Sotheby’s and Christie’s Spring Auction Fever

Spring is here! And with that comes the spring auctions: adrenaline-driven days filled with art where massive amounts of money are exchanged at the wink of an eye, the nod of a head, the snap of a finger. On May 2nd Sotheby’s and Christie’s Contemporary, and Impressionist and Modern art auctions will take place in New York City. The fact that one-of-a-kind works have resurfaced is what sets this 2012’s spring auctions apart from the rest. It may be purely coincidental but it can’t be denied that the current wave of new rich collectors from Russia, Asia and the Middle East that are spending hundreds of millions on artworks, isn’t a major attraction for the consigners. “There are two markets, the regular market for the average collector and the super-market for global icons”, says auctioneer, Tobias Mayer. As a result, works with very high estimates such as Picasso’s portrait of his muse, Dora Maar, a dreamy Gerhard Richter, a Card Player watercolor by Cezanne, a red and orange Rothko and of course, Edvard Munch’s The Scream pastel are hitting the auction block two days from now. The majority of these works and a few others haven’t been up for auction in decades. According to the head of Christie’s Contemporary Art department, Brett Gorvy, these high-end collectors’ “tastes are conservative but they want quality, technical virtuosity, beauty and color.” Nothing is ever certain at auction, but the rarity of the works will no doubt inspire bidders.

Highlights of the auctions:

Dali, “Printemps Necrophilique”. Sotheby’s.

Salvador Dali’s Printemps Nécrophilique (1936), estimated at $8 million to $12 million, will be auctioned at Sotheby’s. The escalating interest in surrealism is a major factor in the appeal of this work. Simon Shaw, the head of the Impressionist and Modern art department at Sotheby’s says that “the roots of more recent art can be found in some of these Surrealist paintings, so it crosses over successfully, appealing to contemporary collectors too.”

Gerhard Richter, “Abstraktes Bild (798-3)”. Christie’s.

Gerhard Richter’s Abstraktes Bild (798-3) (1993), estimated at $14 million to $18 million, is a work that needs to be appreciated in person as its size (almost eight square ft.) and the visible layering of colors is impressive. Richter’s prices have been steadily rising and now soaring possibly due to his “highly praised” retrospective at London’s Tate Modern. Abstraktes Bild (798-3) will be auctioned at Christie’s on May 8th.

Picasso’s portrait of his muse, Dora Maar. Sotheby’s.

Picasso’s Femme Assise Dans un Fauteuil (1941), estimated at $20 million to $30 million, comes from the estate of the late financier, Theodore J. Forstmann, who had acquired the painting from Acquavella Galleries in New York in 2001. This work depicting Dora Maar, Picasso’s lover and muse, was painted the same year as the Dora Maar With Cat, a far more renown work sold at auction in 2006 for $95.2 million.

Cezanne’s “Card Player” watercolor. Christie’s.

Cezanne’s Card Player watercolor (1890-1896), estimated at $15 million to $20 million, is a work that was thought to be lost as scholars had seen black and white photographs of it but no one knew who owned it or where it was. Considered a historical landmark because of the artist’s reference to 17th century Dutch genre paintings, the watercolor depicts Paulin Paulet, a gardener that worked in Cezanne’s family estate close to Aix-en-Provence.

Francis Bacon, “Figure Writing Reflected in Mirror”. Sotheby’s.

Francis Bacon’s Figure Writing Reflected in the Mirror (1976), estimated at $30 million to $40 million, is a work that is creating a big stir amongst bidders as it depicts George Dyer, the man thought to be Bacon’s lover who committed suicide in 1971. Besides this, it was the cover of the catalogue of one of Bacon’s most successful exhibitions in Galerie Claude Bernarde in Paris in 1977. The painting hasn’t been up for sale in 35 years and quality work by Bacon for sale is extremely rare.

Warhol’s “Double Elvis”. Sotheby’s.

Andy Warhol’s Double Elvis, estimated at $30 million to $50 million, will fetch most probably fetch a considerable sum because of the artist and the fact that it was produced during what it considered Warhol’s best years (the sixties).

Mark Rothko, “Orange, Red, Yellow”. Christie’s. Estimated at $35 million to $45 million.

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