Francis Bacon, Study for a Self-Portrait, 1980. Oil on canvas, 35.6 by 30.5cm.; 14 by 12in. Estimate: 5,000,000-7,000,000 GBP. Photo: Sotheby's.
LONDON.- Following the outstanding success of Sotheby’s Sale of The Gunter Sachs Collection this season in London, which doubled pre-sale expectations and realised £41.4 / $65.5 million, Sotheby’s is delighted to announce that its June Evening Auction of Contemporary Art is expected to realise in excess of £50 million. The London sale, which will be staged on Tuesday, June 26th, 2012, will feature a broad range of major works by leading Contemporary artists including Francis Bacon, Jean-Michel Basquiat, Gerhard Richter, as well as Damien Hirst, Piero Manzoni, Frank Auerbach and Glenn Brown, among others.*
Commenting on the forthcoming sales, Cheyenne Westphal, Sotheby’s Chairman of Contemporary Art Europe, said: “In the wake of Sotheby’s extremely successful sale of The Gunter Sachs Collection last month, which realised more than $65 million - doubling pre-sale expectations - we are extremely pleased to present our forthcoming summer sales of Contemporary Art. The results achieved for both our Spring sale of Contemporary Art in New York and the The Gunter Sachs Collection in London bring Sotheby’s 2012 global total for sales of Contemporary Art to almost half a billion US dollars, underlining the global buoyancy of this area of the art market. We continue to witness intense demand for rare, important and fresh-to-market artworks by blue-chip artists, as well as provenance, and this June we have continued to tailor the sales to the collecting tastes of our clients. Many of the artworks featured for sale reflect these desirable qualities, such as the Lichtenstein which has remained off the market for almost 40 years; and a work by Bacon, which is his penultimate self-portrait in this small scale format.”
Highlighting the sale is Francis Bacon’s single-canvas self-portrait Study for Self-Portrait of 1980, which was executed in oil shortly after the artist had entered the eighth decade of his life and ranks among the most intensely dramatic self-portrayals of his career. The painting belongs to the corpus of only a dozen Self-Portraits in this size (35.6 by 30.5cm.; 14 by 12in) and is Bacon’s penultimate self-portrait in this small scale format. Whilst directly preceding the very last in this sequence, executed in 1987, Study for Self-Portrait hauntingly eulogizes the occasion of Bacon's searing self-analysis. Intriguingly, where the last example evokes a ghost-like death mask, the present portrayal radiates with the vibrancy and exuberance of youth. 71-year-old Francis Bacon here looks back at himself as a young man. Having been selected by Stanley Seeger as a long term resident of his revered collection – until it was acquired by the present owner in 2001 at Sotheby’s New York sale, The Eye of a Collector: Works from the Collection of Stanley J. Seeger – this extraordinary painting offers a very special insight into one of the greatest artistic minds and talents of the 20th century. Comparable to the captivating and penetrating examples housed in the Pompidou Centre, Paris and the Musée Cantini, Marseille, the present work delivers a remarkable exemplification of the principle engagement of Francis Bacon's oeuvre, the Self-Portrait, and is estimated at £5-7 million.
Jean-Michel Basquiat’s acrylic and oilstick on wood panel Warrior is a masterful work executed in 1982, the year in which the artist achieved his full artistic maturity and harnessed the full potential of his extraordinary talents; and the period following Basquiat’s breakthrough participation in the legendary New York/New Wave at the P.S.1 Contemporary Art Centre. It depicts a combative warrior, the central motif of the artist’s oeuvre as a form of semi-autobiography. As a black artist functioning in a white dominated art world, he championed black figures from Egyptian times through to the 20th century, as his Shaman-like figure shows. Warrior shares many of the attributes of autobiographical works, demonstrating Basquiat’s creative vision as a means of self-discovery. With this painting Basquiat brought the haptic urgency of his art from the street into the gallery. Stunning in both its execution as a painting and as a vehicle for the many tributaries of thought that inform Basquiat’s process, Warrior stands out as one of the most energetic of the artist’s early works and is in the very top tier of Basquiat’s artistic cycle of full–length male figures. The painting carries an estimate of £5-7 million.
Roy Lichtenstein, Girl in the Mirror, 1964. Signed and numbered 5/8 on the reverse, porcelain enamel on steel, 106.7 by 106.7cm. Estimate: 2,200,000-2,800,000 GBP. Photo: Sotheby's
Girl in Mirror in porcelain enamel on steel, exudes the iconic visual lexicon of Benday of dots and bold linear contours in black and white, red and yellow that propelled Roy Lichtenstein to prominence in the early 1960s. Painted in 1964, this work bears witness to the year Lichtenstein reached the height of his technical prowess and attained the very apogee of his comic strip paintings - the series that brought the artist to international fame. Between 1963 and 1965, inspired by the hard-finish and reflective sheen of the New York subway signage, Lichtenstein began incorporating the slick perfection of advertising into his work. This resulted in the body of enamel paintings – to which Girl in Mirror belongs – that achieved a heightened look of mechanical perfection, an effect he could only suggest in his works on canvas. Captured in the reflection of her handheld vanity mirror, Lichtenstein's blonde ideal of American beauty encapsulates the prevalent archetype that had become the socio-cultural aspiration for millions since the Second World War. Girl in Mirror and the iconic gamut of blonde comic-book American beauties, represent the climactic endpoint of the artist's most acclaimed and sustained body of work. The work was acquired from Irving Galleries, Palm Beach, by the present owner in circa 1975, and is estimated at £2.2-2.8 million.
Gerhard Richter, Untitled . Signed, dated 1989 and numbered 687-4 on the reverse, oil on canvas, 112 by 102cm.; 44 by 40in. Estimate: 2,500,000-3,500,000 GBP. Photo: Sotheby's
Highlighting the works in the auction by Gerhard Richter, whose market continues to perform exceptionally well, are his abstract Untitled (835-1) and photo-realist work Jerusalem. The dramatic cascading sweep of Richter's vivid abstract work Untitled, executed in 1989, exhibits a brilliant and dynamic symphony of painterly abstraction. This work, which has not appeared on the market for almost 17 years, accompanies some of the most ethereal and stunning of Richter's outstanding opus of Abstrakte Bilder, comprising a powerfully graphic black and white schema of duotone strips of paint. Closely comparable in chromatic magnificence to the sequential three part series November, December and January 1989, housed in the Saint Louis Art Museum, the present work exhibits a painterly stratum that ranks among the most enchanting of the Abstrakte Bilder. The dramatic yet measured layers of black, white and the variegation of greyscale casts an allusion back to the Photo Paintings that first brought Richter critical acclaim in the early 1960s. Performed to sublime effect in the present work, each new sweeping accretion of paint brings colour and textural juxtapositions that are reworked until an optimum painterly threshold is achieved. This work carries an estimate of £2.5-3.5 million.
Luminescent, serene and evocatively historic is Gerhard Richter's Jerusalem, which was executed in oil on canvas, in 1995, the very same year Richter was awarded the prestigious Arts Prize for Painting from the Wolf Foundation in Israel, Jerusalem. Jerusalem, estimated at £3-5 million, represents the most significant use of an identified landscape in the artist's entire canon and stands out as unassailably rare in its romantically sublime yet distinctly post-modern treatment of a highly evocative subject: the city of Jerusalem. Representing one of only two works in Richter's entire opus dedicated to a depiction of the biblical ancient city, this painting ranks among the most eminent and breathtaking from Richter's epoch defining canon of landscape painting. Richter's source is derived from a photograph taken the day after his exhibition ‘Atlas’ opened at the Israel Museum on September 19th, 1995. The source photograph shows a view of Jerusalem's Old City from the south, looking towards the city walls and Christian Quarter across the area of Yemin Moshe. Jerusalem is the mature culmination of decades of Richter's Photo Painting that utterly epitomizes the aesthetic genius of his iconic series.
My Way by Damien Hirst highlights a group of six early works in the sale by the artist and stands alongside the very first of Hirst's iconic corpus of Medicine Cabinets; two of which are held within museum collections. The work comprises row upon row of neatly arranged medical bottles bearing cautionary and advisory labels and denotes the very crystallization of Hirst's visual engagement with pharmaceuticals - an extensive and highly significant body of work that found its ultimate articulation in 1992 with the full-scale Pharmacy installation, which developed into the eponymous restaurant in Notting Hill some five years later. My Way represents the moment at which the dialogue between science, religion, art and death merged to form the backbone of Hirst's oeuvre. Belonging to the first wave of Medicine Cabinets initiated surrounding the moment of Hirst's Goldsmiths degree show, My Way, executed in 1990-1, represents a pioneering example. Following the preliminary twelve executed in 1989, works sequentially named after the twelve tracks on the iconic 1977 album, Never Mind the Bollocks, Here's the Sex Pistols, the following group of six were named after further punk songs by the Sex Pistols and The Who, of which the present work takes its name from the Frank Sinatra classic 'My Way' covered by Sid Vicious in 1978. Markedly distinct from the preceding works in this corpus, this smaller suite of six cabinets is composed of drugs and packaging circa 1960-1975 and the drugs used in My Way are decaying specimens found by Hirst in an abandoned hospital. This early work is estimated at £1.2-1.8 million.
A remarkable group of works by one Britain’s greatest living artists, Frank Auerbach** (b. 1931) will also be included for sale. The works come from the collection of Joseph and Ruth Bromberg, friends of the artist from the 1990s onwards. Painted over a 17-year period (1992-2008), this exceptional collection of eight portraits of Ruth Bromberg tells the story of this friendship between artist and sitter, and provides a privileged insight into the experience of sitting for this celebrated portrait artist. The group also includes a captivating etching by Lucian Freud of his daughter Bella. Expected to realize in excess of £1.8 million, the exceptional collection will be sold on behalf of the Executor as a bequest to the UK-registered charity British Friends of the Art Museums of Israel to benefit the Prints and Drawings Department of The Israel Museum, Jerusalem, in memory of Ruth and Joseph’s beloved son, Michael, who tragically died in his twenties. Leading the group is Frank Auerbach’s Ruth Bromberg Seated, 1992, which is estimated at £450,000-650,000.
Executed between 1959 and 1960, Achrome by Piero Manzoni is one of the most monumental and stunning works from the artist’s groundbreaking series. Estimated at £2-3 million the present work, in kaolin on canvas, represents the ultimate expression of Manzoni's central philosophy. Manzoni first initiated the Achrome in 1956 and in doing so rejected the existential and empirical questions with which his contemporaries were engaged. Throughout the series of Achromes, Manzoni took a detached empirical stance, executing trials into how different materials could transform our understanding of painting and challenge the physical constraints of colour, canvas, and horizontal/vertical surface. Here, radiating incandescent energy via the tightly striated organic folds of solid kaolin, the revolutionary Achrome from 1959-60 stands among the most resplendent from this iconic corpus ever to appear for public sale. During a tragically brief life cut short at the age of only thirty, Manzoni adopted a revolutionary conceptual approach to making and viewing art, emphasising the surface and materials as the true subject of the work. Manzoni's prescient innovations anticipated both Conceptualism and Arte Povera, while his artistic legacy, enshrined by iconic works such as the present Achrome, enduringly persists as a revolutionary and insurmountable presence within contemporary art today.
Glenn Brown's monumental oil on canvas The Tragic Conversion of Salvador Dalí (after John Martin), is a true masterpiece of post-modern painting and is estimated at £2.2-2.8million. Spanning a colossal three metres, this contemporary epic delivers a seamless reconfiguration of John Martin's iconic Biblical apocalypse, The Great Day of His Wrath c.1845-53. As though channelled through the surrealist prism of Salvador Dalí, Brown transforms Martin's endgame nightmare into a hallucinatory Science Fiction fantasy. Executed in 1998, this work heralds the inauguration of Brown's supreme technical mastery of paint. Exhibiting unsurpassed technical and conceptual invention, the present work not only stands at the very apotheosis of the artist's extraordinary body of monumental sci-fi panoramas, but also ranks as perhaps the most iconic and magnificent work of Glenn Brown's entire creation.
Louise Bourgeois, Untitled (The Wedges). Inscribed with the artist's monogram and numbered 2/6 on the lowest wedge, painted bronze, 160 by 53.3 by 41cm.; 63 by 30 by 16in. Conceived in 1950 and cast in 1990, this work is number 2 from an edition of 6. Estimate: 500,000-700,000 GBP. Photo: Sotheby'
Untitled (The Wedges) by Louise Bourgeois (est. £500,000-700,000) is one of a group of three exceptional works by one of the most revered artists of the 20th century. Spanning more than 60 years, the group narrates the evolution from her pivotal works from the late-1940s to the mid-1950s, through to the seminal works of the 1990s. From the imposing, totem-like Untitled (The Wedges) of 1950, to the evocative Le Père of 1998 and The Child of 2003, this succinct anthology vacillates between abstraction and figuration, and traverses a monumental period in world history along with the epic course of Bourgeois’ production.