Apollo Magazine

Battling for bragging rights ahead of the New York sales

Top lots announced for New York sales | Mixed fortunes for Sotheby’s Hong Kong | Victoria Miro expands to Venice | TEFAF talk

Nude Sunbathing (detail; 1995), Roy Lichtenstein.

Nude Sunbathing (detail; 1995), Roy Lichtenstein Courtesy Sotheby's New York

Top lots announced for New York sales | The familiar scramble between auction houses to secure bragging rights in the lead up to a major series is firmly underway for this May’s season of Impressionist, modern and contemporary auctions in New York.

Among the latest trophy lots to be unveiled, and estimated to make around $20m, is Roy Lichtenstein’s seductive Ben-Day dot painting Nude Sunbathing. Created in 1995, it is being offered at Sotheby’s on 18 May – the first time the work has been auctioned.

Nude Sunbathing (1995), Roy Lichtenstein. Courtesy Sotheby‘s New York

At Christie’s, a Pablo Picasso portrait of Dora Maar, Femme assise, robe bleue (1939), has been secured for the modern art sale on 15 May, when it comes to the block with a guide price of $35m–$50m. The picture belonged to Picasso’s dealer, Paul Rosenberg, but was confiscated in 1940 soon after the artist had created it. Towards the end of the war, it was intended to be transported to Germany but was intercepted and captured by members of the French Resistance. 

Many readers will cast their minds back to those outstanding displays of Henri Matisse’s cut-outs, shown at Tate Modern and MoMA in 2014–15, following the announcement that Bonhams has secured a rare example of one of the artist’s colourful late creations for its sale on 17 May. Estimated at $800,000-$1.2m, Abre de Neige (1947) has been in a Canadian private collection since 1968.

After a sluggish 2016, auction houses will be united in their efforts to capitalise on these lots this series to inject greater confidence into the auction market. More than a quarter was knocked off the aggregate value of sales at auction last year, according to the recently published Art Basel and UBS Global Art Market Report.

Mixed fortunes for Sotheby’s Hong Kong | Prompted by the growing participation of Asian bidders at modern and contemporary sales in New York and London, on 2 April Sotheby’s included Western works in a Hong Kong sale for the first time – among them pieces by blue-chip artists such as Andy Warhol, Jean-Michel Basquiat, Adrian Ghenie and Damien Hirst.

MAO (1973), Andy Warhol Courtesy Sotheby’s Hong Kong

Results on the night were mixed. Much of the material got away, but a few star pieces sold below their estimates, while a work by Keith Haring failed to sell. After the sale, it was suggested that a factor may have been collectors holding back for the larger series held by other auction houses in May. Backed by a guarantee, Sotheby’s top seller at HK$98.5m ($12.6m) was an Andy Warhol silkscreen of Chairman Mao. It struggled to get away and was hammered down for less than its pre-sale estimate to an Asian collector.

The Pink Star. Courtesy Sotheby’s Hong Kong

Jewellery is another area with plenty of potential in Asia. Sotheby’s rounded off its sales week by fetching a record for the most valuable gemstone ever sold at auction. The Pink Star, a 59.60-carat diamond, sold for HK$553m ($71.2m) to Hong Kong jeweller Chow Tai Fook.

Victoria Miro expands to Venice | Victoria Miro joins a growing list of London galleries venturing out beyond the traditional market centres with the aim of freshening up the context in which their artists’ works are displayed. On 10 May, the gallery will open it first overseas space when it inaugurates an outpost in Venice, based in a 17th-century building in the San Marco district. The first exhibition will feature work by Turner Prize winner Chris Ofili. Fellow contemporary galleries, Thomas Dane and Maureen Paley, have also announced new spaces outside London, in Naples and Hove respectively.

TEFAF talk | Moving TEFAF Maastricht to Amsterdam is among several proposals put forward by exhibitors in the wake the fair’s 30th edition last month. According to Antiques Trade Gazette, many dealers feel the venerable fair could be ‘dramatically improved’ and have also suggested making it smaller and shorter.

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