NEW YORK, 15 June 2020 –Sotheby’s is pleased to debut the full contents of the New York Contemporary Art Evening Auction, to be held live on 29 June. Our digital catalogue is now live on sothebys.com, featuring enhanced visual storytelling through video, interactive media, and more rich content.
Sotheby’s three New York evening sales on 29 June will be presided-over remotely by Chairman and auctioneer Oliver Barker from London, and will be live-streamed to the world. Bidders can take part live via Sotheby’s state-of-the-art proprietary bidding platform, or on the phone with Sotheby’s specialists on phone banks around the globe – in New York, Hong Kong and London. The auctioneer will see and accept bids via zero-latency video streams, broadcast to giant screens in an impressive ‘control center’ studio setup. All works on offer are now on exhibition in Sotheby’s York Avenue galleries, which are open by appointment only.
The Contemporary Art Evening Auction will immediate follow The Ginny Williams Collection Evening Sale, which begins at 6:30PM EDT on the 29th.
A MASTERWORK ‘HEAD’ ON PAPER BY BASQUIAT
An explosion of vivid color and frenzied mark-making, Untitled (Head) stands as one of the most accomplished of Jean-Michel Basquiat's ‘Heads’ on paper (estimate $9/12 million). The urgency and strength of the composition reflect the frenetic energy and creativity that characterized New York City in the 1980s, and the balance and fullness of the painting are testament to the artist’s genius.
Untitled (Head) bears close resemblance to the seminal painting Untitled from 1981 in the collection of The Broad in Los Angeles and, like that work, ranks in the top echelon of the artist's practice. Held in the artist’s collection alongside many of his greatest pieces until his untimely death in 1988, the present work took pride of place in the storied Robert Miller Gallery exhibition of Basquiat’s drawings in 1990 – the show that cemented the works on paper as a cornerstone of his oeuvre.
Grégoire Billault, Head of Sotheby’s Contemporary Art Department in New York, commented: “Untitled (Head) encapsulates the very best of Basquiat’s brilliant career. There is a sense of urgency and immediacy in this painting that is truly exceptional – a prescient work that captures and defines 1980s New York, demonstrating the young artist’s profound psychological awareness. This is one of the greatest of Basquiat’s iconic Heads, and was the standout work of the Robert Miller show that helped illuminate the genius of his work on paper. With a key work like this, Basquiat locates himself within the lineage of great American painters.” Separate release available
VIJA CELMINS’S ETHEREAL NIGHT SKY #7
Vija Celmins’s mesmerizing Night Sky #7 from 1995 is the largest painting by the artist to ever appear at auction, and is poised to establish a new world auction record for Celmins following its inclusion in her major retrospective at The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York in 2019 (estimate $6/8 million). Among the artist’s most emblematic works, Celmins’s depictions of the night sky represent a crucial benchmark for the artist. Throughout her celebrated career, she has revisited the same motifs, describing the night sky, ocean waves, and desert sands in an ongoing exploration of the way we see. Celmins’s work can appear to look like photograph from a distance – but up close, the subtleties of her touch reaffirm the presence of the artist’s hand.
David Galperin, Head of Sotheby’s Evening Auctions of Contemporary Art in New York, said: “It is exceedingly rare to find a painting on canvas by Vija Celmins of this caliber and scale in private hands, given the extremely limited scale of her production, with the vast majority of her Night Sky paintings in museum collections worldwide. This painting's rich, nuanced surface reveals the intensely labored hand of the artist - a truly riveting optical experience to behold.”
DONALD JUDD’S UNTITLED (DSS 25)
Untitled (DSS 25) from 1962 represents Donald Judd’s very first three-dimensional wall relief, and as such stands among the earliest masterworks of his celebrated oeuvre (estimate $4/6 million). Initially envisioned as a painting, Untitled (DSS 25) is a groundbreaking work that marks the artist’s critical and radical shift into dimensionality. Judd went on to produce four additional variations on the present form between 1961 and 1963, three of which are held in the collections of the Kunstmuseum Basel, Judd Foundation, and the Fondazione Prada, Milan (currently included in Judd, a retrospective at the Museum of Modern Art).
Acquired by Lewis V. Winter from Richard Bellamy’s Green Gallery in 1963, Untitled (DSS 25) has remained in the Winter family collection since. Winter was in his early 30s when first introduced to Bellamy following a chance encounter with the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s new young curator Henry Geldzahler in 1961. When asked where to go to acquire new art, Geldzahler unequivocally advised Winter to visit the Green Gallery adding that “Bellamy has the best eye in the city. And tell him I sent you!” It was at Bellamy’s 1963 exhibition, New Work, that Winter saw Judd’s work for the first time and wanted to own one, especially the similar wall relief included in the exhibition. All of the works were sold but Bellamy assured Louis Winter he would do his best to find a work for him and soon after Winter acquired Untitled (DSS 25).
Laura Paulson, the President of Gagosian Art Advisory LLC, who is representing the family, comments: “Louis Winter was a longtime friend since the early 90s who I first met when he was intrigued by another similar early wall relief that sold from the estate of Gerald S. Elliott at Christie’s in 1994 for $178,500. Louis delighted in recounting the opportunity he had as a young collector and it was a great privilege to learn of his rare experiences in the very early days of the New York art world. He was drawn to art that was radical for its time and continues to be important and influential.”
FRANCIS BACON’S MASTERPIECE TRIPTYCH INSPIRED BY THE ORESTEIA OF AESCHYLUS
The June auction is led by Francis Bacon’s large-format masterpiece Triptych Inspired by the Oresteia of Aeschylus, offered with an estimate in excess of $60 million. Inspired by Aeschylus’s trilogy of Greek tragedies dating to the 5th century B.C., the present triptych stands as one of the most ambitious, enigmatic, and important works of Bacon’s oeuvre, and a landmark of 20th century art. In this work from 1981, Bacon revisits the same classical text that inspired Three Studies for Figures at the Base of the Crucifixion, which announced his debut on the world stage in 1962 – which now resides in the Tate Collection, London. Triptych Inspired by the Oresteia of Aeschylus is one of 28 large-format triptychs (78 inches / 198 cm tall) that Bacon created between 1962 and 1991, and represents only the 6th example ever to appear at auction.
Norwegian collector Hans Rasmus Astrup acquired Triptych Inspired by the Oresteia of Aeschylus from Marlborough Fine Art Ltd., London in 1984. The work has been in the care of Astrup Fearnley Museet in Oslo, a private museum founded by Mr. Astrup in 1993 to manage his collection and allow public access to these private holdings. In 2013, Mr. Astrup donated all of his commercial assets and their holdings of art to the Hans Rasmus Astrup Foundation. Proceeds from the sale of Triptych Inspired by the Oresteia of Aeschylus will strengthen the Foundation and underlying entities to ensure long-term support of the Astrup Fearnley Museet, and in particular to expand and diversify the Astrup Fearnley Collection housed therein. Separate release available
PROPERTY FROM THE COLLECTION OF HARRY W. AND MARY MARGARET ANDERSON
Sotheby’s will offer a selection of 26 works across our Evening and Day Auctions of Contemporary Art this June from the Collection of Harry W. & Mary Margaret Anderson, together reflecting the family’s legacy as transformative collectors of Post-war American art. Harry W. “Hunk” Anderson and Mary Margaret “Moo” Anderson were among the most passionate and influential American collectors of the 20th century. Theirs is a history of philanthropy and patronage, with countless institutions benefiting from donations of works by Post-war masters such as Jackson Pollock, Robert Rauschenberg, Willem de Kooning, Ellsworth Kelly and David Smith, among many others. Most notably, the Anderson Collection at Stanford University houses more than 120 works gifted from their holdings.
Sotheby’s offering from the collection is led by Clyfford Still’s masterful 1947-Y-No.1 – one of the finest works by the artist to appear at auction since Sotheby’s 2011 sales on behalf of the city of Denver to benefit the Clyfford Still Museum (estimate $25/35 million). With 95% of Still’s lifetime of work residing in the Museum’s collection, the auction of 1947-Y-No. 1 will mark a major market moment this June. A masterwork from the formative apex of the artist’s career, 1947-Y-No. 1 was notably selected by Still himself for inclusion in his seminal 1959 exhibition Paintings by Clyfford Still, organized by the Albright-Knox Art Gallery in Buffalo, New York. Personally curated by the artist, this exhibition was Still’s first large-scale survey, and remains amongst the most important exhibitions of his career. Separate release available
ROY LICHTENSTEIN’S WHITE BRUSHSTROKE I
Roy Lichtenstein’s White Brushstroke I from 1965 is one of the most striking examples from Lichtenstein’s iconic series of Brushstroke paintings, which comprises 15 canvases executed in 1965-66 that are regarded as pivotal masterworks of the Pop Art movement (estimate $20/30 million). The painting is one of the few Brushstroke canvases remaining in private hands, with eight examples already held in or promised to such museum collections as the Art Institute of Chicago, Kunsthaus Zürich, Kunstsammlung Nordrhein-Westfalen in Düsseldorf, and the Whitney Museum of American Art in New York, among others.
Bold, brilliant, and irreverent, Lichtenstein’s inspiration for the Brushstroke series originated from a motif drawn from a comic book story titled The Painting, printed in Strange Suspense Stories in October 1964, in which a tortured artist battles a painting that appears to assume a life of its own. Reductive in its simplicity, the work demonstrates the singular significance of the Brushstrokes paintings within his oeuvre, and represents the ultimate embodiment of Lichtenstein’s pioneering investigation into the form, content, and meaning of contemporary art. Separate release available
THE GINNY WILLIAMS COLLECTION EVENING SALE
Immediately preceding the Contemporary Art Evening Auction
Works by groundbreaking women artists of the 20th century including Joan Mitchell, Louise Bourgeois, Lee Krasner, Agnes Martin, Helen Frankenthaler and more will lead The Ginny Williams Evening Sale, a dedicated evening auction on 29 June, immediately preceding our marquee auctions of Contemporary and Modern & Impressionist Art. A pioneering collector and gallerist, Ginny Williams was a larger-than-life personality and dynamic force in the contemporary art and photographs communities in Denver, Colorado, where she lived and worked from the late-1950s onwards, as well as on the East Coast, including her time on the boards of the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum in New York and the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden in Washington, D.C. More than 450 works from the celebrated collection of Ginny Williams will be sold across a series of sales throughout 2020. Separate release available
CONTEMPORARY ART DAY AUCTION
Auction 30 June
The following day, our Contemporary Art Day Auction will present works by the most influential artistic voices of the post-war period, including Ruth Asawa, Alexander Calder, Louise Bourgeois, Wayne Thiebaud, Keith Haring, and Jean-Michel Basquiat, as well as examples by current masters of contemporary painting, photography, and sculpture, including George Condo, Ed Ruscha, Damien Hirst, and Nam June Paik. Following the evening auction, the sale offers further works from the esteemed collections of Ginny Williams, Harry W. and Mary Margaret Anderson, and Sidney and Bernice Clyman.