Tonight, in a packed sale room, Sotheby’s sale of Contemporary Art achieved €21,623,600 / $28,222,906 / £18,403,043 (pre-sale estimate €15.3 - 21.6 Million/ $20–28.2 / £13-18.3), which represents the second-highest total for a sale in this category at Sotheby’s Paris.
The top lot of the sale, and a record price in France for the artist was Jean-Michel Basquiat's monumental Crown Hotel (Mona Lisa Black Background) from The Collection of the Comtesse Viviane de Witt, which sold for €5,697,500 / $7,436,320 / £4,848,931 (est. €5-7m/$6.6-9.2m). Mounted on a crisscross stretcher, it is a classic work by the artist and cites two icons of western art – Mona Lisa and Olympia.
Three further artist records in France were achieved for works by Willem de Kooning, Jean-Michel Othoniel and Zao Wou-Ki, and the highlight of the works featured in the sale from the Collection of Alex & Elisabeth Lewyt was Nicolas de Staël’s monumental Flowers on a Salmon-Pink Table (1953), which sold for €1,441,500 / $1,881,431/ £1,226,807 (est. €800,000-1,200,000 /$1,050,000-1,570,000. The sale, which closed to a round of applause, was 96.6% sold by lot and 99.8% sold by value, with five works selling for over €1million and a high average lot value of €772,271/ $1,007,960/ £657,251.
The monumental Basquiat canvas Crown Hotel (Mona Lisa Black Background) is among the masterpieces from the private European collection featured in this sale. Combining two icons of Western Art, Mona Lisa and Olympia, this work is a complex and polysemous composition on a spectacular black background. Exhibited at the Bruno Bischofberger Gallery in 1982, the year it was painted, this work is remarkable for its formal density and extraordinary intelligence.
Another exceptional piece from this collection is Five Women, a huge drawing signed by Willem de Kooning. It dates from 1952, the birth year of American Abstract Expressionism, a movement which revolutionized the international Post-war art scene.
A further testament to the collector’s cultivated and audacious taste is the rare set of four Jean Dubuffet works: two paintings from the enigmatic Texturologies period and two sculptures from the playful Hourloupe period.
Completing this extraordinary panorama of Contemporary Art are additional highlights from other private collections. These include another superb work by Jean Dubuffet, Les Riches Fruits de l’Erreur, 1963, Andy Warhol’s Les Muses inquiétantes, 1982 and works by Soulages and Mathieu, as well as Atlan, Matta, Tapiès and Barceló.
The following day on 6 June, a second sale will present a diverse and selective array of artworks, from French Abstraction of the 1950s to works by young Chinese Avant-garde artists.