T he New York Sales are always a major event on the global art scene, and this fall season’s auctions are no exception. Across seven auctions, Sotheby’s presents an incredible array of artworks from the last two centuries, led by an unparalleled collection assembled by Emily Fisher Landau Collection, one of the greatest patrons and art collectors of our time. Now on public view through 15 November, the auctions features works by Pablo Picasso, Jean-Michel Basquiat, Marc Chagall, Philip Guston, Kerry James Marshall, Leonora Carrington and many more.
Plus, on 13 November, RM Sotheby’s will auction a legendary 1962 Ferrari 250 GTO raced by the Scuderia Ferrari – bringing the week’s auction total to eight.
Read on for a look at 24 highlights from the hundreds of works coming to auction.
With over 100 works on offer across two auctions, The Emily Fisher Landau Collection was assembled by one of the most influential art collectors of our time.
Emily Fisher Landau was, simply put, one of the greatest collectors and patrons of the 20th century. Her legacy is set apart for her deep and longstanding involvement with leading institutions, in particular the Whitney Museum of American Art, as well as her profound engagement with the art and artists of her time and her unerring instinct as a collector at the highest level. Fisher Landau assembled one of the greatest collections of modern and contemporary art – over 100 works of which will be offered for sale during an evening auction on 8 November and a daytime auction on 9 November.
Over the 20 days leading up to the sale, we’re sharing 20 of the most influential works of art from her collection. Follow along with our series The Emily Fisher Landau Collection: Twentieth Century Art in Twenty Unforgettable Works.
- #20 | Jasper Johns’ ‘Flags’
- #19 | Glenn Ligon’s ‘Untitled (I Lost My Voice I Found My Voice)’
- #18 | Georgia O’Keeffe’s ‘Pink Tulip (Abstraction – #77 Tulip)’
- #17 | Piet Mondrian’s ‘Composition (unfinished)’
- #16 | Ed Ruscha’s ‘Securing the Last Letter (Boss)’
- #15 | Mark Tansey’s ‘Installing the Lens’
- #14 | Pablo Picasso’s ‘Femme à la montre’
- #13 | Jean Arp’s ‘Torse végétal’
- #12 | Alexander Calder’s ‘Red Comber’
- #11 | Jean Dubuffet’s ‘Gambade à la rose’
- #10 | Andy Warhol’s ‘Self-Portrait’
- #9 | Robert Rauschenberg’s ‘Sundog’
- #8 | Agnes Martin’s ‘Grey Stone II’
- #7 | Josef Albers’ ‘Homage to the Square: Yellow Resonance’
- #6 | Willem de Kooning’s ‘Untitled XV’
- #5 | Mark Rothko’s ‘Untitled’
- #4 | Mark Tansey’s ‘Triumph Over Mastery II’
- #3 | Ed Ruscha’s ‘Plenty Big Hotel Room (Painting for the American Indian)’
- #2 | Cy Twombly’s ‘Untitled’
- #1 | Andy Warhol’s ‘Emily Fisher Landau’
Jasper Johns’ ‘Flags’Jasper Johns’ Flags is a landmark work in the artist’s brilliant investigations of familiar images. In Flags, Johns seeks to unravel deeper, hidden meaning within American iconography, reshaping the way that people view art in the process. Johns’ signature brand of reinvention raises challenging new questions about American culture and our own perceptions of it. This now iconic image, is one of many masterpieces being offered from the Emily Fisher Landau's Collection on 8 November 2023.
Glenn Ligon’s ‘Untitled (I Lost My Voice I Found My Voice)’Densely layered and nearly illegible, an untitled work from Glenn Ligon’s Door Paintings explores the complexities of racial visibility and stands as a fervent monument to the Black American experience.
Georgia O’Keeffe’s ‘Pink Tulip (Abstraction – #77 Tulip)’From 1918 to 1932, O’Keeffe executed more than 200 floral subjects, captivated by the visual potential and beauty of natural forms. As she essentializes, crops and enlarges the blossom in Pink Tulip (Abstraction – #77 Tulip) from 1925, O’Keeffe leaves the realm of pure objectivity and instead presents its essence, compelling her viewer to experience the natural world in a new and more profound way.
Piet Mondrian’s ‘Composition (unfinished)’Completed during a brief respite in London, an unfinished work from Mondrian’s Composition series reveals the nascent energy that’s later realized in his greatest New York paintings.
Ed Ruscha’s ‘Securing the Last Letter (Boss)’Merging Pop Art, Conceptualism and a distinct West Coast sensibility with an elemental graphic force, Ruscha’s Text paintings of the 1960s transformed ordinary language into arresting visual statements that launched the artist into the innovative forefront of American contemporary art.
Mark Tansey’s ‘Installing the Lens’Depicting workers deep in a cave cast in cerulean blue, Tansey’s painting investigates ancient philosophies of sight after the Pictures Generation cast doubt on representing reality.
Pablo Picasso’s ‘Femme à la montre’Executed in 1932 at the pinnacle of Picasso’s impassioned affair, Femme à la montre exists as one of the most resolved and complex depictions from this highly charged year. In this video Sotheby’s Vice Chairman of Global Fine Arts, Simon Shaw, walks through the painting’s beautiful vibrant pigments, Picasso’s history and more.
Jean Arp’s ‘Torse végétal’Precious, primordial and otherworldly, Arp’s mature bronzes evoke an enigmatic, organic force pulsing at the center of all matter.
Alexander Calder’s ‘Red Comber’In Red Comber, Alexander Calder balances a brass arc precisely on the tip of a triangular scarlet base, with one end tightly coiled into itself and the other supporting a network of seven circular disks. It’s this elegant equilibrium between weight and counterweight that mark Calder’s most exploratory, daring stabiles and mobiles.
Jean Dubuffet’s ‘Gambade à la rose’A seminal work of Art Brut, Dubuffet’s Gambade à la rose challenges idealized standards of feminine beauty.
Andy Warhol’s ‘Self-Portrait’One of the final self-portraits that Andy Warhol would create before his untimely death the following year, the work endures as his last grand artistic gesture and embodies the artist’s ultimate meditation on mortality, identity, and image: Warhol, who dedicated his career to exploring the construction of identity and the power of media, now turns to face his own mortality.
Robert Rauschenberg’s ‘Sundog’Incorporating newsmedia, advertisements and gestural painting, Rauschenberg’s Sundog speaks to humankind’s plight and the awesome power of the space age.
Agnes Martin’s ‘Grey Stone II’An exceptionally rare and exquisitely rendered example from Agnes Martin’s early career, Grey Stone II elegantly encapsulates the sublime expressiveness within minimal means that has come to define the artist’s unique brand of mark-making.
Josef Albers’ ‘Homage to the Square: Yellow Resonance’A superlative example from Albers’ most significant body of work, ‘Homage to the Square: Yellow Resonance’ was one of the earliest works to enter Emily Fisher Landau’s inimitable collection.
Willem de Kooning’s ‘Untitled XV’In 1981, Willem de Kooning began working on hauntingly poetic abstractions that consumed his practice for the remainder of his life, and nowhere is his genius as a colorist and draftsman more apparent.
Mark Rothko’s ‘Untitled’An untitled work from Rothko’s “Seagram Murals” series exemplifies the spiritual, even divine, quality that is a hallmark of his mature paintings.
Mark Tansey’s ‘Triumph Over Mastery II’In this captivating painting, Mark Tansey emerges as a larger-than-life figure, engulfing viewers and imparting a sense of smallness. His masterful balance between honoring art history and challenging tradition is striking. The artwork portrays Tansey confronting Michelangelo’s Last Judgment, representing the contemporary painter’s struggle to respect the past while forging new paths.
Ed Ruscha’s ‘Plenty Big Hotel Room (Painting for the American Indian)’Subtitled “Painting for the American Indian,” Ruscha’s depiction of a US flag untethered from a flag pole and surrounded by black censor strips comments on the dispossession of Indigenous people.
Cy Twombly’s ‘Untitled’At once gracefully executed and dramatically scaled, Cy Twombly’s Untitled is a captivating exemplar of the artist’s renowned Blackboard paintings. Executed in 1968, the present work is amongst the most gesturally expressive invocations of the urgent, interrogatory mark-marking which distinguishes the very best examples of this celebrated series.
Andy Warhol’s ‘Emily Fisher Landau’The collector’s daughter Candia Fisher and Sotheby’s Chairman Lisa Dennison speak about Warhol’s depictions of the legendary patron, which bridge the artist’s commissioned portraits and his preoccupation with art-world celebrities.
On Monday 13 November, a full week of auctions begins with The Modern Evening Auction, which captures innovative pursuits of artists across the late 19th and early 20th centuries from Impressionism through Abstract Expressionism.
Sotheby's Presents: Modern Evening Auction
Marc Chagall, ‘Au-dessus de la ville’
Made in 1924, Marc Chagall’s masterpiece Au-dessus de la ville captures the enchanting blend of wonder, romance and nostalgia that defines his art. Inspired by his love, Bella Rosenfeld, it celebrates their enduring marriage and Chagall’s identity in a time of upheaval. The painting depicts the couple floating above their hometown of Vitebsk, a motif that first emerged during their early years together. This version, painted in Paris, reflects Chagall’s evolving style and newfound optimism after returning to France. Chagall’s work remains a testament to the enduring magic of art amid changing times.
Pablo Picasso, ‘La Glace’
La Glace, a masterpiece of analytical Cubism created by Pablo Picasso in 1912, epitomizes the revolutionary style that transformed art. Picasso and Georges Braque, pioneers of Cubism, explored objects from all angles to capture their essence, as seen in this still life. La Glace’s provenance includes Czech art historian Vincenc Kramář, a key early supporter of Cubism, who acquired it from dealer Daniel-Henri Kahnweiler; and it is offered now to benefit the beloved Scharf-Gerstenberg Foundation in Berlin. This painting is a testament to the groundbreaking art that challenged traditional perspectives and paved the way for modernism.
Philip Guston, ‘The Bell’
Expert Voices: Philip Guston’s The Bell
The Bell, a 1952 masterpiece by Philip Guston, signifies the artist’s pivotal transition to Abstract Expressionism. Bursting with vibrant colors and rich textures, it exemplifies Guston’s profound artistic innovation and is part of a rare collection of square-shaped paintings. This significant work has a storied exhibition history, including a highlight at the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum in 1962. Guston’s dense brushstrokes, a hallmark of this period, create a dynamic and transient composition. This painting captures the essence of Guston’s unique aesthetic, showcasing the dynamism and evolution of his art, from abstraction to figuration, making him a seminal figure in American contemporary art.
Alberto Giacometti, ‘Femme de Venise VIII’
Alberto Giacometti's Femme de Venise VIII
Number eight in Alberto Giacometti’s iconic Femmes de Venise series, this bronze sculpture from 1956 stands as a testament to the artist’s unique vision. These tall, slender figures, though lithe, exude commanding presence and modernity. Giacometti’s approach emphasized personal perception over realism, contributing to the evolution of modern art. This sculpture, one of seven in its edition, is celebrated for its grace and silent majesty.
Pablo Picasso, ‘Compotier et guitare’
Expert Voices: Picasso's Compotier et Guitare
Created in 1932, Compotier et guitare is a masterpiece from a pivotal year in Pablo Picasso’s career. The painting, featuring a bowl of fruit and a guitar, takes the veiled form of one of the artist’s most significant muses, Marie-Thérèse Walter. This period marked a resurgence of creative energy for Picasso, with works like this one showcasing his response to artistic rivals like Henri Matisse as well as his all-consuming love for Marie-Thérèse. The painting exemplifies his artistic genius during this period and stands as a testament to the profound influence of Picasso’s muse, its curves and undulations reiterating those of his reclining nudes of Marie-Thérèse. With its rich history including time spent in dealer Paul Rosenberg’s and critic Douglas Cooper’s collections, this painting is a remarkable representation of the modern era and Picasso’s enduring legacy.
Claude Monet, ‘Le Moulin de Limetz’
Painted in 1888, Claude Monet’s Le Moulin de Limetz is a remarkable example of Impressionist artistry. Depicting the grain mill at Limetz, this work focuses on the reflection of the mill on the water’s surface, captured through a curtain of willow leaves. The painting is a vibrant tapestry of jewel-toned greens, purples and pinks, illuminated by radiant light and bursts of red. Monet’s skillful use of color and texture in this piece is a precursor to his iconic Nymphéas series. Originally exhibited in 1889, it was later acquired by Bertha and Potter Palmer, who are among the greatest collectors and patrons of Impressionist painters in the early 20th century. The painting’s unbroken provenance adds to its significance in the art world. Now, this masterpiece comes to auction for the first time.
Consisting of over 350 lots, The Modern Day Auction on 14 November is a tour de force of the greatest names in modern art, featuring property from several esteemed private collections.
Sotheby's Presents: Modern Day Auction
Théo van Rysselberghe, ‘Jeune femme au bord de la grève’
Jeune femme au bord de la grève epitomizes Théo Van Rysselberghe’s unique blend of Post-Impressionism. Inspired by Seurat and Signac’s Pointillism and Whistler's portraiture, Van Rysselberghe transitioned to a more naturalistic style in 1901. This portrait of a young woman by the seashore captures harmonious pastel hues and an enigmatic charm, subverting conventional distinctions between figure and landscape. Van Rysselberghe’s masterful brushwork and palette illustrate the depth of his subjects’ characters.
Marc Chagall, ‘La Fête au cirque’
Marc Chagall’s lifelong fascination with the circus shines through in La Fête au cirque, painted in 1983. The canvas bursts with color and motion, capturing the joyous spirit. Chagall’s deep connection to the circus, which he saw as a mirror of life’s comedy and tragedy, is evident in the trapeze artists, clowns and musicians who populate the stage. The work radiates warmth and joie de vivre, with a bouquet of flowers symbolizing Chagall’s love for his first and second wives, Bella and Vava. Chagall’s unique blend of tenderness and burlesque in his circus-themed art reflects the purity flowing from his heart, creating a vivid celebration of life.
Andrew Wyeth, ‘Winter Corn Fields’
Winter Corn Fields by Andrew Wyeth speaks to the artist’s complex relationship with war and its imagery. Wyeth’s childhood was steeped in the visual culture of the First World War, and he held a deep fascination for soldiers. He yearned to enlist but couldn’t due to a pelvic deformity, and so he redirected his path towards art. This painting, executed in tempera, reflects the artist’s meticulous and introspective approach. It draws parallels to Albrecht Dürer’s work and also incorporates personal and universal associations, capturing the ephemerality of the natural world through a deliberate, time-consuming process.
Leonora Carrington, ‘Arca de Noé’
Leonora Carrington’s Arca de Noé unveils a captivating realm where hybrid creatures and luminous deities engage in mysterious rituals. After her migration to Mexico post-World War II, Carrington embraced the country’s magical Catholic traditions, influenced by Aztec, Mayan and Western elements. Painted in 1957, Arca de Noé showcases Carrington’s technical prowess and imaginative talent, with ethereal colors swirling around an anthropomorphized ark. A reinterpretation of Noah’s Ark, the piece fuses Celtic, Catholic and American mythologies with themes of women’s empowerment.
The marquee week continues on 15 November with The Contemporary Evening Auction, a showcase of post-war abstraction, Color Field Painting, Minimalism, Pop Art and more.
Sotheby's Presents: Contemporary Evening Auction
Lucio Fontana, ‘Concetto spaziale, La fine di Dio’
Lucio Fontana's Concetto spaziale, La fine di Dio
Concetto spaziale, La fine di Dio by Lucio Fontana embodies the pinnacle of the artist’s revolutionary spatialist practice. In the context of the Space Age, Fontana’s groundbreaking series disrupted traditional notions of art. With its punctured canvas, this work transcends the boundaries of painting and sculpture, exploring themes of infinity, emptiness and the cosmos. The series symbolizes Fontana’s departure from earthly constraints and traditional artistic ideals. The punctures, both visceral and ethereal, evoke cosmic silence, making Concetto spaziale, La fine di Dio a profound reflection on humanity’s place in the universe.
Jean-Michel Basquiat, ‘Self-Portrait as a Heel (Part Two)’
Jean-Michel Basquiats’ Self Portrait As A Heel (Part Two)
In the monumental work Self-Portrait as a Heel (Part Two), Jean-Michel Basquiat’s artistic prowess shines brightly. Painted in 1982 during a pivotal visit to Los Angeles, the artwork reveals his profound exploration of selfhood at the height of his career. Basquiat’s stylized silhouette, featuring his distinctive dreadlocked crown, emerges from a lush emerald field, casting a shadowy, enigmatic presence. The term ‘heel’ carries multiple meanings, alluding to aspects of his persona and behavior. Basquiat’s intense brushwork evokes the fervor of Abstract Expressionism, infusing life into his distinctive image. Through this artwork, Basquiat challenges the complexities of his identity as a Black artist and establishes himself as an iconic figure in contemporary art.
Gerhard Richter, ‘Abstraktes Bild’
Excavating the Sublime in Gerhard Richter's Abstraktes Bild
This Abstraktes Bild from 1997 stands as a pinnacle of Gerhard Richter’s iconic series, a testament to his mastery of abstraction. Towering at nearly eleven feet in both directions, this monumental square painting showcases Richter’s innovative technique and remarkable command of color. Using his signature squeegee tool, Richter creates a mesmerizing surface, a dynamic interplay of scarlet, burgundy, blue, green and alabaster pigments. The painting is part of a limited cycle and one of three sister works, with the other two held in prestigious museum collections.
Joan Mitchell, ‘Sunflowers’
Sunflowers, painted in 1990-91, is a masterful testament to Joan Mitchell’s unique artistic vision. This diptych showcases her exceptional command of color and a fusion of artistic influences, from American Abstract Expressionism to the French Impressionists. Sunflowers exemplifies Mitchell’s late period with its vibrant, dynamic brushwork and rich palette. This significant work, featured in several of Mitchell’s major exhibitions – including the recent retrospective at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art – holds a special place in the collection of dealer John Cheim, a close friend and supporter of Mitchell. The painting is not only a masterpiece but also reflects a deep personal and professional relationship.
Richard Diebenkorn, ‘Ocean Park #56’
Ocean Park #56, a luminous creation from Richard Diebenkorn’s iconic Ocean Park series in 1972, showcases the artist’s mastery of color and composition. This exceptional work, coming from the prestigious Sanford & Late Jeanne Robertson Collection, captures a transitional moment in the series, marked by a more delicate touch, subtle coloration and elegant forms. Diebenkorn’s exploration of light, color and geometry is a testament to the enduring power of painting and solidifies his status as a pioneer in American abstract art. The Ocean Park series has found its place in museums and private collections worldwide, and Ocean Park #56 stands as an exemplary masterpiece from Diebenkorn’s illustrious career.
16 November features over 300 works of contemporary art in The Contemporary Day Auction, including several magnificent works from the collection of dealer John Cheim.
Sotheby's Presents: Contemporary Day Auction
Andy Warhol, ‘Head (After Picasso)’
An exceptional moment in Andy Warhol’s later career, Head (After Picasso) from 1985 signifies a profound shift in his artistic approach. Departing from his typical method of screenprinting, Warhol boldly reinterprets Picasso’s Tête from 1960 with vibrant, gestural strokes. This unique fusion of Warhol and Picasso challenges traditional portraiture, emphasizing the transformation from the original. It stands as a testament to Warhol’s unceasing quest for innovation and legacy.
Joan Mitchell, ‘Untitled’
Coming from the collection of John Cheim, Joan Mitchell’s Untitled from 1960 epitomizes the artist’s unique Abstract Expressionist style. In this pivotal period of her career, Mitchell’s vibrant use of color and masterful abstraction reached its apex following her move to France the year prior. Vibrant reds and blues contrast earthy greens, resulting in a harmonious yet impassioned embodiment of Mitchell’s deep expressive capabilities. The painting’s rich history includes being held in the artist’s collection, then passing to her estate before being acquired by Cheim, her longtime gallerist.
Jean-Michel Basquiat, ‘Untitled (Bad Tooth and Ivory)’
Made at the zenith of his career, Jean-Michel Basquiat’s Untitled (Bad Tooth and Ivory) showcases his unique blend of symbols, words and figures. This work delves into the artist’s distinctive creative mind, featuring some of his iconic motifs: the skull, eggs, anatomy and textual elements. The composition showcases ‘close-ups’ like images from an anatomy textbook, each labeled with text that adds layers of meaning. This monochrome masterpiece, rich in narrative urgency, exemplifies Basquiat’s enduring artistic brilliance.
Yayoi Kusama, ‘Dots Obsession’
Yayoi Kusama’s Dots Obsession, created in 2004, encapsulates her lifelong fascination with polka dots. A mesmerizing play of white and gray dots covers the canvas in varying sizes and tones, creating an illusion that immerses the viewer. Kusama’s obsession with dots, a recurring theme in her art, stems from her childhood hallucinations. These visions, filled with patterns and dots, have driven her art since a young age. In fact, dots are one of the earliest motifs explored by Kusama representing a strong counterpoint to her Infinity Nets.
Cecily Brown, ‘One Touch of Venus’
Cecily Brown’s artistic mastery shines in One Touch of Venus, a six-foot-wide canvas filled with encoded sensuality and dynamic abstraction. Created in 1999, it tantalizes the viewer with vibrant bubblegum pinks, fuchsias and magentas. The composition teases with the suggestion of nude forms hidden within the tumultuous brushwork. Brown’s work evokes art historical references, from Baroque hedonism to Abstract Expressionism; her gestural mark-making recalls that of Willem de Kooning. One Touch of Venus stands as a striking embodiment of Brown’s provocative and mesmerizing approach to painting.
The Now Evening Auction on 15 November is a tightly curated presentation of 19 works by some of the most sought-after artists on the market today.
Sotheby's Presents: The Now Evening Auction
Julie Mehretu, ‘Walkers with the Dawn and Morning’
Julie Mehretu's Walkers with the Dawn and Morning
Walkers with the Dawn and Morning is a mesmerizing painting created in 2008 by Julie Mehretu, inspired by Langston Hughes’ eponymous poem. Serving as a poignant response to the devastation of Hurricane Katrina and its impact on the Black community in New Orleans, this masterpiece is a testament to resilience and strength. Mehretu’s distinctive blend of architectural drawings, vibrant colors and dynamic calligraphic marks creates a visual narrative that transcends tragedy through abstraction. As part of a suite of paintings produced for the Prospect. 1 exhibition, this work is a profound exploration of the effects of a natural disaster and the enduring spirit of a community.
Kerry James Marshall, ‘Plunge’
Plunge is a powerful work of art by Kerry James Marshall, created in 1992 and marked as one of his most significant pieces. In this painting, Marshall places a Black female protagonist in the heart of suburban American life, surrounded by a single-family home, a swimming pool and a white picket fence. The painting critiques the flawed American dream, questioning who it truly serves and at what cost. The work is laden with iconography and historical references, providing a poignant commentary on the Black figure’s role – and lack thereof – in Western art history. Plunge remains as fresh and relevant today as when it was first created, echoing the artist’s call for a paradigm shift in art and society.
Jenny Saville, ‘Shift’
Jenny Saville’s Shift, created in 1996-97, stands as a seminal work in contemporary art, symbolizing the reclamation of the female body. It made a lasting impact at the Royal Academy of Art’s Sensation exhibition. In Shift, Saville skillfully depicts the fullness and reality of the female body, challenging traditional representations. With larger-than-life dimples, stretch marks, cellulite and pubic hair, she resists idealization and invites viewers to confront their expectations. The monumental size of the painting both dwarfs and intimidates the viewer, compelling them to engage with its powerful message. Shift is an unapologetic portrayal of women’s bodies, free from fetishization and condemnation.
Marlene Dumas, ‘Love your Neighbor’
Expert Voices: Marlene Dumas’ Love Your Neighbor
Marlene Dumas’ monumental painting Love your Neighbor, created in 1994, delves into the complex interplay of love, race and the body. The sixteen figures in the painting, arranged in pairs, create a powerful and evocative narrative. Dumas’ masterful brushwork captures the various tones and nuances of their flesh, presenting a range of gray hues with underpainted layers that seep into the canvas. Dumas’ approach to the body is unique from her contemporaries, emphasizing the shared experience of being, free from objectification. Love your Neighbor serves as a poignant and compassionate meditation on the human condition and the potential for empathy and togetherness in a fractured world.