinan Dream. At 24.18 carats, the diamond was regarded as a rare find. Now, the diamond holds the title as the most expensive fancy intense blue diamond to be sold.

Fetching more than $25 million, the diamond was auctioned at Christie’s on Thursday in New York. Classified as a Type llb diamond, the Cullinan Dream comes from the 122.52-carat rough blue diamond found in the Cullinan Mines of South Africa. The largest of four diamonds to be found, the diamond falls into a rare category that accounts for less than one-half of the 1% of all diamonds found.

Its unique color is the result of small amounts of boron being trapped in the crystal carbon structure during the formation of the diamond. The Cullinan Dream is now set as a cut-cornered rectangular mixed-cut fancy intense blue diamond and is flanked on either side by a tapered baguette-cut diamond. Other well-known diamonds that have been mined from the Cullinan mine include the 3,106-carat rough diamond that is known as the Cullinan Diamond. This rough diamond was then cut into two magnificent gems that now sit on the Imperial State Crown and Sceptre of the British Crown Jewels.

To learn more about the Cullinan Dream, click here.

Johnny Depp Sells 9 Basquiats with Christie’s

Nine works from Jean-Michel Basquiat are to be auctioned by Christie’s London, in a sale from the art collection of Johnny Depp. Although this seems timed to take advantage of a recent major auction success of Basquiat and renewed interest in Depp, thanks to the spectacularly ugly and public breakdown of his marriage to actress Amber Heard, the auction was apparently long-planned, according to Christie’s.

Nevertheless, it looks set to capitalize on the record-breaking sale of “Untitled” (1982), which fetched $57.3m at the auction house’s New York event in May.

Artnet observes that Depp’s “Pork Sans” (1981) is estimated to sell for between $3.6m and $5m.

The pieces were collected over a 25-year period, starting after Depp shot to fame as the title character in Edward Scissorhands, and almost exclusively focus on Basquat’s 1981 output, Christie’s notes, that being the time in which the artist started having a global impact on the art world.

The two-day Post-War and Contemporary Art auction takes place on June 29 and 30, 2016, and also includes works from Andy Warhol and Roy Lichtenstein.

US actress Amber Heard filed for divorce from actor husband Johnny Depp in May.

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Christie’s: Joan Rivers Private Collection Auction

Fans of the late host and television personality Joan Rivers, will soon have the chance to own several personal pieces from her Manhattan Penthouse. On June 22, Christies will be holding an auction featuring an assortment of 200 items from the woman whose personality was larger than life.

Proceeds of the auction will go towards “God’s Love We Deliver” and “Guide Dogs For The Blind” — both charities that Rivers held close to her heart. A connoisseur of decorative arts, paintings and fine French furniture, Rivers’ personal items are expected to go under the hammer where prices will range from $500 to $200,000. One such piece, is the Edouard Vuillard painting Dans L’Atelier, circa 1915 ($120,000 – $180,000). Other items to look out for include a jewelled Nephrite study of a Lily of the Valley leaf by Fabergé ($200,000 – $300,000) and a silver water bowl from Tiffany & Co., engraved with “for Spike” ($500 – $ 800) that she had bought for her beloved dog.

Before the auction at Christie’s however, the auction house will also be hosting an online auction from June 16 – 23. During the online sale, unique costumes made by Bob Mackie, couture and personal jewelry from jewelers such as Cartier, Van Cleef & Arpels as well as Harry Winston will be available. For someone as opinionated as Rivers, with a taste for the finer things in life, this sale will certainly not disappoint.

“My mother’s legacy as a much loved comedienne and philanthropist will be commemorated in this collaboration with Christie’s and her generosity to charitable causes is something I will continue in her honor” said her daughter Melissa Rivers.

Tuscany Wine Villa For Sale By Christie’s

Located in the lush and serene countryside of Tuscany, Italy, this traditional wine estate offered by Christie’s International Real Estate boasts more than 37 hectares of land, with two large residences hosting a variety of features and rooms. Should you have a desire for privacy and gentle comfort, you could certainly do far worse than this.

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The villa is located just 5km away from the beautiful town of Lucca, and, slightly further afield, you can even reach coastal retreats such as Forte dei Marmi and Viareggio. This, at least, ensures you’re still within the capacity to enjoy company and the latest buzz should you desire it. In a contemporary twist, the villa is also fitted with modern technology. There are three bedrooms in the renovated stone villa, and six in the restored farmhouse. One of the notable amenities is a whole mosaic tile infinity edge pool with a spa underneath – featuring a hammam, two dressing rooms, and a whirlpool bath.

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On the agricultural front, there are five hectares of functioning vineyards for you to make use of, as well as three hectares hosting almost 4,000 olive trees. With wine cellar, wine making area, and oil mill, you’ll definitely be able to produce your own high quality crop either for personal use or to place on the market.

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And, finally, there’s the helipad. This is only one of four properties in the whole of Italy to boast such a thing. It’s a private LIQE helipad, and there’s also a hangar and a night landing certificate to go with it.

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So, if you want the perfect property infused with an idyllic Italian air, and a terrific view, you can check out the villa over at the Christie’s website.

Diamond-set Hermes Birkin Breaks Auction Record

A diamond-encrusted crocodile-skin Hermes handbag with white gold details has broken the record for the world’s most expensive ever sold at auction, fetching nearly $300,000 at a Hong Kong sale.

The rare Himalaya Niloticus Crocodile Diamond Birkin 30 went to an unknown phone bidder late Monday for HK$2.32 million ($298,655), beating a pre-sale estimate of HK$2 million, the auction house Christie’s said.

“It was the world record price for any handbag sold at auction,” Bingle Lee, a Hong Kong-based spokesman for Christie’s, told AFP.

Designer handbags are increasingly seen as investment opportunities and are the latest craze for collectors, taking global auction houses by storm and scoring record prices.

The new record beat one set last year, also in Hong Kong, when a fuchsia-colored Hermes bag sold for $222,912.

The handmade bag — described by the London-based auctioneers as the “rarest, most sought-after” — is encrusted with diamonds, while the buckle and trademark mini Hermes padlock are made of 18k white gold.

“It is believed that only one or two of the Diamond Himalayas are produced each year, globally, making it one of the lowest production runs for handbags,” Christie’s said in a statement issued before the sale.

The bag was made in 2008 and is from Hermes’ iconic “Birkin” series named after actress and singer Jane Birkin, who was born in Britain and lives in France.

A smaller Himalaya Niloticus Crocodile Diamond Birkin 25 handbag will go under the hammer June 1 with an estimate price of HK$1.3 million to HK$1.5 million.

The auction was part of the firm’s 30th anniversary sales to mark its presence in Asia, with a range of luxury goods on offer, including Chinese paintings, watches and wine.

Cullinan Dream Blue Diamond to Sell at Christie’s

Set as the centerpiece for an upcoming sale by Christie’s, the Cullinan Dream is the largest Fancy Intense Blue diamond offered to be offered on auction (capital letters used there as Fancy Intense Blue is the technical term). It comes with an estimated value of $23 – $29 million and stands as a part of 260 lots (selling alongside jewelry by companies such as Van Cleef & Arpels, Bulgari, and Cartier) offered for the Magnificent Jewels And The Cullinan Dream auction on June 9. This auction is one of many such jewelry sales across all the majors at this time.

The Cullinan Dream is one of four diamonds cut from the 122.52 carat blue diamond that Petra Diamonds discovered in their South African Cullinan mine. It is a cut-cornered rectangular mixed-cut diamond of approximately 24.18 carats mounted on a platinum ring. The gem was rated as Type IIb by the Gemological Institute of America, which attests to its rarity.

“The success of the Oppenheimer Blue speaks to the international demand and market value of these exemplary colored diamonds and with the Cullinan Dream, Christie’s is proud to present another opportunity for collectors to acquire a rare gem being offered for the first time at auction” noted Rahul Kadakia, Christie’s International Head of Jewelry, making reference to an earlier sale made on May 18 in Geneva.

Petra Diamonds themselves have produced some of the most exemplary blue diamonds in the world. As a part of the sale, they’ll receive 15% share of the proceeds, after expenses.

You can check out more information on the sale over at Christie’s website.

Top 10 Most Expensive Female Artists

When dealing with the notion of blue chip art, the names most people rattle off the top of their heads are those of Picasso, Warhol, Koons, and Hirst. While that indicates a certain inequality in things, at least compared with other creative areas (the name J.K. Rowling immediately comes to mind when you think richest author) – we’re sure that things are bound to get better someday. In terms of contemporary art, we already see improvements, as illustrated in this list.

Nevertheless, there are still plenty of institutional problems. The only thing we can do is to try and float those amazing works we find to the top while waiting for the stiff (ahem) mechanisms to loosen. In fact, Artnet News recently put together a survey of the most expensive female artists at auction, ranging from a variety of styles like Surrealism to Abstract Expressionism to Pop Art. So, without further ado, these are the top 10 women artists in the market to look out for:

Georgia O’Keeffe

Well-known for her lush and overwhelmingly Freudian pictures of flowers, O’Keeffe stands far ahead of the rest with the $44 million auction of her “Jimson Weed/White Flower No. 1” at Sotheby’s in 2014. It was purchased by the Crystal Bridges Museum in Arkansas, and is a lovely display of greens and whites collaborating together in a singular depiction of a blossom of Jimson Weed. Her technique has some commonality with past figures, such as the flower paintings of Emil Nolde, and, of course, Van Gogh, but her embrace of clear depictions and controlled strokes makes her stand out as something completely different.

Louise Bourgeois

Differing in most part from O’Keeffe, Bourgeois is stark in channeling her psychic pain into her creations. Her sculptures and installations are nightmarish in their explication of the darker sides of sexuality – pulpy forms, bloody paints, eschewed figures, and insect motifs. All this culminates into her 1996 bronze “Spider” sculpture, which was sold by Christie’s in autumn 2015 for $28.2 million. The massive arachnid towers with its crooked legs and also features a sac of eggs, acting as a twisted ode to maternity, and in Bourgeois’s own words, an ode to her own mother specifically. Its seminal importance (as well as the rest of her works) to feminist art gives it its stature -also it is really big.

Joan Mitchell

Mitchell was previously in second place, but drops by one this year due to the sale of “Spider”. Still, her work “Untitled (1960)” sold for just under $12 million at Christie’s. Her abstract expressionism is well-known for its ferocity of color and her subtle implications of landscapes and forms even amidst the chaos.

Berthe Morisot

Turning away from Modern and Contemporary art for a moment, 19th century Impressionist Berthe Morisot stands at number four. Her work “Après le déjeuner” sold for nearly $11 million in 2013. It remains one of the finest works of the movement, displaying a red-haired woman in a room while a view of vibrant greenery comes through from the window. The outstanding color is a cool blue that brings a calmness to the whole scenario, while the strokes create a delicate atmosphere.

Natalia Sergeevna Goncharova

As a member of the Russian avant-garde, Goncharova’s work is tailored by the revolutionary themes of the period, like the angularity and geometry of Futurist art and depiction of social classes. She stands fifth on this list with the 2008 sale of “Les Fleurs” at Christie’s for a little under $11 million. This simple still life of flowers is transformed into an explosion of fierce aggressive orange, yellow, and red hues mixed with jagged shapes. The rest of her output applies such stylistic vivacity to all her subjects, from social depictions to mythological ones.

Agnes Martin

An abstract expressionist but different from Joan Mitchell in her adherence to minimalism, Martin’s “Orange Grove” was sold at Christie’s for $10.7 million this year. While looking almost like a blank piece of paper from a distance, a closer inspection will reveal a grid of pale orange lines. Playing with such empty spaces comes from her interest in Eastern philosophy and Zen silences.

Cady Noland

Noland is notoriously reclusive, but well-known for her postmodern/Pop-Art installations that make use of various materials and found objects. She’s fallen into various controversies with dealers for ‘disavowing’ her work, and she’s been sued by them, but that doesn’t seem to have damaged her stature. Her “Bluewald” sold for $9.7 million in 2015 at Christie’s, surpassing a previous sale drawing $6.5 million in 2011. The work is a screenprint of Kennedy assassin Lee Harvey Oswald with various ‘bullet-holes’ in his form, and an American flag at his mouth as a ‘gag’ – creating a shocking political commentary that can be read in many ways.

Tamara de Lempicka

As one of the major artists of the Art Deco movement, Tamara de Lempicka represents all the gilt and glamor of the style – being both a painter and an exquisite and fashionable socialite. Her “Le rêve (Rafaëla sur fond vert)” sold for $8.4 million at Sotheby’s. This nude displays the strong shadows and erotic potency of Lempicka’s brush, which is characteristic across all of her works.

Camille Claudel

This sculptor both worked for and was in a relationship with Auguste Rodin, and so she displays an equal knack for capturing the sensuality of the form.  Her “La valse, première version” fetched $8 million at Sotheby’s in 2013, and features two figures enveloped in passionate dance, with one of them draped in flowing bronze-forged cloth.

Frida Kahlo

Finally we come to the surrealistic Frida Kahlo at number 10, for the sale of her “Dos Desnudos en el Bosque (La Tierra Misma)” this year. Her inclusion, as well as Martin’s, knocks the widely favored Yayoi Kusama off the list, who was ninth last year. She’s well known for mixing up primitive and natural motifs like animals and plants with as flagrant an approach to sexuality, brutal imagery, and femininity as Louise Bourgeois. The work mixes together a Dali-esque barren desert landscape, with a depiction of a wild jungle, and two nude women, one dark-skinned and the other light-skinned. The imagery is esoteric but implies a stew of various meanings, from commentary on race, to religious implications.

Guide: How to Successfully Invest in Art Part 3

In this third part of the series on truly investing in art with a blend of passion, vision and a healthy dose of rational research, the practical aspects of creating a lasting art collection come to the fore. Before I delve into these practical matters, a final thought after Singapore Art Week on the approach of successful art collectors.

Is there a common thread that binds these collectors; something that contributes to the lasting legacy of their connoisseurship? One factor that does stand out is the dedicated, deep research involved in the best collections. This combined with insatiable curiosity gives these collectors an enhanced ‘eye’. This level of in-depth research gives you an overview of an artist’s practice allowing you to select what you think is their best work. It requires a significant investment of time; an art advisor can be a useful asset in this regard. I take for granted my nerd-like love of detailed research. It was ingrained in me as a young trial lawyer regularly reading boxes of documents for ‘clues’ to help our story. Scientists and medics do the same. They read, review and consider vast amounts of material to burrow down into the answer or the better questions. This applies to art connoisseurship too.

Your collection expands beyond the wall space of your home – what next?

One clichéd definition of a collector is someone who has too much art to hang on their walls. If this is the case, where do you go from here? There are a range of exciting journeys your collection can embark on: collector’s groups; loans to art museums; exhibitions, books and online catalogues; a private museum or as collateral to invest in new works.

Private museums are increasingly becoming the destination for important art collections as the buying power of private collectors exceeds state-owned museums. Dallas’ Howard Rachofsky and Vernon Faulconer opened The Warehouse in 2013 to show their collections with a curatorial vision and an education department. Regionally, we have Dr Oei Hong Djien with three private museums in Indonesia to house his vast collection.

Other collectors loan or donate works to state museums. Uli Sigg, ground-breaking Swiss collector of Chinsese contemporary art, recently donated part of his collection to Hong Kong’s long awaited M+ Museum.

A private museum is a huge financial and time commitment. An alternative is to hold periodic exhibitions of parts of your collection, alone or with a group of like-minded collectors. Singapore has seen some wonderful examples. Mr Yeap Lam Yang worked with the ICA and Rogue Art to put together a thoughtful exhibition and book of landscape works from his collection; ‘Thinking of Landscapes’. This show demonstrates his personal journey as a collector. The show brought together Chinese ink works from Chen Ping and Yu Peng, Latiff Mohidin’s representations of his interior mind-scape and contemporary works by Michael Lee and Debbie Ding; the former using architectural plans of buildings left unbuilt to invoked fleeting memories of imagined or forgotten landscapes. A group of collector friends recently hosted ‘Alchemy’ at Artspace at Helutrans featuring important regional artists, Yee-I-Lan, Dinh Q Le, John Santos and international stars, Olafur Eliasson, Wolfgang Tillmans and Theaster Gates. It was an interesting opportunity to see these works together in Singapore.

Alchemy Installation View; Image courtesy of Alchemy.

Alchemy Installation View; Image courtesy of Alchemy.

 

The common thread amongst these forms of display are that you are also advocating for your artists. As a collector and connoisseur, part of the allure is to be able to support and share the vision of ‘your’ artists with others. Renowned collector of Chinese contemporary art, Uli Sigg, developed a collecting plan in the early 1990s and then relentlessly sought out curators in Europe to take an interest in the Chinese contemporary scene and visit the artists’ studios. The aim of his collection was to capture a moment in contemporary Chinese history; it is an embodiment of the zeitgeist at the time.

If much of your collection finds its way into storage, then an increasingly popular route is to use the collection as collateral. Modern art is more suited to this than contemporary art as the values are more stable. Specialized banks such as the Emigrant Fine Art Bank in New York are willing to loan against Modern Masters. This allows a collector to take advantage of the increased market value of a work without divesting it; and to open up possibilities of collecting new works. Typically, loans are offered on works over a fairly significant price point, say $500,000, with specialists viewing the work and the storage arrangements.

It almost sounds glib but it is very sound advice to buy the very best you can afford. Many passionate collectors will stretch themselves; Marc and Livia Straus started collecting in their 20s when Marc was at medical school. One of their early purchases was an Ellsworth Kelly which took them three years to pay off.

Divesting works from your collection

Whilst I would advise all collectors to buy works you wish to hold for life, sometimes your tastes change. We change throughout life and as you look back at your early purchases, you can trace your own personal history; one of the joys of collecting.

It is generally harder to divest well than to buy well. There are a number of routes to divest successfully including (i) returning the work to the gallery you bought it from, (ii) traditional auction houses, (iii) private sales or, (iv) online auction houses.

During your journey from art buyer to collector to connoisseur, it is important to build relationships with galleries directly or via your advisor. Galleries like to work with collectors who won’t flip the art (buy and quickly re-sell at a profit at public auction). When it is time to divest, your first port of call is the gallery you bought the work from. They may have a long waiting list of buyers for the artist and will want to ensure the work doesn’t appear at auction at a bad time. Many galleries explicitly guard against collectors re-selling work too quickly by including resale clauses on the invoice. These restrict the buyer from selling the work publicly for 3-5 years or giving the gallery right of first refusal.

If this avenue is not fruitful, the traditional auction houses such as Christie’s, Sotheby’s, Bonhams, Guardian, Poly Auctions were historically the way to sell art (usually a generation or so after it was bought). Before buying or selling anything at auction, I recommend attending an auction to experience the unique magic of the sale room and to see how prices can sky-rocket or works can fall flat.

Untitled (1982) by the street art-inspired Neo-Expressionist Jean-Michel Basquiat sold for $57 million at a Post-War and Contemporary Art sale at Christie’s New York recently. This price will include a buyer's premium.

Untitled (1982) by the street art-inspired Neo-Expressionist Jean-Michel Basquiat sold for $57 million at a Post-War and Contemporary Art sale at Christie’s New York recently. This price will include a buyer’s premium.

Auction houses charge commissions at both ends of the transaction to cover their hefty costs and exemplary marketing machine. Christie’s do not reveal their seller’s commission and offer a sliding scale dependent upon how keen they are to consign a sought-after work. However, it can be up to 10%. The seller may also be charged for marketing, restoration, shipping and handling. The buyer’s commission is listed on all of the auction house websites and is known as the buyer’s premium. Sotheby’s buyer’s premium is 25% on the first $200,000 of the hammer (sale) price. There is a sliding scale thereafter, with the premium moving down as the hammer price moves up. To help buyers understand the true price of a work during the bidding process, financial blogger Felix Salmon launched an app, GAVEL, to calculate the actual cost to the buyer. In some countries the buyer must also pay an Artist Resale Royalty (a right of the artist or his heirs to receive a fee on the resale of their works of art). The advantage of the big auction houses is the marketing effort they lavish on their big sales and their global reach.

The last 10 years have seen an explosion in online auction houses. The bigger players are US-based Paddle8 and Berlin-based Auctionata. Saffron Art in India has a blended offline and online model and recorded the highest price paid for an Indian sculpture ever. The advantage of the new online model is the lower commissions for both seller and buyer. New York based, Paddle8 has a buyer’s premium of 15%, a 10% saving on Sotheby’s.

A final consideration is a private sale. These may be organized by auction houses or galleries or private dealers. They will effectively aim to match-make a seller with a buyer via their network. This ensures your privacy and a lower commission.

If you like this article, check out parts one and two below:

How to Successfully Invest in Art Part One.

How to Successfully Invest in Art Part Two.

This story was first published in Art Republik.

Oppenheimer Blue Sets Record Price at Christie’s

In what seems like a week of record-breaking auctions, the Oppenheimer Blue diamond has been sold for a historic $57.5 million. This final price at a Christie’s auction in Geneva easily overshadowed the $48.4 million price tag of the 12.03-carat “Blue Moon of Josephine” last year.

The Fancy Vivid Blue rectangular-cut gem, weighing an impressive 14.62 carats, was the lead item at Christie’s Geneva Magnificent Jewels auction at the Four Seasons Hotel des Bergues, Geneva, May 18, 2016.

The stunner was named after its previous owner, Sir Philip Oppenheimer – a name synonymous with precious gems, largely because his family owned the legendary diamond company De Beers.

Set in a platinum ring, and flanked on either side by a trapeze-cut diamond, the Oppenheimer Blue’s VVS1 (Very Very Slightly Included) clarity grade is one step below Internally Flawless. This means that the gem only has minute inclusions that are difficult for a skilled grader to see, even under 10x magnification. Its very rare medium to dark tone has earned it the prestige of being labelled “the gem of gems”.

This result comes after the Unique Pink – a 15.38-carat vivid pink diamond –  was reported sold for $31.56 million at Sotheby’s.

Most Expensive: $31 million Unique Pink Diamond

Another diamond has hit the auction block, with a great deal of fanfare, but this particular rock has delivered on those promises with its unusual size and exceptional quality. The result was a record-breaking sale and a happy moment for the Asian collector who walked away with it.

The 15.38-carat vivid pink diamond, affectionately dubbed “Unique Pink” is not only the biggest of its kind to go on auction, it also sold for an eye-watering total of $31.56 million, making it the most expensive fancy vivid pink diamond ever to sell at auction. For some context, just look at the picture above and realize that the stone is about the size of the human eye.

Sotheby's Sale of Magnificent Jewels and Noble Jewels 17.05.16

The prized jewel, set in a simple ring, was sold to an Asian private buyer who was bidding via phone. “Exactly one year after having set the world record for a jewelry sale, Sotheby’s Geneva has raised the bar once again with a great sale and a great result for the Unique Pink,” said David Bennett, Worldwide Chairman of Sotheby’s International Jewellery Division.

Sotheby’s, who valued the gem at $28 – $38 million, revealed that the Unique Pink was discovered less than five years ago in a South African mine. “It is difficult to imagine a diamond that better illustrates the term Vivid Pink than this outstanding stone. The color is simply astonishing and, for its size, it is in my experience truly unique,” Bennett added.

The Unique Pink (iii)

Tuesday’s auction also saw a 7.32-carat blue diamond being sold for $17.1 million. The magnificent spring jewel auctions continue in Geneva at Christie’s, where the biggest ever vivid blue diamond – the 14.62-carat “Oppenheimer Blue” – will hit the auction block at an estimated $38 — $45 million. The massive gem belonged to Britain’s Sir Philip Oppenheimer, a kingpin in the world diamond market for nearly 50 years at famed jeweller De Beers.

Oppenheimer Diamond To Set New Auction Record?

Tuesday, May 17 sees the Four Seasons des Bergues hotel in Geneva hosting a landmark sale of 280 lots from Christie’s Magnificent Jewels auction. Valued at $113 million, the lots include several pieces from Gabriela zu Leiningen as well as the famous Oppenheimer diamond.

The 14.62-carat diamond is one of the star attractions of the auction as it may just beat the sale record set by rival auction house Sotheby’s late last year. Once owned by Phillip Oppenheimer, the man behind the De Beers mining company, the diamond is now valued at between $38 to $45 million. The record to beat is currently held by The Blue Moon of Josephine, sold for $48.4 million, to Hong Kong billionaire Joseph Lau.

“It’s a fabulous diamond, the most beautiful I have even seen and it could set a record price,” said Jean-Marc Lunel, Christie’s jewel expert. According to Christie’s, the Oppenheimer diamond is the largest ever sold at auction in the exclusive Fancy Vivid Blue category, which groups rare gems of exceptional color and clarity. However, it must be noted that there is still a chance that the Oppenheimer diamond could have the same fate as the 9.54-carat blue diamond ring owned by Shirley Temple. With so much at stake, it is little wonder that this is an auction that many are keeping a eye on.

New York Art Auctions Clinch More Than $1 Bln

New York’s spring art auction season saw the market slow somewhat but not collapse, held up by buying from savvier collectors.

Since the fireworks of the $2.6 billion spring 2015 season, the market has played it by ear, destabilized by China’s economic slowdown. Total sales this season were in excess of $1 billion – in line with expectations.

“There has been a change. There’s a smarter population of people buying,” said Christopher D’Amelio, a partner at the David Zwirner gallery, which has two art spaces in New York and one in London.

“There’s not this kind of trendy euphoria that might have been before,” he said of the auction season.

Christie’s and Sotheby’s had approached the crucial week, which ended Thursday night, with caution.

“Bidding was measured, probably as measured as I’ve seen over the last three or four years,” said Jussi Pylkkanen, global president of Christie’s International.

“Curating remains very important,” he said, adding that it was important to “choose exactly the right type of works that appeals to the broad market.” The two auction houses managed to move a large proportion of their offerings, with the exception of Monday’s sale in which only two-third of the works were sold.

This season, it was contemporary art that attracted the buzz. On Tuesday, a giant painting by Jean-Michel Basquiat set a new record for the artist at $57.3 million.

Other record-setting sales for artists included a sculpture of Adolf Hitler on his knees, titled “Him” by 55-year-old Italian Maurizio Cattelan, which fetched $17.2 million.

A 1939 painting by Frida Kahlo depicting two nude women sold Thursday for $8 million, the highest price yet for any work by the iconic Mexican artist.

“There’s still a great deal of wealth in the world and … no lack of buyers. It’s just that you have to be fair with your buyers, you have to be correct with your pricing and you have to have good works,” D’Amelio said.

Asian buyers, who everyone feared would stay away, turned up.

“They have been active in the past few years but now they’re starting to understand other genres of art. Abstraction, minimalism, things that were not natural when we started showing there,” said D’Amelio.

“There’s a real growth and a willingness to understand and an appetite and I think I’ve seen the effects of it” at the auctions on Tuesday and Wednesday, he said.

The Basquiat painting was purchased by Japanese online shopping entrepreneur Yusaku Maezawa, who spent nearly $100 million in two days on purchases including lesser-known works like a painting by Romanian artist Adrian Ghenie.

Asian buyers are interested in works by abstract painters Willem de Kooning and Joan Mitchell, and the minimalist Donald Judd, said Saara Pritchard, head of contemporary art at Christie’s.

“We’re really focusing on engaging a whole new client base,” Pylkkanen said. “They particularly see 21st and 20th century abstraction through fresh eyes.”

D’Amelio said the Asian buyers’ interest is sincere, and that the trend was “just beginning, actually.”

Large Basquiat Sells for $57 Million at Christie’s

Untitled (1982) by the street art-inspired Neo-Expressionist Jean-Michel Basquiat has sold for $57 million at a Post-War and Contemporary Art sale over at Christie’s New York, making it the top lot of the sale. The entire sale fetched a total of around $318 million across its 61 lots, outdoing the lackluster Impressionist and Modern art at Sotheby’s that only managed $144 million across 62 lots.

“This painting drew intense competition that dispelled questions of a market contraction. We are particularly happy that the work was acquired by a collector in Asia, demonstrating the global scope of the masterpiece market” commented Brett Gorvy, the Chairman and International Head of Post-War and Contemporary Art. The other top seller of the auction was Mark Rothko’s No. 17, which managed around $32 million. The sale established five new world record auctions for artists other than Basquiat: Agnes Martin, Mike Kelley, Richard Prince, Kerry James Marshall and Barry X Ball.

Basquiat is well known for his wild frenetic style, mixed in with his own eccentric visual language drawing from a rich symbology – skulls, masks, crowns – and other hermetic motifs that seemingly refer to his African heritage. In this Basquiat painting, he utilizes a drawing of a blackened skull fitted with horns, with colorful streaks dripped at the side, and a swirling ambiguous background of pinks, blues, and browns. The stripped down and cartoony style of the skull places the work firmly in pop art as well, which Basquiat was deeply influenced by, being one of the members frequenting Andy Warhol’s Factory studio. The whole painting is 94 by 197 inches, giving an epic propensity to the artist’s inner struggles.

The oeuvre of Basquiat fits well into the Neo-Expressionist movement of the late 20th century. Calling to mind the influence of earlier expressionists such as Edvard Munch, Egon Schiele, and Emil Nolde, these painters drew less figuratively and gave more psychological weight to every stroke, splaying color across the canvas to disfigure the body or landscape. While the past expressionists didn’t exactly cross over into full abstraction, and many still kept to capturing forms, albeit tortured; Neo-Expressionism comes after all that, and brings a full array of contemporary influences to the table.

The influence of Basquiat has spread to countless street artists, painters, even carrying over into our digital era. Blogger and artist Sammy thrashLife has a style that’s frequently compared to the art of Basquiat, especially his works that blend writing together with drawing. Indie and experimental comic artist Sarah Horrocks cited him as influential to her in how “he’d put something in his paintings, and then visibly hide it—that art could be a public secret to yourself—it’s like exhibitionist pain”.

With Picasso failing to sell and Basquiat going strong, the narrative seems to be inverted. Basquiat himself was originally greatly influenced by Picasso’s style.

Images courtesy of CHRISTIE’S IMAGES LTD. 2016

Rodin Sells Big At Sotheby’s, Picasso Falters

Sotheby’s achieved mixed results for their Impressionist and Modern Art auction. While they managed to sell Rodin’s Éternel printemps sculpture for close to twice the estimate, other top-billed lots failed to attract the interest of any buyer. One of these was Fauvist André Derain’s Les Voiles Rouges, which was one of the highest estimated at $15-20 million. The other highly estimated Fauvist work, Maurice de Vlaminck’s Sous-Bois, managed to hit $16.38 million.

Other big names that failed to sell include Picasso, Edvard Munch, Marc Chagall, René Magritte, Egon Schiele, and Paul Gauguin. Monet remained spectacular, with a painting selling at $9.8 million (the estimate was $3-5 million). The total raked in for the auction was $144 million.

On the other hand, contemporary art seemed to be better off, with Christie’s Bound to Fail auction pulling a total of around $78 million for 39 lots, managing to sell all their provocative stock, while their Post-War and Contemporary Art Evening Sale raked in around $318 million. Stars from the former includes Maurizio Cattelan’s infamous Hitler sculpture Him which went for around $17 million (slightly above its estimate), and Jeff Koons’ One Ball Total Equilbrium Tank by Jeff Koons, reaching over $15 million. In the latter sale, Jean-Michel Basquiat’s large Untitled made a big splash, going for around $57 million.

Sotheby’s, as a whole, seems to be going through rough times, with Artnet reporting that the revenues for the auction house fell by almost one-third during the first quarter of 2016. With two more contemporary Art sales coming up for them, perhaps they’ll strike lucky next time.

 

This story was written in-house, based various reports, including one from the AFP

New York Auction Season Set to Open Strong

It’s an art extravaganza for collectors this season, with 1,500 artworks set up to go under the hammer in a mere five days of auctions kicking off Sunday. The main events are various contemporary and modern art sales going down over at Christie’s and Sotheby’s held in the evening. From the most boundary-breaking contemporary art to the most delicately wrought modern art, these are some of the most interesting offerings up on the sales.

Christie’s – Bound to Fail (8 May)

Viewed from the back, a smallish child-sized figure kneels innocently. Walk to the front, and you’ll discover it’s actually a model of the infamous dictator Hitler. Maurizio Cattelan’s Him characterizes a lot of the works in this 39-piece specially curated sale. Creative vision can sometimes be at the expense of critical acclaim and commercial success, and that’s what the works over here aim to show. The name itself stems from Bruce Nauman’s dedication to the sculptor Henry Moore with his sculpture Henry Moore Bound to Fail, depicting a bound torso.

Other pieces on display includes: Marcel Duchamp’s infamous version of the Mona Lisa featuring a goatee; a crucified cartoon frog by Martin Kippenberger; a single basketball submerged in a tank by Jeff Koons; and David Hammons prints made with his body.

Sotheby’s – Impressionist and Modern Art Evening Sale (9 May)

A good selection of art takes centerstage at this Sotheby’s sale, with famous names such as Picasso, Magritte, Monet, and Gauguin competing for attention. The stars of this sale will probably be two paintings by French artists Maurice de Vlaminck and Andre Derain.

Both artists were a part of the Fauvist movement from the early 20th century that eschewed the normal colors of impressionism for bold brush strokes and bright colors. Derain’s Les Voiles Rouges (estimated $15-$20 million) depicts boats with red sails over a body of water – though the water has been done up with countless strokes of red as well, complementing the sails. The sky also exists as a meld of several colors. Vlaminck’s Sous-Bois (estimated $12-$18 million) is an exuberantly vibrant depiction of natural scenery, with red, blue, green, and yellow mixing into trees, leaves, and grass. These two paintings have never been auctioned before.

Also for sale is Rodin’s L’Eternel Printemps – an exceptionally rare marble sculpture of embracing lovers, estimated to go at $8 – 12 million.

Christie’s – Post-War and Contemporary Art Evening Sale (10 May)

In this sale, Mark Rothko’s No. 17 (estimated $30- $40 million) and Jean-Michel Basquiat’s Untitled (estimated $40 million) stand as the strongest entries. It also features selections from Richard Prince and rarely seen mobiles from Alexander Calder.

The large Basquiat stands 2.30 meters tall and 5 meters wide, depicting a devilish mask in the center flanked on both sides by violent splashes of paint. Uses of mask, skulls, and other funerary art themes are common in the late-Haitian artist’s work. Rothko’s painting is one of the painter’s rare “blue” canvases, and features his trademark combination of minimalist color blocks.

Sotheby’s – Contemporary Art Evening Auction (11 May)

Francis Bacon’s self-portrait, expected to go up for $22-$30 million, is one of the main attractions here, but also included are works from Andy Warhol, Cy Twombly, and Basquiat.

Two of Twombly’s paintings are also highly valued, going for possibly more than $40 million dollars and more than $20 million dollars respectively. The first, Untitled (New York City), is a part of his “Tableaux” series. It depicts squiggles on a drab background and shows Twombly’s place at the intersection of Pop Art, Minimalism, and Abstract Expressionism. Another painting from the same series went for a staggering $70.5 million at another Sotheby’s auction last autumn. The second piece, Untitled (Bacchus 1st Version V), is a part of his Bacchus series, and uses a stark blood-red pigment in rigorous strokes to invoke the mythic quality of the namesake god.

Christie’s – Impressionist & Modern Art Evening Sale (12 May)

The last evening of Christie’s auctions will be dedicated to Modern and Impressionist Art with 52 lots.

The sale is led by many of the standard great names, especially two works by Monet representing the best of his early art, a mousquetaire (depictions of swashbucklers) by Picasso, and a portrait by Modigliani featuring a young girl with a flower.

Christie’s Auctions Jewels from Princess Gabriela

It is not every day one can stand a chance to own jewelry that once belonged to royalty. On May 18, Christie’s will give you that opportunity with the sale of exquisite jewels that include several from the collection of H.S.H Gabriela Princess zu Leiningen. The former spouse of the current Aga Khan is letting go of a few memorable and personal pieces that were gifted to her by her second husband (The first being the Prince of Leiningen, hence her title). Before the sale however, the jewels will be on display in Geneva from May 13; the collection is currently making its way to New York as part of a tour.

The Pohl diamond, 36.09 carats

The Pohl diamond, 36.09 carats

“Sophisticated and classically beautiful, H.S.H Gabriela Princess zu Leiningen’s extensive collection is a true reflection of its owner. A woman of charisma, wisdom, elegance and above all joy” said François Curiel. The Chairman of Christie’s Asia Pacific added “ Each jewel represents a special moment in her life and the happiness she experienced at the time. We are honored to present superb jewels from her collection and extend to all the wonderful karma it brings.”

The Princess Colombian emerald and diamond necklace, by Cartier, the pendant weighing 39.70 carats.

The Princess Colombian emerald and diamond necklace, by Cartier, the pendant weighing 39.70 carats.

The 46 lots set to go under the hammer in Geneva are estimated to be worth over $15 million. Bidders can expect to see spectacular items from Cartier, Boucheron, Tiffany & Co. and Van Cleef & Arpels. We highlight several key pieces that will certainly excite any avid jewelry collector. The first is the Pohl Diamond. What makes this 36-carat diamond so special is that it was the very first significant diamond that was polished in America (most diamonds are polished in Europe, India or Israel) before it was sold to the Chrysler family in 1943. Having been mined nearly a decade earlier as a 287-carat rough stone, the diamond came into the possession of the princess in 1998 and is now estimated to be worth $3.8 — 5.5 million.

The cultured pearl, diamond and yellow diamond fringe necklace

The cultured pearl, diamond and yellow diamond fringe necklace

The next is a creation by Cartier that would make any woman swoon. The diamond and emerald necklace features a 40-carat Colombian emerald. Worth somewhere between $2.5 — 3.5 million, the necklace with the matching earrings was worn at the official dinner that followed the wedding of Prince Felipe of Spain and Letizia Ortiz back in 2004. The other highlight in the collection is the cultured pearl and diamond fringe necklace. Its owner before coming into the possession of the princess was her former husband’s grandmother, Begum Om Habibeh Aga Khan. Upon entering her enviable collection of jewelry, a matching pair of ear pendants and a bangle was commissioned from Van Cleef & Arpels to make a complete parure.

The "Persepolis" necklace

The “Persepolis” necklace

Other pieces that will certainly get your attention, include a suite of emerald, diamond and pearl jewelry from Cartier, an elegant five strand pearl and diamond necklace as well as the “Persepolis” necklace and pair of “Persane” earrings. With graduated emerald bead drops and a larger emerald beat pendant suspended, the suite also features a briolette-cut diamond and oval cabochon emerald surmount. The five strand pearl necklace is made up of nearly 500 natural pearls and daimond roundel spacers.With emeralds, diamonds and sapphires of several cuts, the “Persepolis” neckalce and “Persane” earrings are a set that certainly cannot be missed.

The elegant five strand pearl and diamond necklace

The elegant five strand pearl and diamond necklace

“Aside from their beauty, many of these jewels bare a compelling history of their own” said the Princess. She added “To me they embody wonderful and loving personal memories as well as exciting chapters of my life, full of color, travel and encounters. They have brought me great joy and happiness. Now I wish their journey to continue, bringing joy and happiness to their new owners.”

The sale will be held on May 18, 7pm at the Four Seasons Hotel des Bergues in Geneva. For more information on the auction, visit Christie’s.

Chinese Collector Liu Yiqian Aims West

Chinese tycoon Liu Yiqian is known for snapping up expensive Chinese antiques… and sometimes even drinking from them too, with his infamous sip from a valuable porcelain Ming dynasty cup. The high profile art collector even has his collection displayed in the museum he himself founded in Shanghai. Last year, in an aggressive act of ‘cultural exchange’, Liu splashed out more than $170 million at Christie’s for Modigliani’s Nu Couche (Reclining Nude), making it the second highest price ever paid at auction for a work of art.

“The world is globalized…our collection is mainly Chinese traditional works of art, (but) we are going to expand into Western and Asian works. I hope in my life time I can collect more from both China and the West,” he told AFP in a recent interview at Christie’s regional headquarters in Hong Kong. Indeed, he plans to showcase the work at his museum next year, invoking a “social responsibility” to enable Chinese youngsters to experience the Western masters.

With a personal wealth of $1.38 billion, according to Forbes magazine, Liu is among the ranks of the new Chinese super-rich. He made his fortune in real estate and finance, and now runs a huge conglomerate across several industries from chemicals to investments. Among other Chinese pieces he’s purchased includes a painting by Chinese master Zhang Daqian for $35.93 million at Sotheby’s; a $45 million 15th-century Tibetan “thangka” tapestry at a Christie’s auction; and an $8.2 million purchase of an “ancient” scroll of nine Chinese characters, which led to more controversy when he brushed off a group of respected Chinese experts deriding it as fake.

Of course, some Western art connoisseurs were concerned at the time. The Mayor of Modigliani’s hometown (Livorno, Italy) commented that the Italian government should have spent money to acquire the painting so that it could have been retained locally. In the interview with AFP though, Liu noted that “It doesn’t matter where they are. The most important thing is for them to be preserved”.

“Other than Chinese traditional and contemporary works of art, younger generations in China have developed deeper recognition of Western works,” he said, relaxing in an armchair and talking through a haze of cigarette smoke. We can’t exactly say whether Liu is really aiming for true cultural good, or merely following art-collecting as a fashion, as countless have already spoken out on after the incident with the Ming cup, but we hope that things turn out the best for the cultural landscape of the world out there.

Unique Aston Martin DB10 Sold for $3.4m

Picture yourself sitting in the driver’s seat of the exceedingly rare Aston Martin DB10, humming the theme music of James Bond as you conquer a corner in style. As it happens, the car shared screen time with James Bond as he navigated the adrenaline-filled plot in Spectre. Rare as the DB10 is (only 10 were made), you can only dream of driving it but, for one determined collector, dreams came true. At a thrilling auction at Christie’s in London, the only DB10 made available for public sale fetched a stunning £2,434,500 ($3,476,466). This is almost £1 million above the high end of the estimate, as we reported here. The auction saw the car go under the hammer with 10 other lots, which together made up a curated collection called “James Bond Spectre –The Live Auction”.Aston-Martin-Db-10-1

This piece of automotive history is a celebration of the five-decade relationship that Aston Martin has enjoyed with Bond. The car also hints at what we can expect from the brand in future. Of the 10 cars that were handcrafted at the brand’s Gaydon headquarters, eight were modified for the filming of the movie. The other two were kept in pristine condition, which allowed for Christie’s to put one up for auction.Aston-Martin-DB-10

All proceeds of the sale were donated to the international humanitarian aid organization Médecins Sans Frontières, otherwise known as Doctors without Borders, which provides medical care and support to victims of armed conflict, epidemics and disasters. Aside from the DB10, a further 14 lots are available in the online sale that runs till February 23 to celebrate the release of the 24th Bond film on Digital, Blu-ray and DVD.

Christie’s Hawks Rare Handbags in France

Christie’s third annual “Handbag & Accessories” auction in Paris is coming up March 5 with an enthralling lineup for arm-candy connoisseurs seeking rare or special edition gains. Pieces from Hermès, Chanel, Dior and Louis Vuitton are expected to fetch prices ranging from €2,000 to €70,000.

The “Vert Celadon Natura Kelly 28” by Hermès is one such key highlight. Being offered at a rather conservative estimate of €15,000-20,000 (approximately $17,000-22,000), the style is a nod to old processes where the original skin-color was left on handbags made from exotic skins, because the pigment couldn’t be removed in those times. Hermès sought to bring back the process, this time for the animalistic flavor rather than necessity, around the year 2000. In any case, this is one of the main pieces to watch for when the hammer goes up at Christie’s.

Another eye-catching piece is the “Himalaya Birkin 35”. Once vaunted as one of the most expensive handbags for sale, the dyeing process for the design, invoking the grandeur of the Himalayan Mountains, was said to take long and tedious hours to complete. It’s being offered at €70,000 – €90,000 in the auction. Another variant of the “Birkin 35”, from the So Black collection, is estimated as between €40,000 and €45,000. This version has a shiny black plating as opposed to the usual gold or palladium sheens.

Other important Hermès examples includes a Kelly Picnic 35, made in barénia leather and wicker, and a custom-ordered Kelly 32 in Bleu Saphir, Bleu Marine and Bleu Jean alligator.

To celebrate its 10th Anniversary in another city (Dubai), another Christie’s auction March 17 will feature handbags, trunks, watches and jewelry. Star pieces of that show includes a “Grand Marriage Kelly 32” in ostrich, alligator and lizard, as well as a custom-ordered “Birkin 30” in anémone, rose confetti and bleu aztèque.