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.