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    Tuesday, June 27th, 2017

    Max Beckmann, Hölle der Vögel (Birds’ Hell) c CHRISTIE’S IMAGES LTD. 2017

    Max Beckmann’s Hölle der Vögel (Birds’ Hell) (1937-38) achieved a new world record price for the artist of £36,005,000 at Christie’s Impressionist and Modern Art Evening Sale on June 27.  The work continues the Germanic tradition of using gruesome allegorical scenes at the same time as taking aspects of Classicism and mythology to turn reality into a timeless evocation of human suffering.

    In this sense, the painting transcends the time and political situation in which it was created to become a universal symbol of humanity like Pablo Picasso’s Guernica of the same period. Begun in Amsterdam in 1937 and completed in Paris at the end of 1938 it ranks amongst the clearest and most important anti-Nazi statements that the artist ever made.

    The sale totalled £149.5 million.  Three lots made over £20 million, the Beckmann, Picasso’s Femme ecrivant (Marie-Therese) which made £34.8 million and Van Gogh’s Le moissonneur (d’apres Millet) which made £24.2 million.


    Wednesday, June 21st, 2017

    The Rockefeller Winston emerald

    There was a world auction record per carat at Christie’s in New York last night when The Rockefeller Emerald sold for $5,511,500.  This amounted to $305,000 per carat.  The octagonal step-cut emerald is approximately 18.04 carats.

    It was sold to jeweller Harry Winston. CFO Robert Scott was bidding in Christie’s Rockefeller Plaza saleroom with instructions from Harry Winston CEO Nayla Hayek to “bring this magnificent gem home at any price.” Following the sale, Nayla Hayek commented “Harry Winston is immensely proud to own the finest emerald in the world which once belonged to one of America’s most important dynasties.”

    The sale of magnificent jewels totalled $26.1 million and was 83% sold by lot and 89% by value. There was strong results for jewels from Louis Comfort Tiffany once part of The Garden Museum Collection in Japan.


    Tuesday, June 6th, 2017

    The collection of Raine, Countess Spencer (1929-2016) comes up at Christie’s in London in July. Only daughter of romantic novelist Dame Barbara Cartland and stepmother to Diana, Princess of Wales she enjoyed a position at the centre of London society for over 60 years. Lady Spencer had an appreciation of the fine and decorative arts; 18th century France was of special interest, and she assembled a collection of paintings by some of the greatest artists of that period, including Boucher, Fragonard and Vernet. She collected fine furniture on which she displayed ormolu clocks, objets d’art and Chinese works of art – including intricately carved jades; the Art Deco was also a period of particular inspiration. Highlights from Lady Spencer’s collection of French 18th century Old Master paintings will be offered at Christie’s Old Masters evening sale on July 6.  This will be followed by a sale featuring furniture, Old Master paintings, objets d’art and jades and a selection of couture, jewellery and accessories from her personal wardrobe on July 13. Here is a small selection with all images courtesy of Christie’s.

    Claude Joseph Vernet (Avignon 1714-1789 Paris)
    A Mediterranean sea-port with fishermen unloading cargo (£300,000-500,000)

    Jean-Honoré Fragonard (Grasse 1732-1806 Paris)
    The goddess Aurora triumphs over night, announcing Apollo in his chariot, while Morpheus sleeps – a bozzetto (£150,000-200,000)

    One of several ‘Lady Dior’ handbags, this one of black leather with stud work decoration (£1,000-1,500)



    Thursday, May 18th, 2017

    Cy Twombly (1928-2011) – Leda and the Swan

    The top lots at Christie’s Post War and Contemporary evening sale in New York last night were Cy Twombly’s  Leda and the Swan ($52,887,500) and  Francis Bacon’s Three Studies for a Portrait of George Dyer ($51,767,500).

    The 68 lots sold brought in $448 million and Christie’s say that the results rank among the strongest ever for this category in New York.  A total of 71 lots were offered and five sold for over $20 million.

    La Hara by Basquiat made $34.9 million, Red White and Brushstrokes by Lichtenstein made $28.2 million and Big Campbell’s soup can with can opener (vegetable) by Warhol made $27.5 million.

    (See posts on for February 24 and March 21, 2017)

    IN a post sales roundup Christie’s reported that the spring auction series totalled $842.5 million.   The week scored the highest total for an Impressionist and Modern evening sale at Christie’s since May 2010 and the strongest sell-through rates for a Post-War and Contemporary evening sale in a decade.


    Tuesday, May 16th, 2017

    CONSTANTIN BRANCUSI (1867-1957) La muse endormie

    Constantin Brancusi’s La Muse Endormie sold for a world record price of $57.3 million at Christie’s in New York last night. It went to a client in the room after a nine minute bidding battle.

    Pablo Picasso’s Femme assize, robe bleue made $45 million. A total of 43 of the 55 lots offered at the Impressionist and Modern Art evening sale found buyers.  The sale brought in $288.1 million.

    (See posts on for April 20 and March 30, 2017)


    Thursday, April 20th, 2017

    CONSTANTIN BRANCUSI (1867-1957) La muse endormie , patinated bronze with gold leaf, Length: 10 ½ inches  UPDATE: THIS SOLD FOR $57.3 MILLION, A WORLD RECORD

    Constantin Brancusi’s sculpture La muse endormie will be a highlight  at Christie’s evening sale of Impressionist and Modern Art on May 15 in New York. Estimated at $20-30 million La muse endormie counts among the greatest achievements in sculptural history. Its drastic purification of form and emotional resonance mark the dawn of a new sculptural language.

    First conceived in marble in 1909-1910, La muse endormie was cast by Brancusi in six bronze versions by 1913. Four bronzes today are housed in museums—The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, The Art Institute of Chicago, and two examples in the Musée National d’Art Moderne, Centre Georges Pompidou in Paris—while two, including the present work, remain in private collections. This one was acquired by the distinguished French collector Jacques UImann in the 1950’s and has remained in his family to this day.

    Jessica Fertig, Senior Vice President, Head of Evening Sale, Impressionist and Modern Art, said: La muse endormie has a magical amplitude — displaying a formal genius and wondrously modulated patina. Brancusi considered each of his La muse endormie bronzes a unique work of art, rather than as part of a uniform edition. He therefore oversaw the patination process during casting to ensure variations between every bronze. Brancusi delighted in the varying effects of color and finish, always aware of the diversity of expression he could achieve through patination. The present sculpture has a rich, warm patina that Brancusi heightened by gilding sections, a contrast he described to the legendary American collector John Quinn as enhancing the expressive power of his art.”


    Wednesday, April 12th, 2017

    BRIAN DUFFY (1933-2010)
    David Bowie, Aladdin Sane, Contact Sheet, 1973 – CHRISTIE’S IMAGES LTD. 2017

    A contact sheet by late London Irish photographer Brian Duffy (1933-2010) documenting David Bowie evolving into the character Aladdin Sane for the 1973 album of the same title is part of Christie’s Photographs auction on May 18.

    The sale will showcase the broad spectrum of those practising in the medium from icons of 20th century photography such as Richard Avedon, Guy Bourdin and Erwin Blumenfeld, to the fashion photographers Steven Meisel and Patrick Demarchelier as well as contemporary artists Richard Mosse, Taryn Simon and Julie Cockburn. Highlights include Helmut Newton’s Private Property Suites I, II and III, the complete set from his personal collection, that capture familiar faces from the worlds of art and fashion – Andy Warhol and David Hockney and the models Charlotte Rampling  and Raquel Welch (1984, £200,000-300,000).  Prices range from £2,000 to £200,000. The Bowie contact sheet is estimated at £10,000-15,000.

    William Eggleston
    Untitled – CHRISTIE’S IMAGES LTD. 2017

    Erwin Blumenfeld
    Solarized Profile with Jewelry, New York
    1946 – CHRISTIE’S IMAGES LTD. 2017


    Monday, April 10th, 2017

    Rare musical manuscripts and memorabilia from the Metropolitan Opera Guild collection will come under the hammer at Christie’s in New York on June 15.  Highlights, including the sole surviving autograph musical manuscript by Schubert for his Piano Sonata in A flat Major ($350,000-500,000), will be previewed in London from April 19-27 and in Hong Kong from May 26-29.  In addition two pieces of jewellery will be sold in the Magnificent Jewels auction on June 20. The sales will benefit the Opera Guild and the Metropolitan Opera.

    Among around 90 lots is a selection of autograph material from some of the most important composers of the Western classical tradition from the Baroque to the 20th-century. Additional highlights include annotated manuscripts and letters by Bach, Mozart and Beethoven. Also included is Enrico Caruso’s Cartier gold eyeglass case with glasses and Arturo Toscanini’s Gubelin open-faced pocket watch. Most manuscripts come from the carefully assembled gift of Edwin Franko Goldman (1878-1956), renowned American composer and trumpeter with the Metropolitan Opera.

    SCHUBERT, Franz (1797-1828). Autograph manuscript signed for his piano sonata in A-flat major, D. 557, May 1817 ($350,000-500,000)  UPDATE: THIS MADE $475,500



    Wednesday, April 5th, 2017

    FRANCESCO GUARDI (Venice 1712–1793), The Rialto Bridge with the Palazzo dei Camerlenghi. UPDATE: THIS MADE £26.2 MILLION

    A painting by Francesco Guardi handed down through generations of the Guinness family will lead Christie’s Classic Week Old Masters evening sale in London on July 6.  The Rialto Bridge with the Palazzo dei Camerlenghi is being sold for only the second time since it was painted in the mid 1760’s.  It is expected to make around £25 million.

    It is one of a pair of Venetian views by Guardi, one looking north and the other south, first acquired in 1768, probably from the artist, by a young English grand tourist called Chaloner Arcedeckne. Both paintings stayed in his family until 1891 when they were sold privately for £3,850 to Edward Cecil Guinness, the chief executive and then chairman of the brewing company.  He was the first Earl of Iveagh.  The two Guardi’s were kept by the Guinness’s and hung at Pyrford Court in Surrey.  They were separated in 2011 when Rialto Bridge from the Fondamenta del Carbon, was sold to an anonymous bidder at Sotheby’s for £26.7m–a record for a Venetian view painting. A temporary export bar failed to keep the work in the UK.

    Henry Pettifer, Head of Christie’s Old Master Paintings EMERI said: “This majestic view of Venice is one of the great masterpieces of eighteenth-century view painting. Painted in the mid-1760s, at the height of the artist’s career, this is a monumental tour de force displaying the full range of Guardi’s technical virtuosity and his unique ability to capture the atmosphere and sensuous experience of being in Venice. After the record-breaking Old Master sales at Christie’s in 2016, with the Rubens Lot and his Daughters and the pair of Rembrandt portraits sold by private treaty, we are confident this great Guardi will arouse enormous interest from global collectors of masterpieces, from Old Masters to Contemporary, this July.”

    The Rialto Bridge with the Palazzo dei Camerlenghi will be shown at Classic Week in New York from April 22-26 before returning to Venice for the first time for an exhibition at the Aman Hotel (May 8-15) to coincide with the Venice Biennale. It will then travel to Hong Kong for exhibition from May 26-29 before returning to London.


    Thursday, March 30th, 2017

    Pablo Picasso, Femme assise, robe bleue UPDATE: THIS SOLD FOR $45,047,500

    Femme assise, robe bleue by Pablo Picasso will be a highlight at Christie’s Impressionist and Modern Art evening sale in New York on May 15.  Painted on Picasso’s birthday on October 25, 1939 it is a searing portrait of Picasso’s lover, Dora Maar. This was just after the beginning of World War II.  Filled with the unique character, distortions and tension that mark Picasso’s greatest portraits of Dora there is at the same time a tender sensuality in the organic, curvaceous forms of the face which provides some insight into their relationship. This picture was formerly owned by G. David Thompson, to whom the great curator and art historian Alfred H. Barr, Jr. referred as, ‘one of the great collectors of the art of our time. It is estimated at $35,000,000-50,000,000.

    Giovanna Bertazzoni, Deputy Chairman, Impressionist and Modern Art, remarked: “We are bringing Femme assise, robe bleue to the market at a time when the demand for Picasso’s portraits of one of his greatest subjects, Dora Maar, is at an all-time high. The canvas is a powerful example of Picasso’s creative imagination and the passion which Dora inspired in him.”

    Francis Outred, Chairman and Head of Post-War and Contemporary Art, EMERI said: “Femme assise, robe bleue is a timeless icon of artist and muse which speaks to collectors across the centuries and continents.  Coming from a major European collection, the picture holds within it an incredible story.  It originally belonged to Picasso’s dealer, Paul Rosenberg but was confiscated in 1940 soon after its creation.  Later in the War it was intended to be transported to Germany but was famously intercepted and captured by members of the French Resistance, an event immortalised, albeit in fictional form, in the 1966 movie The Train, starring Burt Lancaster and Jeanne Moreau. In real life, one of the people who helped to sabotage the National Socialists’ attempt to remove countless artworks from France towards the end of the war was in fact Alexandre Rosenberg. The son of Paul Rosenberg, he had enlisted with the Free French Forces after the invasion of France in 1940.  The painting was subsequently owned by the Pittsburgh steel magnate and legendary collector, George David Thompson, from whose collection many works now grace the walls of museums in the United States and Europe.  We fully expect the romance and power of this painting and its remarkable story to capture the hearts and minds of our global collectors of masterpieces from Old Masters to Contemporary, this May.”