Basquiat, Twombly, Richter, Lichtenstein and More

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Launch Slideshow

This season's Contemporary Art Evening Sale is studded with strong works from the post-war period to the present, including  highlights by Jean-Michel Basquiat, Roy Lichtenstein and Gerhard Richter. Leading the sale season is Basquiat's Untitled, a monumental masterpiece that has been virtually unseen since it last appeared on the market in 1984, and Lichtenstein's Nude Sunbathing, a classic, vibrant-red example of the late artist's work. Explore the top ten lots, including masterworks by Gerhard Richter, Robert Rauschenberg, Mark Grotjahn and Cy Twombly.

Contemporary Art Evening Auction
18 May | New York

Basquiat, Twombly, Richter, Lichtenstein and More

  • Jean-Michel Basquiat, Untitled. Estimate Upon Request.
    Irrefutably the most significant work by the artist to ever appear at auction, Untitled  ranks among the ultimate paragons of the Jean-Michel Basquiat’s oeuvre, and is the commanding counterpart to Basquiat’s Untitled (Head) in the collection of The Broad Museum. As an indisputable masterpiece from the singular formative year of Basquiat’s meteoric career, the unveiling of Untitled marks an extraordinary moment within the legacy of Contemporary Art’s most mythic and revered figure. Built up of innumerable layers of vibrant hues and coursing rivulets of pigment, Untitled is an unparalleled example of the virtuosic ability to apply, execute, shift, and render paint upon canvas that distinguished Basquiat as an undisputed master within the vanguard of young and ambitious image-makers.

  • Roy Lichtenstein, Nude Sunbathing. Estimate Upon Request.
    A resounding testament to the visual dynamism of Roy Lichtenstein’s bold signature style, Nude Sunbathing  constitutes the ultimate crystallization of the artist’s enduring engagement with the quintessential heroine of his inimitable oeuvre; freed from the narrative constraints of her previous embodiments, Lichtenstein’s nude revels in the enjoyment of her own peerless form. Speaking in the year the present work was painted, Lichtenstein remarked, “I’m trying to make paintings like giant musical chords, with a polyphony of colors that is nuts but works…It’s tough to make a painting succeed in terms of color and drawing within the constraints I insist on for myself.”

  • Gerhard Richter, Abstraktes Bild. Estimate $12,000,000–18,000,000.
    As a spectacular torrent of brilliant white paint courses horizontally across the canvas, both covering and uncovering strata of bold crimsons, gold, and cerulean, Abstraktes Bild  ranks among the most intense and pristinely resolved examples of Gerhard Richter’s hallowed corpus of abstract paintings. Simultaneously concealing and revealing spectacular accents of red, yellow and blue primaries, a sublime ivory veil of lusciously viscous white oil paint flows laterally across the canvas like a storm of snow surging across the geological strata of a cliff face. The present work sits at the chronological apex of the period when the artist’s creation of monumental essays in abstraction reached new heights and the long, hard-edged spatula became the central instrument of Richter’s technical practice.

  • Robert Rauschenberg, Rigger. Estimate $8,000,000–12,000,000.
    Within the oeuvre of an artist whose work is unconditionally shaped and influenced by his immediate surroundings, Rigger  pronounces an abstract vernacular that is exceptionally particularized to—and intimately revealing of—Robert Rauschenberg’s life in Lower Manhattan at the time of its creation. Emphatically architectural, the explicit elements which make up the present work speak to both the specifics of his downtown neighborhood and the rapid changes occurring there, the result of major urban re-development in New York in the early 1960s. In a thunderous cataclysm of gestural bravura, arresting multidimensionality, and staggeringly innovative experimentation, Rigger is a seminal example of Rauschenberg’s singular engagement with the very nature of artistic form in his celebrated Combine paintings. 

  • David Hockney, Building, Pershing Square, Los Angeles. Estimate $6,000,000– 8,000,000.
    A critical early landmark of David Hockney’s era-defining painted visions of Los Angeles, Building, Pershing Square, Los Angeles  encapsulates the very genesis of his lifelong enchantment with the magnetic allure of Southern California. Furrthermore this work crucially displays the artist’s formative radical experimentation with various technical and compositional concerns at the beginning of his storied career. Evincing his ongoing dialogue with abstraction, Hockney’s painting is dominated by straight edges and simplified shapes—the primary image is isolated in the center of the composition, framed by a flat background and three strips of color approximating the city street that runs along the bottom of the picture. 

  • Andy Warhol, Hammer and Sickle. Estimate $6,000,000–8,000,000.
    The extraordinary Hammer and Sickle  from 1976 is among the most historically potent, culturally significant, and incomparably iconic paintings from the inimitable oeuvre of Andy Warhol. Bristling with the explosive energy of communism’s universally recognizable motif, Warhol’s emphatic rendering of one of the Twentieth Century’s most familiar and symbols confronts the viewer with a  provocative bravura that rivals that of the artist’s quintessential Pop images of Campbell’s Soup Cans and Marilyn Monroe. Warhol’s subsumption and subsequent re-appropriation of communist symbolism into his legendary Pop vernacular – both physical, as in Hammer and Sickle, and metaphorical, as in his renderings of Chinese communist leader Mao Zedong and Russian communist revolutionary Vladimir Lenin – profoundly refocused the artist’s ground-breaking aesthetic energies on the political realities of his time. 

  • Mark Grotjahn, Untitled (Face 41.05). Estimate $6,000,000–8,000,000.
    With a bravado that echoes the rich action paintings of Abstract Expressionist titans Jackson Pollock and Willem de Kooning, and a vectored composition that pays tribute to Futurists such as Umberto Boccioni and Gino Severini, Unititled successfully integrates ineffable dynamism into a syntax of gestural expression. The radial bands of scarlet vermillion, deep phthalo blue, cadmium yellow, and viridian green explode layer by layer through the composition, setting the picture plane into undulating motion. Grotjahn juxtaposes these strong primary colors against more muted hues that he has tinted with white, grey, and other light neutrals.

  • Jean-Michel Basquiat, In the Wings. Estimate $5,000,000–7,000,000.
    Adding to the limited number of important paintings that he dedicated to the greatest jazz legends of the Twentieth Century, here Jean-Michel Basquiat enshrines the image of Lester Young – arguably the most influential and innovative saxophonists of all time – and creates a highly personal, devotional icon for posterity. With individualism and experimentation at the heart of jazz music, each of Basquiat’s jazz heroes maintained a distinctive vocal or musical style, making unique artistic contributions to the development of the genre. Having acknowledged himself as a relative rarity as a Black artist within a racially homogenous art world, through In the Wings  Basquiat destabilizes the canon of cultural history by inserting Black consciousness at its forefront and chiefly positioning himself as its visionary narrator.

  • Rudolf Stingel, Untitled. Estimate $5,000,000–7,000,000.
    Upon exposure to Untitled , one is immersed in a spectacular vision of thousands of graffiti inscriptions that Rudolf Stingel has cast in eletroplated copper. Because of its reflective sheen, the gilded surface resists the gaze, like a mirror, so that one becomes aware of their presence in the face of the work. The installation comprised of expansive aluminum-coated Celotex boards that lined the gallery walls. Allowed to depart radically from traditional museum protocol, viewers were invited to imprint, scribble, and incise any kind of mark with any available material, imparting an aspect of performativity to Stingel's installation that aligns him within a greater tradition of relational aesthetics. 

  • Cy Twombly, Silex Scintillans. Estimate $5,000,000–7,000,000.
    In its signature juxtaposition of haphazard handwriting, bold gestural ferocity, and expressive painterly language, Silex Scintillans  epitomizes Cy Twombly’s unique formal vocabulary, in which the boundaries between painting and writing have been obliterated in favor of a semantic unity of sign and form. In his unique fusion of frenetic painterly abstraction with the metaphysical implications inherent to his scrawled text, Silex Scintillans exemplifies Twombly’s work of the early 1980s, in which the artist increasingly embraced an arresting, atmospheric lushness and romantic approach to the pastoral in his large-scale works. During this period, inspired by such canonical painters of nature as Claude Monet and J.M.W Turner, Twombly’s art became increasingly rooted in the universal themes of love, fate, and the divine.

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