Blue-chip offerings at NYC fall art auctions

Staff Writer
Columbus Monthly

NEW YORK (AP) — The fall art auctions are about to sizzle.

Coveted paintings by Andy Warhol and Edouard Manet — never before offered at auction — and works from single-owner collections with boldface names like Mellon and Bacall are expected to fire up bidding at the sales of impressionist, contemporary and modern art beginning Tuesday.

"The fall auctions represent a rare opportunity for contemporary collectors to add not only quality but also pedigree to their collections," said Sarah Lichtman, director of The New School's master's degree program in the history of decorative arts and design.

The exceptional quality of the works could mean a record-setting autumn, said Pat Berman, professor of art at Wellesley College.

"The heights reached by Edvard Munch's "The Scream" or Francis Bacon's "Three Studies of Lucien Freud" — once beyond comprehension — are certainly attainable, and potentially eclipsed by these rare art trophies," she said.

"The Scream" sold for nearly $120 million in 2012, only to be surpassed a year later by the Bacon which set a record for the most expensive artwork ever sold at auction when it fetched $142.4 million.

Building on the anticipated excitement among art aficionados, Christie's this week took out an 8-page wrap-around ad in The New York Times — at an estimated cost of $200,000 — highlighting its blockbuster offerings.

The auctions get off to a flying start with Vincent van Gogh's "Still Life, Vase With Daisies and Poppies" at Sotheby's. One of the few works sold during his lifetime and painted in 1890 weeks before the Dutch post-impressionist artist's death, the painting is estimated to bring $30 million to $50 million.

Acquired in 1928 by A. Conger Goodyear, one of the founders of the Museum of Modern Art, it remained in the family for decades before being purchased by the current owner around 1990. It was on permanent exhibition at the Albright-Knox Art Gallery in Buffalo for 30 years.

Tuesday's sale also features Alberto Giacometti's "Chariot," a sculpture of an elongated figure atop a wheeled chariot that Sotheby's estimates could bring more than $100 million, possibly besting the auction record for a Giacometti of $104.3 million.

Works that belonged to Hollywood legends also are on tap.

Bonhams is selling two Henry Moore sculptures that once graced Lauren Bacall's home on Tuesday. The bulk of her 700-item collection will be sold in March.

The following day, a celebrated Manet portrait of a Parisian actress is among the highlights at Christie's. "Spring" could fetch up to $35 million. First presented at the 1882 Paris Salon, it's been in the same American collection for over a century and on loan at the National Gallery of Art for the last two decades. Manet painted actress Jeanne Demarsy in a floral dress and bonnet in 1881 as an allegory of spring.

Christie's is featuring property of Academy Award-winning actress Joan Fontaine, including a 1935 painting by Marc Chagall, "Vase of Flowers in the Window," which could fetch up to $600,000 on Thursday. Other items from the estate are to be sold in December and January.

Single-owner collections, always a big draw, are at Sotheby's too.

On Nov. 10, it's featuring two Mark Rothko works from the estate of Rachel "Bunny" Mellon, the widow of philanthropist Paul Mellon and heir to the Listerine fortune. Of the two, "Untitled (Yellow, Orange, Yellow, Light Orange)," created in 1955, has the higher pre-sale estimate of up to $30 million. The rest of the collection is being offered Nov. 20-23.

Another Rothko comes under the gavel at Sotheby's the next day. "No. 21 (Red, Brown, Black and Orange)," purchased by art benefactors Pierre and Sao Schlumberger directly from Rothko's estate, could bring over $50 million.

Lichtman called the Mellon and Schlumberger collections "among the greatest amassed in the 20th century."

Christie's rounds out the sales on Nov. 12 with two Andy Warhol works never before seen at auction and among the pop artist's most famous portraits of Elvis Presley and Marlon Brando. Each nearly 7 feet high, "Triple Elvis (Ferus Type)" and "Four Marlons" were acquired by German casino company WestSpiel in the 1970s. Potential bidders can expect to pay around $60 million for each.