Tag Archives: Sotheby’s

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.

Lesedi la Rona Diamond at Sotheby’s Auction

If you have more $70 million in spare change just lying around and don’t know what to do with it, then maybe you should head down to Sotheby’s London on June 29 and convert it into something easier to handle. The auction house will be hosting a stand-alone auction for the largest rough diamond in existence on that day. How big is it? Just look at the picture above for some context!

The find is one of high significance as this is the largest gem-quality rough diamond to have been discovered in more than 100 years. At 1,109-carats, the gem comes from the Karowe mine in Botswana and has been named Lesedi la Rona or “Our Light “in the Tswana language. Boasting exceptional quality and transparency, the diamond is thought to be somewhere around 2.5 to 3 million years old. Experts at the Gemological Institute of America have found that the color and transparency of the gem ensures there is no nitrogen or boron present in the gem. Only 2% of all gemstone-quality diamonds fall into this highly prized category.

“The Lesedi la Rona is simply outstanding and its discovery is the find of a lifetime” said David Bennett, Worldwide Chairman of Sotheby’s Jewelry Division. “It is a huge honor for Sotheby’s to have been entrusted with its sale. Every aspect of this auction is unprecedented. Not only is the rough superlative in size and quality, but no rough even remotely of this scale has ever been offered before at public auction” he added.

It remains to be seen if the gem will be able to yield the largest-top-quality diamond but the likelihood of it resulting in in a “D” color polished diamond is high. The only other rough gem diamond to beat the Lesedi la Rona is none other than the Cullinan Diamond from South Africa that weighed 3,106.75-carats. Mined in 1905, the diamond produced nine diamonds that now sit in the Crown Jewels of the United Kingdom. The most significant of the nine diamonds, is none other than the Cullinan I or Great Star of Africa at 530.20-carats, that is still the largest top-quality polished diamond known to man.

Who knows, maybe the Queen would like to add to her collection of gems, much like her grandfather King Edward.

 

Proust Archives to be Auctioned at Sotheby’s

Nowadays, reading Marcel Proust is usually seen as some sort of literary milestone – another mark to tick off on the must-read classics checklist (and something that this writer admits he has yet to achieve). That’s one of the downsides of having your novel be widely known as the ‘longest novel in the world’. Of course, anyone who takes a peek into the one-million-words-plus of Remembrance of Things Past knows that the writer holds much more than that mere record.

Arguably, this mammoth work is the most important single novel ever published in the Western world. To honor the writer’s legacy, Sotheby’s announced that it will be holding a sale of some 120 items from Proust’s personal archives in Paris (sold by the writer’s 41-year-old great-grand-niece Patricia Mante-Proust) – including a hand-corrected proof, photographs, and letters. The auction will commence May 31.

Remembrance of Things Past stands as a gigantic tome that defies any genre classification or convention, being partially autobiographical, though also fictional, and collecting together memories, dreams, events, and philosophical ideas into one great tapestry. Scholars have been excavating the book for ages, trying to track down the real life analogues to the characters, places, and works of art that Proust describes. Thus, pieces from the archives will probably be of great interest to any serious fan.

Some of the notable items are the photos, which depict Proust, his family, and close friends Lucien Daudet and Reynaldo Hahn, who were also his lovers. These hold special literary interest as well, since Proust’s sexuality was only revealed after his death, and it is widely speculated that the author hid traits of his lovers within some of the main female characters of the book. One of the images shows Daudet casting a dreamy gaze at Proust, while leaning an arm on the writer as another friend stands off to one side. The 1896 picture was deemed compromising, and the writer was ordered by his parents to get back any prints of it in circulation.

Also of literary note in the sale are letters from Proust to his father, who did not accept literature as a proper profession. The narrator’s relationship with his parents is also a theme in the novel, which famously opens with a description of his night terrors as a child and his dependence on his mother for comfort.

The crown jewel of the sale will most likely be the actual handwritten proofs for “In the Shadow of Young Girls in Flower”, the second part of Remembrance, that includes crossed out passages and corrections. An original edition of “Swann’s Way”, the first volume of Remembrance, which was published in 1913, will also go up for sale. Experts estimate the entire collection will go for 520,000 to 740,000 euros ($600,000 to $850,000).

The daunting Proust has held a certain appeal for decades, and will probably continue to do so until someone churns out the next humongous tome worth looking at (though, the contender for the Proust of this century is the Norwegian Karl Ove Knausgård and his six-novel long autobiography). And for those who haven’t poked at it yet, perhaps it’s time to take a dip into “Swann’s Way”…

This story was written in-house, with an AFP report as background and multiple sources. Image courtesy of Gallimard

Ferrari 275 NART Spider Most Expensive at Auction?

There were only 10 of these made, and the last time one of them came up, it fetched $27.9 million. The Ferrari 275 GTS/4 NART Spider could easily make it to the top 10 list of most expensive cars auctioned, once bidding starts on May 14 at the biennial RM Sotheby’s Monaco auction. Sotheby’s already set it up with a very conservative €19 million ($21 million) estimate.

For that matter, the most expensive car auctioned happens to be a Ferrari 250 GTO ($38,098,927), and with the exception of Fangio’s 1954 Mercedes-Benz W196 F1 car (third place, $30,069,371), the rest of the top 10 are all Ferraris. Classic Ferraris are gaining value in the field to the point that models built as recently as the mid-1990s are starting to see some healthy appreciation. Will this be the point where the bubble is primed to burst? Either way, the NART Spider’s sleek styling and performance aims to at least ensure some kind of record.

Ferrari-NART-Spider-Interior-Auction

The car represents a combination of Italian engineering and American ingenuity. US Ferrari importer and race team owner Luigi Chinetti pitched the idea of a roofless take of the 274 GTB/4 to Enzo Ferrari himself, exclusive to the US market and each carrying Chinetti’s NART (North American Racing Team) badge. Due to the overwhelming expenses, production only stopped at 10.

“It is a privilege to present this NART Spider,” said Rob Myers, Chairman and CEO, RM Sotheby’s “Its offering at auction is such an extraordinary event. Ownership of a NART Spider represents membership in a club of only nine other enthusiasts around the world. If a Ferrari is the choice of car connoisseurs, then the NART Spider is the choice of Ferrari connoisseurs.”

Come May, whoever gets their hands on the tasteful red sheen and elegant form of the NART Spider, will surely have something worth bragging about.

L’Eternal Printemps by Rodin Set for Auction

Created by the French artist in 1884, the “L’Eternal Printemps” (French for “Eternal Springtime”) will appear at auction for the first time May 9 at Sotheby’s in New York with an estimated opening bid of $8 to $12 million.

Carved from single block of marble, this graceful two-figure work was modeled during Ronin’s intense period of activity for The Gates of Hell, evoking the inappropriate euphoria of two young lovers despite the tragedy being played out on The Gates. Its appearance in May will be the first time in two decades that a Rodin marble sculpture will appear on the market. It is thought to be one of 10 such sculptures, all on the same subject.

In February 2016, Rodin’s cast of “Iris, Messagère des dieux” broke auction records when it sold for $16.7 million at Sotheby’s in London.

Shirley Temple Blue Diamond Fails to Sell

She was the child-star who brought joy to the Depression-era movie-going audience with her performances and innocence. Despite her success at that time, it seems that her star power has not translated to into an ability to sell personal objects. Her 9.54-carat blue diamond ring went under the hammer at a Sotheby’s New York auction for an estimated $25-35 million, but failed to find a buyer. It was originally a present from her father who bought it for $7,210 back in 1940.

Shirley Temple started acting at age three, and became the youngest person to win an Oscar in 1935 (aged six), with a special award for young performances that is no longer presented. She went on to star in more than 40 films, most of them before age 12. Later in her life, she followed up her career in show business by serving as a diplomat under four presidents. Temple died at the age of 85 in 2014.

“The Shirley Temple Blue Diamond is an exceptional stone in quality, rarity and provenance. It has been an honor to share its story with collectors, connoisseurs and Temple’s loyal fans over the past few months… Unfortunately, tonight wasn’t its night in the salesroom, but we remain fully confident that it will find a buyer.” the auction house said.

In a star-saturated media climate, with so many new names breaking out young on platforms like Youtube, the Shirley Temple phenomenon is perhaps no longer in effect. Perhaps a long nostalgic fan, brought up on a diet of silver screen icons Greta Garbo and Katharine Hepburn may want to pick up the gem in the future.

Diamond, Scroll Set Auction Records in Asia

Despite the China market blues, a rare blue diamond and a painting by Chinese master Zhang Daqian broke auction records at Sotheby’s April 5. The De Beers Millennium Jewel 4 raked in HK$248.29 million ($31.8 million) at the Hong Kong auction, just hours after a scroll painting by Zhang Daqian sold for a record-breaking HK$270.68 million ($35.93 million).

The 10.10 carat vivid blue diamond broke the record for the most expensive piece of jewelry sold at auction in Asia, but at the lower end of estimates which predicted it would fetch between $30 and $35 million.

Slightly larger than an almond, it is described by Sotheby’s as the largest oval blue diamond ever to appear at auction and “internally flawless”. It was sold to an anonymous phone bidder.

“It was a very successful sale,” Sotheby’s international jewelry division worldwide chairman David Bennett said.

“The fact that it’s a record price for jewelry in Asia I think speaks well about the Asian market… I think it’s alive and well and very healthy,” Bennett said.

The sale came hours after a scroll painting by Chinese master Zhang Daqian sold for a record-breaking HK$270.68 million ($35.93 million), also at Sotheby’s.

It was snapped up by Chinese collector Liu Yiqian’s Shanghai museum — the latest in a string of massive buys associated with the former taxi driver turned tycoon.

Zhang’s splashed ink and color scroll outstripped the top-end pre-sale estimate of HK$65 million, breaking the record for the artist’s work at auction.

A buyer from Liu’s Long Museum ended hour-long bidding for the work, entitled “Peach Blossom Spring”, with more than 100 bids cast.

The sales comes despite a slowdown in the Chinese economy which expanded 6.9 percent in 2015, the worst performance in a quarter of a century and a far cry from years of double-digit increases.

There are fears that the combination of the Chinese economic slowdown and an anti-corruption drive by President Xi Jinping could hit the Asia market — both Sotheby’s and Christie’s posted lower totals at their autumn sales last year in Hong Kong compared with the two preceding years.

Liu, who has been making record-setting purchases at auctions in the past few years, stunned the art world when he bought a famed nude by Italian artist Amedeo Modigliani costing more than $170 million in November.

He set a record for Chinese porcelain in 2014 by paying over $36 million for a tiny Ming Dynasty cup depicting a rooster and hen tending to their chicks, know as the “chicken cup”.

Liu made world headlines by drinking from the cup after he bought it.

Auctioneers say despite China’s economic downturn, there is still demand for top quality collectibles, and demand stretches across Asia.

The “Seal of the Mandate of Heaven” which belonged to the Kangxi Emperor, the longest reigning Chinese monarch, is to be auctioned on Wednesday at Sotheby’s as part of its spring sales season, with a starting at a price of HK$50 million.

Sotheby’s Asian Art Sales Kicks Off

A total of 170 lots will be up for auction at Sotheby’s across three sales featuring contemporary Asian art from some of the best-known artists from the region and beyond. “Brushwork: From Asia to the World” and “Modern and Contemporary Asian Art Evening Sale” will take place April 3 while “The Contemporary Asian Art Day Sale” follows on April 4. The total estimated worth will be in excess of $23 million.

Ai Wei Wei Grapes

Ai Wei Wei Grapes

“Brushwork: From Asia to the World” is a specially curated auction with 20 abstract works – based on the idea of reinterpreting brushwork by post-war artists from the East and West and their mutual influences on each other. Tools used in the creation of some of these works include knives, gunpowder, as well as bare hands and feet. This auction will include work by Asian artists Kazuo Shiraga, Jiro Yoshihara, Cai Guo-Qiang, Park Seobo, as well as American and French artists Sam Francis and Pierre Soulages.

Yayoi Kusama Infinity Nets (OQABT)

Yayoi Kusama Infinity Nets (OQABT)

The “Modern and Contemporary Asian Art Evening Sale” has some of the higher valued works in all. Ai Weiwei is one of the notables here, with his “Grapes” going up at an estimated $513,000 – $769,000. The work is made up of 35 wooden stools from the Qing dynasty stuck together with mortise and tenon joints, creating a spiky ball of furniture supposedly resembling a cluster of grapes – as a callback to Dadaist readymades.

Liu Wei's The Revolutionary Family Tripytch

Liu Wei’s The Revolutionary Family Tripytch

Also featured is “The Revolutionary Family Series (triptych)” by Liu Wei ($3.8 – $5.1 million), and Yayoi Kusama’s “Infinity-Nets (OQABT)” ($1.5 – $1.9 million) – a part of his widely recognized Infinity Nets Series.

The “Contemporary Asian Art Day Sale” will have, among others, post-war paper works. This medium has been often overlooked but there will be contributions by artists such as Kusama, Lee Ufan, Yamaguchi Takeo and Kim Tschangyeul. These works offer insight into each artist’s distinct brushwork, composition, lines and colors.

The three auctions will take place at the Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Centre will hopefully shed more light on the Asian art scene as a whole. Watchful observers will be looking for any further signs of strains in the market, as we reported here. For more information on the upcoming auctions visit: http://www.sothebys.com/en/inside/locations-worldwide/hong-kong/overview.html

Francis Bacon Self-Portrait Auction in May

The famous painter of tortured expressive psychological landscapes, Francis Bacon, will have a self-portrait of his go on sale on May 11 at Sotheby’s New York. This is the first time “Two Studies for a Self-Portrait” (1970) has been at auction ever; since it was completed, it remained in the same private collection. The painting is worth an estimated $22-30 million.

Bacon was born in 1909 and had a bad relationship with his family (and especially his father) due to, among other things, his homosexuality. The artist lived in poverty for a period of time, and over the years developed his now-famous style. Knitting together his own inner torment and experiences with his technical skill, Bacon’s art depicts a monstrous and haunted reality, returning to many key traits that he was obsessed with, such as screams and religious motifs like the crucifixion.

In a characteristic Baconian way, the portrait eschews normal artistic representation and ‘disfigures’ its subject, Bacon’s own face, to point to an underlying psychological state. Bacon has done such permutations before with older forms, such as a portrait of the Pope done by 17th Century Spanish Artist Diego Velázquez. In his take, Bacon turned the religious figure into a grotesque screaming nightmare with purple and dark streaks running downwards. In this self-portrait, various smudges of colors run across the artist’s face until some of the discernable features are obscured. Yet all this leads up to an overall ‘lighter’ feel (at least relative to his other works) because the colors involved here are vibrant reds, pinks, blues, and whites rather than his characteristic black horrific tones. The result is less distraught and poignantly calmer; it is worth noting that this self-portrait dates from before the suicide of George Dyer.

“‘Two Studies for a Self-Portrait’ goes straight in at number one of all the paintings I’ve handled in my career. Discovering a work such as this is like finding gold dust. To my mind, the painting is worthy of a place alongside the very finest self-portraits of Rembrandt, Van Gogh and Picasso. It’s certainly among the greatest self-portraits ever offered at auction,” said Oliver Barker, Senior International Specialist in Contemporary Art. Indeed, the rare work has only been exhibited to the public two times. The first time was in 1971 in Paris, and later, 1993 in London. It was also chosen as the cover of Milan Kundera and France Borel’s book “Francis Bacon: Portraits and Self-Portraits”.

Tate Liverpool and the Getty Museum in Los Angeles will both be hosting Francis Bacon exhibitions in 2016. “Francis Bacon: Catalogue Raisonné” edited by Martin Harrison will also be released this year. It is expected to feature around 100 works by Bacon that have never been seen before.

Radiohead and Shirley Temple Auctions

Items from great artists always generate a certain level of interest. In the news this week for that very reason, are two artists who have made an impact in the world of popular entertainment. The first is none other than the late great screen legend Shirley Temple.

On April 19, Sotheby’s New York will auction off the childhood ring given to the actress by her father in 1940. The traditional cushion-cut stone is listed as a ‘Fancy Deep Blue, Potentially Internally Flawless, VVS2 clarity diamond ring’ and is set in its original Art-Deco inspired design. We assume the VVS2 part refers to the other smaller diamonds surrounding the main fancy stone, which is 9.75 carats. The ring will join other pieces making up the auction house’s 2016 “Magnificent Jewels in New York” sale, expected to fetch $25-35 million.

The other artist to make the news is Thom Yorke of Radiohead. On March 18, the lead singer of Radiohead auctioned off the handwritten drafts written by the band before they achieved fame and recognition. Found within the pages of William Blake’s Songs of Innocence and Experience the lyrics include ‘Airbag,’ ‘A Cradle Song’ and ‘The Divine Comedy,’ were sold via online bidding site Invaluable, and fetched £12,000 ($17,400). All proceeds of the sale benefitted global poverty and famine relief charity Oxfam, the band has long been associated with.

Blue Diamond to Earn $35 million at Auction

Coming five months after the sale of the 12.03 carat Blue Moon of Josephine (bought by businessman Joseph Lau for his daughter at a record $48 million), the 10.10 carat De Beers Millennium Jewel 4 is set to go on sale at Sotheby’s in Hong Kong. This oval vivid blue diamond was rated with a clarity of “internally flawless” or IF as it is known in the trade and is expected to fetch between $30 million and $35 million.

“There are no more than a dozen or so blue diamonds of fancy vivid color and over 10 carats in the world, so they are very, very rare,” Sotheby’s Deputy Chairman for Asia Quek Chin Yeow told AFP.

The blue diamond was mined from the Cullinan Mine in South Africa – one that is famous for being a significant source of blue diamonds in the world. Blue diamonds are especially rare and have a high price due to a diminishing supply mixed with an increasing demand.

One of the most famous Blue Diamonds is the Hope Diamond, currently located in the Smithsonian Museum. The Hope Diamond was suspected of being cursed due to the deaths of many owners over the years.

Despite the slowdown of the Chinese economy (having a weak 6.9% expansion in 2015), the jewelry auction market remains strong. The previous record for a diamond sold in Hong Kong was set in 2013, with the sale of a 118-carat white diamond for $30.6 million.

“It’s the rarity and collectability of these wonderful objects. When they come to the market, they will have strong interest from all over the world,” Quek said as an explanation, adding that the location of the upcoming sale was a sign of confidence in the Asian market.

Last Mitford Sister Belongings Sold for £1 million

In a family with two Nazi sympathizers, a novelist, and a Communist-bent civil rights activist, being a Duchess may be considered a remarkably average profession. Deborah, the last of the Mitford sisters, and also the Duchess of Devonshire, died in September 2014. Hundreds of personal items from her estate were auctioned at Sotheby’s in London last Wednesday for a total of around £1.8 million, bringing to light the tastes and life of the British aristocrat.

Deborah, known to her friends as “Debo”, married Andrew Cavendish, the later Duke of Devonshire, which led to her acquiring her royal title. She masterminded the transformation of Chatsworth House, the family’s 18th-century mansion, into a profitable tourist attraction that now hosts more than a million visitors a year. She was also famously devoted to her chickens and regularly hosted parties where live hens would strut about the dinner table. She was once photographed feeding her chickens while wearing a Balmain ball gown and pearls.

Among Deborah’s friends included President Kennedy, Winston Churchill, Lucian Freud, Evelyn Waugh, Alan Bennett, members of the Royal Family, Hubert de Givenchy, Oscar de la Renta and Cecil Beaton. In fact, an exhibition of Beaton’s photographs of Deborah and her glittering social circle will also be shown at Chatsworth from 19 March 2016 to 3 January 2017.

Among some of the highlights from the sale include:

Mitford-Waugh-Brideshead-Revisited

A true first edition of Evelyn Waugh’s novel Brideshead Revisited with a personal inscription by the author. Sold for £52,500.

Lot 47 - The Duchess’s collection of Elvis Presley ephemera, est. £500-1,000 (Small)

The Duchess’s collection of Elvis Presley epherema, including a novelty Elvis telephone that dances and sings when it rings. Sold for £4,375

Lot 270, John Atkinson Grimshaw, Bolton Abbey

A pair of paintings by the famous landscape painter John Atkinson Grimshaw. Bolton Abbey by Moonlight and A Wooded Landscape were among the Duchess’s favorite paintings. Sold for £52,500

Lot 244, A set of twelve wine glasses

A set of 12 wine glasses acquired from the Buckingham Palace gift-shop with a gold snake entwining every stem. Sold for: £4,375

A diamond and ruby brooch in the form of a butterfly. A present from Andrew. Sold for: £62,500

Lot 467, Diamond Brooch

A diamond brooch designed by Andrew for their Diamond wedding anniversary in 2001, formed in the shape of a heart pierced by an arrow. Sold for: £40,000.

Lot 11, A Japanese Guardian figure

A Japanese gilt-decorated Guardian figure from the Meiji period. It was acquired by the Duchess’s grandfather Algernon Bertram Freeman-Mitford, probably presented by Emperor Meiji of Japan. Sold for £62,500.

Deborah’s archive of personal correspondence – letters, books, manuscripts and documents relating to the Mitford sisters – has been left to Chatsworth House Trust, together with her collection of couture clothing, and is planned to be accessible by the public in due course.

Henry Wyndham, Chairman of Sotheby’s Europe and Auctioneer for much of the sale, noted that the Duchess “represented the last of a special era” and that she “would have been quietly amused by the whole event, but most of all would have been pleased to see her belongings find brand new homes where they’ll be treasured”.

The Mitford sisters remain prominent figures in the history books for charming and shocking the world with their gracious wit and scandalous affairs.

Sotheby’s to Sell Last Mitford Sister’s Treasures

To say the Mitford sisters were interesting is to say Downtown Abbey is a popular TV show. Coming from a different era, the Mitford clan embodied the best and worst of the real-life Downtown set. They fascinated and repulsed in equal measure back in the 1930s. The belongings of the last surviving sister, Deborah (she of Chatsworth House fame) will be going under hammer at Sotheby’s London in March, 2016.

Deborah Mitford, the dowager duchess of Devonshire and the youngest of the six sisters, died in 2014 aged 94.

Known as “Debo”, she hobnobbed with the Kennedy family (Kathleen Kennedy was married to the previous Duke of Devonshire, brother of her husband, the 11th Duke of Devonshire), was painted by Lucian Freud and once had tea with Adolf Hitler (her sisters Diana and Unity are the proper fascists of the lot).

Sotheby’s auction house is selling more than 450 lots of personal belongings, ranging from her jewelry to her Elvis Presley memorabilia collection. Pictured above is one such novelty, a late Victorian brass inkwell in the form of a lobster.

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“This auction paints a vivid picture of Deborah, duchess of Devonshire, featuring mementoes, objects and pictures that tell the story of her remarkable life,” said David MacDonald, Sotheby’s specialist in charge of the sale set for March 2.

The sale is estimated to realize £500,000 to £700,000 ($715,000 to $1 million, 660,000 to 925,000 euros), with individual lots ranging from £10 to £40,000.

The objects she surrounded herself with “were often moving, funny, or both, and usually had marvelous stories attached”, MacDonald said.

“The items in this sale capture the very essence of this endlessly captivating woman.”

The sale includes Regency chairs, Jacob Epstein sketches, a diamond heart-shaped brooch designed by her husband, Shetland pony harnesses, a novelty Presley telephone and a borer machine blade used to excavate the Channel Tunnel.

There are also books inscribed by the Kennedys, Madonna and Henry Kissinger.

On sale is one of only 50 pre-publication copies of Brideshead Revisited from 1944, inscribed by its author Evelyn Waugh, and estimated to fetch at least £15,000.

The dowager duchess’s family said they were keeping precious items bequeathed to them, but were consigning the rest for auction.

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A red and black leather novelty jewel case

“Given the kind of person she was, and the rich and varied life she led, there are more belongings than we can together accommodate,” they said.

Deborah was one of the less flamboyant sisters, some of whom were known for their dramatic love lives and extreme political views.

Her passion was Chatsworth House, a 17th-century stately home in the English countryside that the duchess opened to the public.

Her chief hobby was keeping hens. Sotheby’s described her as a “great poultry enthusiast”. The sale also includes a pair of monogrammed travelling boxes for poultry and a chick-shaped powder compact.

Born Deborah Freeman-Mitford in 1920, she and her sisters were the “It Girls” of their day, and fascinated British society in the decade before World War II.

In 1941 she married Andrew Cavendish, who later became the 11th duke of Devonshire.

At 90 she published her memoirs, a record of high society balls and debutantes from a now-vanished age.

Obituary: Alexandre Reza, Jeweler to the Stars

Some gem collectors amass a hoard of both specific and random treasures. Russian-born jeweler Alexandre Reza who died January 15 was the opposite. Reza, whose elite clientele included the ill-fated Dodi al-Fayed and Princess Diana, is perhaps the only collector of gemstones who pursued very specific gems and passed the better part of his collection on. The beneficiaries were his clients from Cartier, Van Cleef & Arpels, Boucheron, Harry Winston, Bulgari and Chaumet. He spent three decades doing this and yet in 2013, auction house Sotheby’s declared that the library of his own eponymous maison was “hardly unrivaled in size, breadth and quality.” The man known as the master jeweler to the stars was an undisputed giant.

His Paris-based company, headed by son Olivier since 2008, announced his passing in Geneva aged 93, on January 19. Reza died Friday last after a long illness.

Olivier Reza’s description of his father in a 2014 New York Times article sums up the late Reza’s reputation perfectly: “The real métier of haute joaillerie, as it was established by Louis Cartier, Frédéric Boucheron, Laurence Graff, Jacques Arpels and my father, draws primarily on passion.”

Alexandre Reza was himself the son of an ethnic Iranian jeweler and was born in Soviet Moscow in 1922. The family fled the turmoil of the Russian Revolution for the relative tranquil of Paris in 1925, where Alexandre would eventually follow in his father’s footsteps. Initially, he was a gemologist who was much sought-after for his expert eye. Eventually Reza found that he also had an eye for design and craftsmanship by simply following the old code of jewelry design: always be led by the stone.

Reza’s passion, acumen and connections allowed him to trade in a massive number of stones, building for his own maison one of the world’s largest collections of natural and untreated stones.

This report was compiled by in-house writers, in combination with a wire report from the AFP and an image from our archive, an item in the Sotheby’s 2013 tribute exhibition to Alexandre Reza. No image has been released of Alexandre Reza by his estate.

Are Online Auctions the Future of Art Sales?

On Thursday, December 17 Christie’s Paris auction house wrapped up an entirely online auction. This is the first time that Christie’s Paris has curated an online auction. The trend is growing and may be revolutionizing the industry. Many auctions are now available only online.

Christie’s got in early and first began online only auctions in 2011 seeing it as a way to reach more buyers. The house invested 50 million dollars in developing its online platforms for bidding. Online-only has grown from two auctions in 2011 to over 75 this year. According to a Christie’s spokesperson, the sales not only grow by number of sale but also by the number of lots in each sale. “Online allows us to be truly global in reaching our clients and new audiences,” she said. Christie’s now plans to increase the number of online auctions next year.

Christie’s main rival, Sotheby’s, followed suit and began offering live online bidding in April 2015 on an eBay channel. Online bidding at Sotheby’s rose 55 percent in the first half of 2015. Then, in October, the auction house started offering online-only auctions on technology start-up Artsy’s website and iPhone apps.

Despite the boom in online auctions, the days of traditional bidding are not over. When a work of art comes in to Christie’s, a decision is made about where to set it: live auction, online-only or private consignment, depending on which platform is likely to work best for a given piece. A consigners time-line also affects that decision. As a Christie’s spokesperson explained: “We create a calendar across all channels that will offer our clients what they are looking for when they are looking for it. Online will continue to be an important channel for auction sales, as will live auction and private sales.

lot_1_wade_guyt.27d9a115632.original

LOT 1 WADE GUYTON (B. 1972) X Poster (Untitled, 2007, Epson UltraChrome inkjet on linen, 84 x 69 inches, WG1999) signed and numbered ‘Wade Guyton’ (on a label affixed to the sleeve) hand-folded digital print with archival UV curable inks 213.3 x 175.2 cm. (84 x 69 in. ) Executed in 2015, this work is from an edition of 100, published by Printed Matter, Inc., New York, and is contained in its original cardboard sleeve.Estimation: $12,000-18,000 © CHRISTIE’S IMAGES LIMITED 2015. Pictured top is LOT 8 WALASSE TING (1920-2010) Suddenly Spring Again signed, titled, dated and located ‘Suddenly Spring Again’ Ting 12-8-1988 ‘Amsterdam’ (on the reverse) acrylic and crayon on canvas 70 x 100 cm. (27 ½ x 39 3/8 in.) Painted in 1988.Estimation: $35,000-52,000 © CHRISTIE’S IMAGES LIMITED 2015

Star Wars Memorabilia Fetches Above $500,000

We wonder if Stephen Colbert picked up anything from this Star Wars-themed Sotheby’s sale that netted more than US500,000. Other Star Wars super fans certainly snapped up some of the space film saga’s rarest merchandise on the planet December 11, Sotheby’s announced in New York.

More than 600 items found new homes in the sale organized by Sotheby’s and eBay — just days before the release of Star Wars: The Force Awakens, the seventh movie in arguably the world’s biggest movie franchise.

The space epics have grossed billions of dollars at the box office worldwide since the first film came out in 1977 and spawned a pop culture phenomenon, drawing legions of hardcore fans.

All items in the auction came from the private collection of Japanese designer and creative entrepreneur Nigo, as we noted in our previous story on this pop culture event. Like many of his generation, he started collecting toys and figures decades ago at just six years old. Unlike the rest of us, he apparently managed to keep his in good shape!

The online auction netted combined sales of $502,202, Sotheby’s said.

The most expensive lot was a pristine, unopened packet of seven action figures from The Empire Strikes Back which fetched $32,500 — three times the estimate.

Two complete sets of “Power of the Force” coins, which were available only by special request from the manufacturer Kenner, sold for $27,500.

A Luke Skywalker doll, which hit the market in 1978 as a children’s toy, sold for $25,000, above its upper estimate of $18,000. Also never removed from the packaging, it is one of only 20 confirmed examples of the doll, Sotheby’s said.

The figurine, with a rare two-piece telescoping lightsaber, was quickly withdrawn from the market “due to the propensity for the lightsaber to snap off,” Sotheby’s said. There was also a strong market in helmets. A replica of a Star Wars: A New Hope Stormtrooper from 2007 fetched $8,125, the auction house said.

Sotheby’s consultant James Gallo says the results demonstrated the quality of Nigo’s collection and the enduring appeal of the Star Wars universe.

“We set a number of benchmark prices today, reflecting the strength of this market,” he said.

Sotheby’s, set up in 18th century London and best known for selling fine art masterpieces, called in Gallo to value the collection, which he spent a week and a half sorting through.

From the United States to Russia to China, the franchise has a fan base spanning generations. The films’ psychology has even found its way onto university syllabuses.

“It’s merchandised more than most,” the Pennsylvania-based Gallo, who owns store Toy and Comics Heaven, told AFP last week. “There isn’t much that can compare.”

He said that Star Wars collectors would proudly display their hard-won memorabilia like anything else — and certainly would not snap open the packets and play with the dolls.

“It’s up to each individual how they enjoy the items they have. It’s just like anything else, whether it be fine art or sports collectibles,” Gallo said.

Janis Joplin Porsche

Record Sale for Joplin’s Psychedelic Porsche

The world’s most famous psychedelic Porsche is now also the world’s most expensive 356 model. The convertible driven by late rock legend Janis Joplin demolished estimates to sell for nearly US$1.8 million in New York December 10 in a frenetic five-minute bidding war, according to auction house RM said.

The custom-painted 356C 1600 Cabriolet model, dating back to 1964 and which had never left the Joplin family, tripled its highest pre-sale estimate of $600,000 in a five-minute sale peppered with applause. The excitement for the sale was palpable even in the lead-up, as we noted in an earlier story.

Joplin — who sang “Oh Lord, won’t you buy me a Mercedes-Benz” — forked out for the Porsche but decided its original white finish too dull.

She had it painted red with a mural that included images of butterflies and jellyfish, as well as of Joplin and her band.

Janis Joplin Porsche auction

The auctioneer opened bidding at $300,000 before a packed room in New York with RM Sotheby’s staff manning a bank of phones. In seconds, the price jumped to $600,000.

A ripple of applause broke out when bidding reached $1 million and again at $1.6 million. In just five minutes the car was sold, for $1.76 million, including buyer’s premium.

“Janis Joplin’s 356C is without question one of the most important Porsches of all time,” said Ian Kelleher, managing director of RM Sotheby’s West Coast Division, announcing the sale earlier this year.

“It’s a fantastic automobile that transcends art, pop culture and social movements, and is as groundbreaking and stunning as the renowned singer was herself.”

Joplin constantly drove the car, which was parked outside the Hollywood hotel where she died of an overdose in 1970.

The Porsche has since belonged to Joplin’s family, which lent it to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland, where it was on display from 1995 until the family decided to sell it.

It was one of the star lots in the Driven by Disruption auction of sports cars at Sotheby’s in New York.

Saint Laurent’s Ex Sells Prized Library

Book sales rarely ever make it onto luxury news feeds so this story is a pleasant departure. Six years after selling off his art collection in a record-breaking “sale of the century”, the French businessman and philanthropist Pierre Berge is now putting his renowned library under the hammer.

The lover and business partner of the late designer Yves Saint Laurent told AFP he is putting almost his entire collection up for auction, one of the most valuable in private hands. In fact, we’ve been waiting for this since we first picked up the story last year.

The sale of the couple’s art collection netted 342 million euros (US$361 million) in 2009, a year after the designer’s death from a brain tumor, then the highest figure ever for the sale of a private collection.

In the first of six sales which could raise a total of 40 million euros (US$42 million) for the charitable foundation he founded with Saint Laurent, 180 historic manuscripts and rare first editions including Saint Augustine’s Confessions printed in Strasbourg in 1470, and the original 1580 edition of the philosopher Montaigne’s Essays will be auctioned at Sotheby’s in Paris December 11.

But the most valuable item in the first sale, the original manuscript of Andre Breton’s surrealist masterpiece Nadja — worth an estimated 3.5 million euros — has already been snapped up by France’s national library.

Berge said that when he bought the book in London “I felt that I had got hold of a fragment of the True Cross”.

“But you have to know how to get rid of things,” Berge, 85, told AFP in his library on Paris’ Left Bank, saying he had been planning the clear-out for years and had even stipulated it in his will.

Escaped the Censor

Among the other literary treasures in the first sale is a first edition of Gustave Flaubert’s Madame Bovary dedicated to “the master” Victor Hugo, one of William Burrough’s scrapbooks and the only pages of a lost erotic work by the notorious Marquis de Sade, “The Days of Florbelle”, to have escaped the censor’s flames.

The young Berge, who was born on the Ile d’Oleron off western France, began collecting books at 18 after arriving in Paris and getting a job in an antiquarian bookshop.

He later befriended members of the city’s literati, including Breton and Jean Cocteau, one of whose books dedicated to him he is holding back from sale.

Another by Jean Giono, who was something of a father figure to him, and who is best known outside France for the film of his novel The Horsemen on the Roof, has also been withdrawn.

Berge said that he intended to “replace all the books in the library” with identical cheaper copies. “A lot will probably be more fun to read in paperback.”

“I came to love these books through reading, the collector part only came later,” he said.

Asked if he was worried about fears of falling auction prices, Berge said, “There is never a good time to sell. They said in 2009 (in the middle of the financial crisis) that it wasn’t a good time to sell…” his art collection, but it broke records.

Although known as a formidable deal-maker, Berge has been a lifelong supporter of left-wing causes and an advocate of gay rights.

He founded the AIDS charity Sidaction and the French gay magazine Tetu, with the vast proceeds of the sale of his and Saint Laurent’s art collection going to AIDS and HIV research.

He was close to former French president Francois Mitterrand and helped bankroll the failed presidential bid by Segolene Royal, the former partner of French President Francois Hollande, whose campaign for the Elysee he also supported.

Hong Kong optimistic ahead of auction season

Hong Kong auction houses are feeling upbeat about the upcoming sales season. From rare wines to Chinese paintings and expensive jewels, all the big names are gearing up for red letter days, with the mood buoyant despite China’s economic downturn.

The seasonal sales come after mega-buys by Hong Kong and Chinese bidders grabbed international headlines this month.

Hong Kong billionaire Joseph Lau spent a record US$48.4 million on a 12.03-carat diamond dubbed “Blue Moon” for his daughter in a Sotheby’s auction in Geneva.

That came a day after he had snapped up a rare 16.08-carat pink diamond at Christie’s for US$28.5 million, also in Geneva.

Also in November China’s Liu Yiqian, a taxi driver turned tycoon, bought Modigliani’s “Nu Couche” in New York for US$170.4 million. Further reports indicate that Liu may have been interested in the American Express points resulting from the purchase; he used AmEx to purchase the Modigliani.

“Frankly a few weeks ago I was not sure what to expect because of what happened during the summer and what happened in China with the slowdown…(but) the past two weeks were absolutely sensational,” Christie’s chairman of Asia Pacific François Curiel told AFP.

“At the moment I don’t think there is any slowdown in the appetite of Chinese collectors,” he said as the London-based auction house unveiled its Hong Kong autumn sales offerings for the first time Wednesday.

“They see works of art as a safe way of putting some money away.”

Among Christie’s highlights are ancient ceramics, works by prized Chinese painters as well as diamonds and rubies including “The Crimson Flame”, a rare 15-carat Burmese “pigeon blood” ruby.

Rival Sotheby’s, also holding a series of sales in the coming weeks, admitted top-class auctions may see fewer bidders, but the elite are still willing to spend their wealth.

“If you compare the market to where it was in 2010 and 2011 when there was a lot of hot money coming in from China… people were just throwing money around, we’re very far from that climate today,” Sotheby’s deputy chairman for Asia Nicolas Chow told AFP.

“(But) at the top level you still have very strong mainland buyers.”

“For as long as we compose a sale carefully, tidily, I’ve got a lot of confidence in the years ahead,” Chow added.

The auction house in October broke the record for Chinese imperial portraiture after selling the portrait of Chinese Emperor Qianlong’s consort by Italian artist Giuseppe Castiglione for over $17 million.

Newer auction houses on the Hong Kong scene will also be joining the fray.

Britain’s Bonhams opened an office in the city last year and will be holding watch, jewellery and Chinese art sales as well as a rare camera auction including a US spy camera disguised as a pack of Lucky Strike cigarettes.

Rare coin and money specialists Stack’s Bowers, based in the US but tapping into an expanding Asia market, will offer “space collectibles” at a sale in Hong Kong.

The auction will include coins and stamps taken on board Shenzhou 1, the first test flight of China’s manned space programme, launched in 1999.

Star Wars themed auction at Sotheby’s

Auction house Sotheby’s has caused a disturbance in the Force with its auction of Stars Wars collectibles on December 11, just ahead of the release of “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” in theaters. The somewhat intriguing auction has very particular bidding instructions, which you can see here.

Called “Return of the NIGO,” (this is indeed a reference to that NIGO, he of A Bathing Ape, for those of you who get the reference) the online auction will feature early, rare and prized collectibles, including more than 600 original action figures, replica Darth Vader helmets, autographed lightsabers, vintage film posters and even a Jabba the Hutt cookie jar. A key highlight is the highly prized Luke Skywalker figurine armed with the double-telescoping lightsaber.

Estimates range from US$100 to US$35,000. The above link also leads to the sale catalog.