Sale of the Week, May 6-12: New York's Week of Highflying Contemporary Art Auctions

Yves Klein's "FC1 (Fire Color 1)," 1962, is expected to fetch $30,000,000-40,000,000 at Christie's on May 8th.
(Courtesy Christie's)

SALE: Post-War and Contemporary Evening Sales


DATE: May 8-10

ABOUT: Up first in this marathon week of contemporary evening sales is Christie's, which features a solid group of works by blue-chip artists. At the top of the estimates is Mark Rothko's "Orange, Red, Yellow," an example of the artist's signature large-scale paintings featuring brilliant blocks of collor. The 1961 canvas is estimated to sell for $35-45 million and comes from the estate of David Pincus, the well-known Philadelphia-based collector who died late in 2011. Other marquee works going on the block at Christie's from Pincus's collection include works by post-war masters Willem de Kooning, Barnett Newman, Jackson Pollock, and Clyfford Still, as well as work by more contemporary heavyweights Anslem Kiefer, Jeff Wall, and Nan Goldin. The Christie's sale also features a rare "fire-color" painting by Yves Klein, executed in 1962, the year of the artist's untimely death. "FC 1" is a giant rust-colored work featuring the outline of two female models in Yves Klein's signature blue. The estimate is $30-40 million.

The action will move to Sotheby's on Wednesday, where there are three works with estimates above $30 million: Andy Warhol's iconic 1963 silkscreen "Double Elvis," which was originally exhibited in Los Angeles's Ferus Gallery (est. $30-50 million); Francis Bacon's "Figure Writing Reflected in a Mirror," which was the headline work at Bacon's renowned exhibition at Galerie Claude Bernard in 1977 (est. $30-40 million); and Roy Lichtenstein's 1964 cartoon-like depiction of a woman's face, "Sleeping Girl," which was also originally exhibited at the Ferus Gallery (est. $30-40 million). Just last November, another Lichtenstein work using his signature cartoon Pop Art style sold for a record $43.2 million at Christie's. The 59-lot sale features several works by recent art market golden boy Gerhard Richter, a few de Koonings (no doubt capitalizing on his recent MoMA retrospective, which closed in January), and a bright and energetic abstraction by Joan Mitchell from her late period (1989), which could bring $3.5-4.5 million.  

On Thursday, both Bonhams and Phillips de Pury will hold sales, at slightly lower price points than the marquee works above. Willem de Kooning's work is also on the block at Bonhams, which has just recently begun to hold contemporary art sales and focuses on the market below $1 million (and mostly below $100,000). De Kooning's untitled oil and charcoal work in firey orange hues is estimated to fetch $300,000-500,000. An aluminium and copper wire sculpture by Ghananian sculptor El Anatsui carries the highest estimate of the sale, with a possible value of $700,000-900,000. At Phillips on Thursday evening, one of the standout lots is a colorful and symbolic 1981 untitled painting by Jean-Michel Basquiat, which is estimated to bring $8-12 million. A blue and orange Warhol "Mao," (1973) has a $9-12 million estimate.  

Auction List

Location: Christie's
Date: May 8, 7pm

Location: Sotheby's
Date: May 9, 7pm

Location: Phillips de Pury
Date: May 10,

Location: Bonhams
Date: May 10, 5pm


Sale: Natural History
Location: I.M Chait Beverly Hills
Date: May 6, 11am

Sale: Asian Art
Location: Nagel Stuttgart
Date: May 9-11

Sale: 19th and 20th Century American and European Art
Location: Rago Arts, Lambertville, NJ
Date: May 12, 10am

Sale: African, Oceanic, and Pre-Columbian Art
Location: Bonhams New York
Date: May 12, 1pm