Icons on Canvas: Contemporary Evening Highlights

Launch Slideshow

Coinciding with Frieze in London, the Contemporary Art Evening Auction on 5 October offers an outstanding selection of works by today's most sought-after artists. The auction is led by Cy Twombly's Untitled from 1962 ­ an extraordinary painting that provides a code for viewing this master's iconic and complex fusion of word and image. Further stand-out pieces include a gilded work by Jean-Michel Basquiat and an imposing Grand Canyon painting by David Hockney. The sale also brings together works by post-war masters such as Jean Dubuffet and Philip Guston as well as those by some of the most influential artists working today including Rudolf Stingel. Click ahead to see highlights.

Contemporary Art Evening Auction
5 October | London 

Icons on Canvas: Contemporary Evening Highlights

  • Jean-Michel Basquiat, Bronze, 1982.
    Estimate: £5,000,000–7,000,000.
    Bronze is an iconic work that shows how important African masks and figures were to Jean-Michel Basquiat's oeuvre. His interest in these artefacts was at once personal and academic, borne through his Afro-Caribbean heritage, and made serious through his close relationships with African art academics like Robert Farris Thompson. This painting is also significant for its use of Gold – a colour and material of immense importance to Basquiat that signified the mood of triumph, transformation, value, and egotism that was so integral to his career in 1982. 

  • Cy Twombly, Untitled, 1962.
    Estimate: 5,500,000–7,500,000.
    Cy Twombly’s Untitled provides an extraordinary insight into this artist's esoteric works, illustrating and explaining the central tenets of his painterly style: in the upper third of the work, we are presented with a chromatic coda, a key to each of the artist's principle colours and the poetic meaning that each imbued. Meanwhile, in the lower passage of the work, we are given a clear explication of the manner in which Twombly deployed text and image in symbiosis. In this work, accompanied by the archaic Greek poetry of Sappho, Twombly ruminates on the very nature of his art. 

  • David Hockney, 15 Canvas Study of the Grand Canyon, 1998. Estimate: £3,800,000–5,000,000.
    Born of David Hockney's immersion in American culture and his turn towards landscape at the end of the millennium, 15 Canvas Study of the Grand Canyon stands at the forefront of the artist's output; a masterful and immersive symphony of paint that epitomises David Hockney's idiosyncratic style. It is a masterpiece of Hockney's oeuvre, closely linked to feted Yorkshire landscapes of the same period, and doubtless familiar to the London art audience from its prominent appearance in the landmark Hockney retrospective at the Tate Britain in 2017. 

  • Jean Dubuffet, Cortège, 1961.
    Estimate: £2,700,000–3,500,000.
    The Paris Circus is the most famous series of Dubuffet's career, inspired by the frenetic heartbeat of urban commotion that Dubuffet witnessed upon his return to the city in 1961 after several years spent in the countryside. Cortège bristles with the saturated palette and painterly force of this celebrated group of works; it is exemplary of the period in colour, scale, depictive skill, and compositional drama. Through its ebullient forms, we can discern the joy that Dubuffet felt upon his return to the metropolis, which had been restored to its former glory following the dour post-war years. 

  • Philip Guston, Odessa, 1977.
    Estimate: £2,500,000–3,500,000.
    In 1968, disillusioned by the progressively restrictive dogma of Abstract Expressionism, Philip Guston performed an about-turn and began to make figurative works that intentionally went against the erudite taste of Clement Greenberg et. al. Odessa is a spectacular example of this extraordinary and final phase of his output; a monolith of jumbled shoes and upturned legs in the midst of a vibrant blue sea. It is a deeply personal work, through which Guston pines for a homeland that he has never visited. 

  • Cecily Brown, The Circus Animals' Desertion, 2014–15. Estimate: £800,000–1,200,000.
    In keeping with the very best of Cecily Brown’s work, The Circus Animals' Desertion seems suspended somewhere between abstraction and figuration. Brown's painted forms flow in and out of bodily recognition and tangible allusion, influenced by everything from porn magazines, newspaper cuttings, and pop music to Peter Paul Rubens, Edgar Degas, and Francis Bacon. If Brown is principally concerned with the translation of sensation into paint, then this work should be considered a consummate success. 

  • Sigmar Polke, Untitled (Baum 9), 2002.
    Estimate: £800,000–1,200,000.
    Untitled (Baum 9) is an exceptional work from an important period of Sigmar Polke's career. The central motif is idiosyncratically enigmatic; at first it appears as the titularly heralded tree – a motif and subject that had populated Polke's work in various guises since the 1960s. However, the longer one observes the raster-dot pattern, the more abstract it becomes: the arboreal form falls away and, like a Rorschach test, is replaced by alternative shapes and figurative referents – even recalling the side-profile of a man's head. Polke had turned to raster-dots for his portraiture throughout his career and the physiognomic bulges and nooks of the central form in this painting are entirely redolent of that strand of his oeuvre.

  • Rudolf Stingel, Untitled, 1993.
    Estimate: £1,300,000–1,800,000.
    Rudolf Stingel's shimmering Untitled from 1993 is simultaneously minimal in composition and baroque in appearance. It is an early example of this artist's celebrated series of Instruction paintings, through which he radically questioned the status of the artist in contemporary culture, and challenged notions of painterly authorship. 

  • Alexander Calder, Untitled, 1960.
    Estimate: 1,800,000–2,500,000.
    From the collection of the sculptor Costantino Nivola, Untitled is one of the many personal gifts made for Nivola – known to his friends as Tino – by his East Hampton contemporaries. Spanning two metres, elegant wire branches support a canopy of floating black elements punctuated by two larger elements painted red and yellow. Archetypally Calder, Untitled is a graceful demonstration of the artist's ground-breaking liberation of pictorial colour and line. Suspended from arched steel wires of varying thickness, organic shapes of flat painted sheet metal hang from individual points. The result is an ever-changing and mutable visual encounter that reacts to the movement and flow of air.

  • Leon Kossoff, Christ Church, Summer Afternoon, 1994. Estimate: £950,000–1,500,000.
    Proudly exhibited in Leon Kossoff's landmark exhibition at the British Pavilion during the 1995 Venice Biennale, and then illustrated on the cover of the artist's Tate retrospective catalogue the following year, Christ Church, Summer Afternoon is one of Kossoff's best known works. The canvas is a love letter to London, showing Nicholas Hawksmoor's famous church in Spitalfields in all of its majestic splendour. It is a one of a number of great Kossoff paintings on this subject, with other examples in the Tate Collection, the British Council Collection, and in the permanent collection of the National Gallery of Australia. 

  • Andy Warhol, 5 Deaths, 1963.
    Estimate: £2,300,000–3,200,000.
    Executed in 1963, Andy Warhol’s 5 Deaths belongs to his seminal Death and Disaster series, one of the most important and influential bodies of work to emerge from the Pop era. The present work is one of the first examples of Warhol's use of Alizarin Crimson, a colour that would become a core feature of his work in the 1970s. Throughout his body of work, Warhol obsessively fixated on life's fragile existence and the cult of celebrity; with this series, he scrutinises the public face of a private disaster and questions how death elevates the status of anonymous victims to that of celebrity. Warhol's critical observations on the impact of the mass-media circulation of violent and horrific, yet private images has become even more relevant in the twenty-first century, with the inescapable, relentless streams of disastrous, personal images that flood society today. 


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