S otheby's is pleased to announce Contemporary Art Day: An Online Auction from May 4–14. This sale will be an elevated online auction anchored by a tightly-curated selection of blue-chip Post-War and Contemporary Art. Featuring examples by some of the most renowned and sought after artists from the post-war period to today – highlighted by a rare Brice Marden from his Basel Cathedral Window series, alongside works by Willem de Kooning, Keith Haring, Sigmar Polke, Richard Prince, KAWS, Damien Hirst and Julie Curtiss – the auction offers an opportunity to acquire high-quality works at a range of price points and value levels. During this unprecedented moment, this sale is the leading platform for collectors to transact in the Contemporary Art market right now.
Highlights at a Glance
BRICE MARDEN, WINDOW STUDY, NO.4, 1985
Estimate $700,000 – 900,000
Sotheby’s is thrilled to present this spectacular 1985 Brice Marden painting from his esteemed Basel Window series. This painting and the larger series to which it belongs is based on Marden’s commission to design the windows of the Basel Cathedral, a project he labored on continuously from 1978 to 1985. With other examples from this series belonging to the most revered private and public collections around the world, Window Study No. 4 is a rare and exceptional exemplar of Marden’s output to come to auction.
Mapping the Downtown New York Art Scene of the 1980s
In the 1980s, downtown New York became the vibrant epicenter of the art world, producing legends such as Jean-Michel Basquiat, Keith Haring, David Wojnarowicz, Julian Schnabel and Richard Hambleton – all of whom have works being offered in this auction. In the below map, we invite you to take a closer look at the geographic layout of the specific places – whether an abandoned massage parlor turned art gallery or an underground night club – that served as undeniable catalysts for the revolutionary creative boom of the 1980s New York art scene.
- Mr. Chow
324 E 57TH ST
Since opening its first New York location in 1979, Mr. Chow's has hosted many of the city's top figures in fashion, the arts and music.
Excerpt from Andy Warhol’s Diary, Wednesday, November 14, 1984:
"Cabbed to Mr. Chow’s for Jean-Michel’s party ($7). And it was great. I feel like I wasted two years running around with Christopher and Peter, just kids who talk about the Baths and things, when here, now, I’m going around with Jean-Michel and we’re getting so much art work done.
Jean-Michel became the hostest with the mostest last night. He said it cost him $12,000— the Cristal was flowing."
- Private Eyes
320 W 45TH ST
Excerpt from Andy Warhol’s Diary, Wednesday, November 7, 1984:
"I went to Private Eyes (cab $7). Scott was at the door, so he let us right in. Madonna was on the platform and since Jean-Michel had once been involved with her, we started to go up, and the bouncer said “Step aside for Mr. Warhol,” and then tried to block Jean-Michel and I said that it was okay, he was with me. And Madonna kissed Jean-Michel on the mouth, but she was with Jellybean, who said he’d heard his pictures in Interview made him look 6’ tall so he was thrilled because he’s 2. And Jean-Michel was moody because Madonna got so big and he’d lost her."
- Mudd Club
77 WHITE STREET
The Mudd Club was a nightclub in the TriBeCa area of New York City, USA, that operated from 1978 to 1983 as a venue for underground music and counterculture events.
- Studio 54
255 WEST 54TH STREET
An icon of New York City nightlife until its doors closed in 1986, Studio 54 was a hotspot for Warhol and his entourage. The club is no longer in operation as it was, but Warhol fans can still visit the building, which now houses the Roundabout Theatre Company.
- FUN Gallery
229 EAST 11TH ST
East Village became the new SoHo in 1981, when Patti Astor opened up what is widely regarded as the first art gallery in the neighborhood. Astor was a close friend and frequent collaborator with several of the hottest underground rappers, punk rockers, graffiti artists and filmmakers in the city. She chose a run down, East Village tenement building as the site for her new, experimental exhibition space: FUN Gallery. There, she helped jump start the careers of street artists like Lady Pink and Futura 2000, and gave major early shows to Jean-Michel Basquiat and Keith Haring. FUN Gallery started an East Village land rush. Galleries popped up weekly. Within a few years, the neighborhood was the epicenter of art movements as aesthetically diverse as Neo-Expressionism, Neo-Pop and Street Art.
- Annina Nosei Gallery
100 PRINCE ST
In 1980, Annina Nosei opened a new gallery location at 100 Prince Street. She was instrumental in launching Basquiat’s career, working closely with him from 1981-1983. Basquiat also used Nosei’s basement as a studio space.
- East Village Eye
167 LUDLOW ST
The East Village Eye was a publication covering arts, music and culture in downtown New York. From May 1979 until January 1987, editions of the East Village Eye were published on a monthly basis; the magazine covered the development of the downtown creative community, in particular the art of Keith Haring and David Wojnarowicz.
- Pat Hearn Gallery
94 AVENUE B
The opening of Pat Hearn Gallery in 1984 signaled an important turning point in the East Village aesthetic. The cool, stripped-down paintings of Taaffe and Peter Schuyff, and the more Neo-Surrealist work of George Condo, evoked a stylistic sophistication that seemed to spurn some of the East Village’s proletarian trappings in favor of artworks and galleries that were every bit as polished as their uptown counterparts.
- Times Square Show
41ST ST AND SEVENTH AVE
Opening on June 1st 1980, The Times Square Show was an exhibition organized by the avant-garde artist collective, Collaborative Projects Inc., in an abandoned massage parlor at the epicenter of New York’s entertainment and pornography district. This show launched the careers of artists such as Keith Haring, Kenny Scharf, Nan Goldin, Jenny Holzer, Kiki Smith -- and most significantly, was Jean-Michel Basquiat’s first show as both graffiti artist “SAMO” and a painter.
- Alexander F. Milliken Inc.
98 PRINCE ST
Location of show Ed Baynard exhibition “Fast” July 1982.
- Keith Haring's Studio
After using the city as his canvas – from making countless quick chalk drawings on empty black subway advertising spaces to creating a Crack is Whack mural in Harlem – Keith Haring applied his bold lines and bright colors to freestanding drawings and paintings. Between 1980 and 1989, the artist achieved international recognition, participating in numerous group and solo shows and producing more than 50 public artworks from New York to Paris. By finding a direct means of expressing universal concepts of birth, death, love, sex and war, Haring created a lasting imagery that has been embraced around the world.
- Jean-Michel Basquiat's Studio
57 GREAT JONES ST
Hailing from Brooklyn, Basquiat first attracted attention in the late 1970s with the enigmatic graffiti he created under the name SAMO, befriending artists and downtown New York luminaries and beginning to paint and draw with more focused effort. A first public group show in a vacant Times Square building in June 1980 eventually led to his first solo exhibition in 1982. Success among the Contemporary art-loving public was immediate, while critics both lauded Basquiat as a genius and derided him as a product of the newly booming market. In the mid-1980s, the artist collaborated on several works with the most famous artist of the time, Andy Warhol. Basquiat died of a heroin overdose on 12 August 1988, but the influence of his complex aesthetic on subsequent generations of artists remains incalculable.
- Andy Warhol's Studio
22 EAST 33RD ST
By the 1980s, Andy Warhol had already achieved a high degree of financial and critical success; but in his final decade, he saw a second wave of popularity (due in part to his friendships with younger artists, including Jean-Michel Basquiat). In 1987, Warhol passed away; the cause of death was complications following surgery to his gallbladder.
- David Wojnarowicz's Studio
108 LEONARD ST
A graduate of the High School of Music and Art in Manhattan, Wojnarowicz moved to New York as a young adult in the 1970s; there, he first achieved recognition for his iconic graffiti stencils – depicting burning houses – which appeared on buildings in the Lower East Side. Wojnarowicz went on to become a leading figure in the mixed-media avant-garde movement which emerged from the LES in the 1980s. Most notably, Wojnarowicz and another artist, Mike Bidlo, led the (illegal) takeover of the then-abandoned Pier 34 building for use as an alternative studio and art system community for two years, from 1983-84. Wojnarowicz completed a number of other projects in a range of mediums, including super-8 films, before succumbing to AIDS in 1992.
- Richard Hambleton's Studio
An American-Canadian graffiti artist, Richard Hambleton initially attracted public attention by painting faux crime-scene outlines of bodies on pavements. In the early 1980s, Hambleton painted buildings in the Lower East Side of New York City alongside Jean-Michel Basquiat and Keith Haring, during which time the artist also began to portray iterations of his highly recognized Shadowman figures onto found objects and canvases. As his reputation as a Contemporary artist rose, Hambleton was also struggling with addiction; on a number of occasions, this left him without an income or a studio space. Hambleton passed away in October 2017, at the age of 65.
- Julian Schnabel's Studio
American painter and filmmaker Julian Schnabel synthesized the postmodern interests in earlier artistic movements such as German Expressionism and Abstract Expressionism, with a heightened sense of experimentation with materiality. His works from the late 1970s and 1980s, alongside those of Jean-Michel Basquiat and Eric Fischl, contributed to the development of American Neo-Expressionism.
- Christopher Wool's Studio
EAST 9TH ST
Between 1980 and 1984, Christopher Wool worked as a studio assistant to artist Joel Shapiro, whose dynamic sculptural works in many ways contributed to Wool’s own artistic experimentation. During this time he created a number of abstract paintings, and in 1984 he had his first solo exhibition. His work from around this period largely reflects his early openness to experimentation, as he vacillated between different types and forms of repeating patterns, which were generally produced with a roller stencil—in this way he could utilize familiar, sometimes even commercial, shapes and prints, and through their application to canvas they were decontextualized and viewable abstractly.
In 1987, Wool began creating his “word paintings,” works that he has become most well known for. In these paintings, he stencils black letters onto white canvas, playing with the ways in which the parameters of the canvas inadvertently break phrases or cause sequences of words to run on. In this manner, common phrases must be visually excavated from any aesthetic effect that the painting produces.
Market Darlings under $100,000
Titans of Abstraction
Lucio Fontana, Willem de Kooning, Jean Paul Riopelle and Josef Albers all rank among the most storied artists from the post-war period of abstraction. These five artists are titans of abstraction, all canonized within the history of art, and their works being offered in the sale, represent an incredible opportunity for new and established collectors alike.
The Female Nude Throughout Art History
The female nude has remained one of the oldest and most iconic subjects throughout the history of art – generally reflecting the social and moral standards of the times while also provoking a critical reexamination of such standards. Throughout history, the provocative nature of the female nude has most importantly instigated new ways of thinking within the fabric of social consciousness. Through four works by Lisa Yuskavage, Richard Diebenkorn, George Condo, and Thomas Ruff, we trace the lineage of the female nude, analyzing the critical historical precedents that have paved the way for the endurance and relevance of this seminal subject.
- c. 1965
Titian, Venus of UrbinoVenus of Urbino is one of Titian’s most famous works and it depicts the emblematic figure of a young bride about to be dressed to take part in the celebration of the ritual known in Venice as “il toccamano”. It was a ceremony held in the home and not in church, during which a young woman whose hand was requested in marriage would touch the hand of the groom to express her consent. Titian takes this as his inspiration for a seductive Venus, using an iconography that began in the early Renaissance, inspired by the ancient depiction of the “Venus pudica.” The girl, lying naked on a bed with crumpled sheets, gazes out at the onlooker in a flirtatious, allusive manner, while holding a bunch of roses, the emblem of Venus and of the pleasure and constancy of love in her right.
Credit: Uffizi Musem
Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres, La Grande OdalisqueIngres transposed the theme of the mythological nude, whose long tradition went back to the Renaissance, to an imaginary Orient. This work, his most famous nude, was commissioned by Caroline Murat, Napoleon's sister and the queen of Naples. Here, Ingres painted a nude with long, sinuous lines bearing little resemblance to anatomical reality, but rendered the details and texture of the fabrics with sharp precision. This work drew fierce criticism when it was displayed at the Salon of 1819. Credit: Louvre Museum
Edouard Manet, OlympiaWith Olympia, Manet reworked the traditional theme of the female nude, using a strong, uncompromising technique. Both the subject matter and its depiction explain the scandal caused by this painting at the 1865 Salon. Even though Manet quoted numerous formal and iconographic references, such as Titian's Venus of Urbino, Goya's Maja desnuda, and the theme of the odalisque with her black slave, already handled by Ingres among others, the picture portrays the cold and prosaic reality of a truly contemporary subject.
Venus has become a prostitute, challenging the viewer with her calculating look. This profanation of the idealized nude, the very foundation of academic tradition, provoked a violent reaction. Critics attacked the "yellow-bellied odalisque" whose modernity was nevertheless defended by a small group of Manet's contemporaries with Zola at their head. Credit: Musee d’Orsay
Gustave Courbet, L'Origine du monde [The Origin of the World]Courbet regularly painted female nudes, sometimes in a frankly libertine vein. But in The Origin of the World he went to lengths of daring and frankness which gave his painting its peculiar fascination. The almost anatomical description of female sex organs is not attenuated by any historical or literary device. Yet thanks to Courbet's great virtuosity and the refinement of his amber colour scheme, the painting escapes pornographic status. This audacious, forthright new language had nonetheless not severed all links with tradition: the ample, sensual brushstrokes and the use of colour recall Venetian painting and Courbet himself claimed descent from Titian and Veronese, Correggio and the tradition of carnal, lyrical painting. Credit: Musee d’Orsay
Richard Diebenkorn, UntitledLot 44
Guerilla Girls, Do Women Have To Be Naked To Get Into the Met. Museum?Surveying the works on display in the Metropolitan Museum's 19th and 20th century galleries, the Guerilla Girls tallied the number of female nudes versus the number of male nudes and counted the number of works by female artists versus the number by male artists. Their findings were startling: not even 5 percent of the artists represented in the modern galleries were women, while fully 85 percent of the nudes in those same galleries were female. The image they made to expose this discrepancy features a reproduction of the sumptuous nude in Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres' La Grande Odalisque, with her face hidden by a gorilla mask, the Guerrilla Girls' signature disguise. Credit: National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C.
Lisa Yuskavage, Sick ClownLot 16
Thomas Ruff, nudes ez03Lot 135
John Currin, Nude on a TableIn his depictions of the female nude, John Currin mines a number of distinct pictorial styles from art history; his figures have exhibited the frilly ruffles and peachy skin tones of French Rococo paintings, as well as the distended anatomies and distorted proportions of Northern Renaissance and early Mannerist works. The faces, makeup, and hairstyles of Currin’s women, however, are always borrowed from contemporary magazines and advertisements. Ultimately, the artist’s fusion of high and low source materials produces distinctly beautiful, often disturbing, works that are equal parts homage and parody. Credit: The Art Institute of Chicago
George Condo, Standing Female FigureLot 43
Behind the Lens
Discover works of photography included in the Contemporary Art Day auction, including works from Diane Arbus, Richard Prince and Robert Mapplethorpe.