With hopes for recovery in fine art prices running high, attention is trained on second-tier markets such as Russian collecting for signs of renewal. Sotheby’s conducts the season’s first Russian art sales next week, led by a pair of important collections including one of 86 works by Ukrainian avant-garde artists being sold as a single lot. The auctions come on the heels of strong Asia Week sales at both Sotheby’s and rival Christie’s in New York, and last month’s Hong Kong results, where salesrooms were filled to capacity, estimates were exceeded and records fell.
“This market has been booming for quite some time” and is seeing a renewed confidence, said Sonya Bekkerman, Sotheby’s director of Russian paintings.
The financial crisis that struck in 2008 made collectors “more selective, but they’re buying consistently,” she added. The relatively recent phenomenon of Russian collecting has drawn widespread attention, as oligarchs emboldened with seemingly limitless cash snapped up top works at auction at often astounding prices for established and newer mid-emerging artists.
Bidders gasped in 2006 as an anonymous bidder paid more than $95 million for Picasso’s “Dora Maar with Cat.” The mystery man, unknown to even auction regulars, had not even secured a seat at Sotheby’s and conducted his audacious bidding from the standing area at the rear. Reports, unconfirmed by Sotheby’s, have since focused on a Russian mining magnate as the buyer.
Philip Hoffman, founder and CEO of The Fine Art Fund Group investment house, said that while the Russian market is somewhat unpredictable, “collectors have become more savvy and are doing more research. The wealthy people coming into the market have the confidence now to do it, and they have the money,” he said.
Bekkerman concurred that “there is a level of sophistication that’s very different from when this market began to boom. They’ve caught up.”
Accordingly, Sotheby’s has estimated its two star collections conservatively, with the single-lot Yakov Pereman collection estimated at only $1.5 million to $2 million for all 86 works. The late actress Ruth Ford’s collection of art by Pavel Tchelitchew, who was her brother’s companion, is expected to fetch about $2 million.
Other works by Russian masters including Boris Grigoriev and Natalia Goncharova raise the sales’ total expectations to $11 million to $15 million. An exhibition, including many pieces never seen in the U.S., begins on Saturday ahead of next week’s auctions.
Bekkerman, who just returned from Moscow and Kiev, said the offerings had generated great interest in Russia, the Ukraine, and in the U.S. and among Americans of Russian descent. Taken with the Asian sales results, the Russian auctions could generate heat going into next month’s critical sales in New York.
“This market is a gateway,” Bekkerman said. “The collectors have an interest in their own heritage and artists, then channel into other areas such as modernism and post-impressionism.”
Christie’s, announces the availability of a new mobile application that extends the company’s online experience to a global audience of Apple mobile device users. Beginning July 15, Apple iPhone and iPod Touch users can enjoy optimized mobile access to Christie’s online features, including previews of all sales and lots, real-time sales results, and more. This free application will be made available to the one million plus unique visitors to Christies.com each month via http://www.christies.com/on-the-go/iphone, the company’s Facebook and Twitter audiences, and to visitors of the iTunes App Store.
Michael O’Neal, director of Digital Media at Christie’s comments: “The Christie’s app ensures our existing and potential buyers are always in touch and informed of our latest offerings, no matter where they may be. New advancements in mobile devices now allow for a very rich visual experience perfectly suited to viewing Christie’s broad array of offerings, including fine art, jewels, decorative objects, furniture, and fine and rare wines.
As our global audience grows increasingly reliant on mobile communication devices, Christie’s is leading the way as the first international fine art auction house to launch a mobile access strategy, so that our clients may select the communications medium best suited to their needs at any given moment. The Christie’s app ensures that our clients continue to enjoy the enhanced online services they’ve become accustomed to with Christies.com, as well as take advantage of new custom features that leverage the revolutionary unique features and functions of the iPhone and iPod Touch.”
The Christie’s App was developed in partnership with Kargo, a leading independent mobile media and technology partner that specializes in producing breakthrough entertainment and information applications. With the Christie’s app, buyers and sellers around the world can:
Browse any Christie’s auction, anywhere in the world: Search by Category, Location, or Area of Interest, so you can easily find items of interest while on the road, or with a client.
As the first step in Christie’s broader mobile access strategy, the new app is an example of the company’s continuing commitment to leveraging best-in-class digital technologies to enrich the client experience. In addition to its mobile offering, Christie’s remains the only international fine art auction house to offer online bidding capability via Christie’s LIVE™, a real-time multi-media bidding application. In 2008, Christie’s LIVE™ generated $82 million in online sales and direct underbidding. Online sale registrations per sale grew 138% in 2008 and the percent share of all lots sold through remote bidding channels grew 33%.
“Christie’s International will announce a ‘reorganization’ in January, the auction house said yesterday in an e-mailed statement, as the financial crisis continued to dampen demand for art.”
One of only two oil portraits of Francis Bacon (1909-1992) ever painted by Lucian Freud (b. 1922) sold at Christie’s auction of Post-War and Contemporary Art for £5,417,250 / $9,404,346 / €6,972,001. The last known remaining oil portrait (the other was stolen from an exhibition in Berlin in 1988), the rarely-seen painting offers a tangible and intimate glimpse into the inspirational friendship of two of the greatest British artists of the 20th century.
Christie’s announced the sale of the Francis Bacon’s Study for Self Portrait, 1964, (estimate on request) in the New York Post-War and Contemporary Art Evening Sale on 12 November 2008. A rare example of a full length self-portrait, this work is truly a consummate representation of the artist’s complex character, as well as a tour-de-force of his indelibly original style of painting.
According to Christie’s International Co-Head of Post-War and Contemporary Art, Brett Gorvy, “This crucial work by Francis Bacon is bound to attract international interest in the November Evening Sale. Study for Self-Portrait, is a rare and outstanding apogee in Bacon’s creative output.”
Study for Self Portrait is triumph of Bacon’s unapologetic metamorphosing of the human form. Grasping his hands while sitting on a bed, the subject is twisted from head to toe. The work affords the viewer a visceral awareness of the subjectivity within the artist, managing to achieve a sentiment that is both sensual and unsettling, lushly painted but underscored with a sense of violence. Study for Self-Portrait draws upon Rembrandt’s renowned self-portraits in its introspective depiction of Bacon’s inner struggle. Bacon depicts himself with a distorted twisting face so as to illustrate the complex matrix of perspectives that lie within, achieving a haunting effect that not only presents his physical person, but in fact reveals every pulsation existing within his being.
Bacon executed the present work in one of the most significant years of his career and life, experiencing the enormous satisfaction of critical acclamation in both a catalogue raisonné and a monograph by John Russell, and the unbearable anguish of the death of his lover, Peter Lacy. However, it was in this wake of professional success and personal tragedy that Bacon transitioned from a maverick to a master, a triumph which is evident within Study for Self-Portrait.
Today, Bacon’s self portraits are widely regarded as one of his most important bodies of work, and unquestionably part of the canon of great self-portraits in the history of art. This assessment became apparent last spring based on the tremendous demand for such works at Christie’s Post-War and Contemporary Art Evening Sales when the intimate-scaled works Three Studies for Self-Portrait, 1976 realized $28,041,000/£14,380,000/€18,090,968 in New York, and Three Studies for Self-Portrait, 1975 led the June sale in London with £17,289,250/$34,457,475/€21,767,166.
Christie’s announced that they will offer two masterpiece views of Venice by Canaletto at the auction of Important Old Master and British Pictures on 2 December 2008 in London. Believed to have been commissioned in 1738 through the artist’s agent Consul Smith, whose own collection of the artist’s works was sold to King George III, the paintings have since passed by family descent and are offered for sale for the first time. The pictures will be on public exhibition at Christie’s London from 29 November to 2 December, and are expected to realise a combined total in excess of £7 million.
Christie’s announces that they will offer one of only two oil portraits of Francis Bacon (1909-1992) ever painted by Lucian Freud (b. 1922) at the Post-War and Contemporary Art Evening Sale on 19 October 2008 in London. The last known remaining oil portrait (the other was stolen from an exhibition in Berlin in 1988), the rarely-seen painting offers a tangible and intimate glimpse into the inspirational friendship of two of the greatest British artists of the 20th century.
It will be exhibited to the public for the first time in London from 15 to 19 October at Christie’s South Kensington, and is expected to realize £5 million to £7 million. At Christie’s New York in May 2008, Lucian Freud’s Benefit Supervisor Sleeping sold for $33 million / £17.3 million, a world record price for a work by a living artist sold at auction.
Pilar Ordovas, Head of Post-War and Contemporary Art, Christie’s London: “Lucian Freud and Francis Bacon are widely considered to be the most important British artists of the 20th century, and the international appreciation for their work has grown significantly over the last few years. We are thrilled to present to the international art market a rarely seen, intimate portrait which pays tribute to an inspirational friendship, and a key moment in the development of Freud’s career. This incredibly rare painting is one of the highlights of a week in which the international art world will turn their attention to London, and in which we will offer an exciting selection of Post-War and Contemporary art at Christie’s.”
Lucian Freud first met Francis Bacon in 1945 having been introduced by Graham Sutherland, a mutual friend and contemporary artist, who invited the pair to his house for the weekend. The pair formed a close friendship and saw much of each other during the following years. Although their friendship was built on a mutual respect, Bacon had a great influence on the younger Freud and is often credited with liberating his style and fuelling his desire to depict human life. In the early 1950s, the artists compounded their friendship by sitting for each other; Bacon’s first portrait of Freud was painted in 1951, and many other examples were to follow.
In contrast to his quite frequent appearances in Bacon’s portraits, Freud painted Bacon only twice; first in 1952 and again in 1956-57, which is the portrait to be offered at Christie’s in October. The earlier portrait was lent from the collection of the Tate to a Retrospective on the artist at the Neue Nationalgalerie in Berlin in 1988 where it was stolen. In 2001, in preparation for the artist’s great Retrospective at Tate Britain, and echoing the great respect he held for Bacon, Freud designed a wanted poster which was placed around Berlin in the hope that the painting would be recovered in time for the exhibition. Its whereabouts remain unknown, and Freud has never allowed the image to be reproduced in color.
The present work was painted in 1956-57 and, as with the earlier portrait of 1952, shows Bacon with a downward gaze. Bacon sat knee-to-knee with Freud while he worked on the portraits, and during the three months of sittings for the first work, he is said to have ‘grumbled but sat consistently’. The present work is unfinished, offering a fascinating snapshot into the working methods of the artist at a critical point of his artistic development; Freud had begun to work in a more expansive way using thicker brushstrokes, liberating the paint and creating a more worked complexion, more seasoned and full of life. It is thought that Bacon left suddenly, most likely in order to pursue his lover Peter Lacy in Tangiers.
The portrait was acquired by the present owner from a London gallery in 1972 and has remained in their possession ever since. It has rarely been seen in public, having made rare appearances at Wolfsburg and Tolouse in 2002-03, and in Venice in 2005.
Christie’s will present a series of exhibitions and auctions dedicated to Post-War and Contemporary art and 20th century Italian art from 15 to 21 October 2008, during a week when the international art world will gather in London for a showcase of contemporary art exhibitions and events including The Frieze Art Fair.
Christie’s New York leads its fall season with the eighth edition of First Open on September 9, which includes over 230 lots of Post-War & Contemporary Art and is expected to realize in excess of $6-8 million. First Open displays another stunning array of works for this highly anticipated and successful sale. Highlights of the sale include an exciting assortment of paintings, sculpture, drawings and photographs from both well-known and emerging artists.
With estimates ranging from $1,500 to $500,000, First Open is an exceptional opportunity to acquire works at a variety of price points, whether you are building an existing collection or starting anew. This season, emerging artists Rafal Bujnowski, Ernesto Caivano and James Siena will appear along established names such as Roy Lichtenstein, Alexander Calder, Anslem Kiefer, Jeff Koons, Robert Motherwell, Elizabeth Peyton, Richard Prince, Thomas Ruff, Richard Serra, Cindy Sherman, James Turrell, Tom Wesselmann, and Andy Warhol.
The sale also features a large scale composition by American artist, David Salle. Salle’s Nouns (estimate: $200,000-300,000) of 2003, is made up of twenty-four carefully created elements, appearing to be a multi-faceted collage. The thoughtful juxtaposition of scenes makes up a collective work of vibrant colors and mixed subject matter. Each element is supremely crafted and has the ability to function alone, but together, the scenes create a dynamic dialogue of images and color.
Among the array of highlights is a rare photograph from celebrated contemporary artist Cindy Sherman. Her internationally exhibited Untitled Film Still #13 (estimate: $300,000-500,000) of 1978, is a singular edition of her renowned sixty-nine part series. Sherman began the series in 1977, when she was twenty-three, creating an elaborate universe of different roles played by the contemporary woman. The Stills appear to function like actual film stills – luring the viewer into what appears to be a moment captured in a narrative drama. However, the scene becomes all the more compelling when the viewer realizes that it is not a film still, but a single staged moment.
Another highlight is Substrat 7III (estimate: $50,000-70,000), a vibrant and abstract creation by the cutting-edge artist, Thomas Ruff, executed in 2002. The Japanese artist Yayoi Kusama is also represented with several important works. In A Signpost to 21st Century (estimate$40,000-60,000), executed in 1988, the intricate geometric patterns appear to move across the canvas, creating a dynamic interplay of shapes and color.
Elizabeth Peyton, famous for her iconic portraits of friends, celebrities and musicians, will be represented by Jarvis (estimate: $30,000-40,000), executed in 1996, of musician Jarvis Cocker. Richard Prince will also be featured by his cast orange urethane Flip Flops (estimate: $25,000-$30,000), executed in 1998. In addition, the sale will also feature several lots by Jeff Koons, including his stainless-steel Donkey (estimate: $25,000-$35,000), executed in 1997 as well as his Inflatable Flower Sculpture (Green) (estimate: $40,000-60,000) of 2001.