The Post-War and Contemporary Art Evening Auction will take place at Christies
on 30 June 2009 and will offer 41 lots including exceptional and significant works by Jean-Michel Basquiat, Peter Doig, Lucio Fontana, Andreas Gursky, Damien Hirst, Yves Klein, Jeff Koons, Richard Prince, Gerhard Richter, Cy Twombly and Andy Warhol. The first auction to take place under the direction of Francis Outred who joined the company in January 2009 as International Director and Head of Post-War and Contemporary Art for Christies in Europe, both the pre-sale exhibition and sale will take place at King Street from 27 to 30 June. The auction is expected to realise in excess of £20 million.
Francis Outred, International Director and Head of Post-War and Contemporary Art, Christies Europe: For my first auction at Christies, I am delighted to announce that we will be moving the exhibition back to the beautifully refurbished headquarters at King Street. The recent international auctions of Post-War and Contemporary art in New York, Hong Kong, Paris and Amsterdam have shown that there continues to be a strong demand for works of art in this category, and particularly for rare and exceptional examples which are fresh to the market. Building on these recent international results, the European team of Post-War and Contemporary art at Christies have assembled an auction in London in June which is artistically rich and which presents significant works of art by many of the leading figures of this field, from the Post-War era to the cutting edge.
A leading highlight of the sale is 1025 Farben (1025 Colours) by Gerhard Richter (b.1932) which is offered at auction for the first time having been in the ownership of the present European owner since 1974, the year in which it was painted (estimate: £1.3 million to £2 million). When Richter received the prestigious commission to create a stained glass window for Cologne Cathedral in 2007, he returned to a seminal series of works which he had worked on from 1966 to 1974; the Farbtafels, or Colour Charts. This series is considered to coincide with the most fruitful period in the artists career, and the work to be offered in June is from the last and most accomplished group of colour charts which he painted, and which he referred to as the culminatory series. The present example is one of only four in which Richter has included 1,025 colours, having previously believed that 1,024 was the maximum number possible before differences became imperceptible to the human eye. Measuring 120cm x 123.6cm and including 1,025 boxes filled with individual colours carefully and logically placed over a white grid, it shimmers to produce new forms and colours. This is the first Richter colour chart to be offered at auction since the artists commission at Cologne Cathedral was completed.
Night Playground by Peter Doig (b.1959), 1997/98, is an exemplary large scale work by the artist that will be offered at auction for the first time. A particularly rare and epic urban view, the painting shows night falling on a city playground and portrays the contrast between nature and the man-made. The fading light of the setting sun illuminates the rear of the painting with a natural glow, while artificial lights pierce the foreground. The painting has been described by the artist as one of his own favorites and has been unseen in public since 1998. It is expected to realise £1.5 million to £2 million.
Concetto spaziale, Natura, 1959-60, by Lucio Fontana (1899-1968) is a unique work from a sculptural series described as the most important ever created by the artist (estimate: £1.3 million to £1.9 million). The largest of the series ever offered at auction, the present example was exhibited at the Palazzo Grassi in 1960, and was shown to the public for the first time in nearly 50 years at the Palazzo Ducale in Genoa from October 2008 to February 2009. It will be offered at auction for the first time at Christies in June. Created six months after Fontanas first slash paintings, the Natura sculptures explored concepts of spaciality in a new, brutal and daring manner. In a letter to a friend in October 1960, Fontana said This Summer, at Albisola I have worked hard. I have almost produced thirty very large terracotta spheres, with holes and large cuts. I am very pleased, I have managed to represent nothingness! This is the death of matter; pure life philosophy!.
Untitled, by Cy Twombly (b.1928) is an important work which was executed in 1961, a watershed year in the artists career during which he created a number of masterpieces including the Ferragosto series which was recently united in an exhibition dedicated to the artist at Tate Modern last year. It was during this year that there was a firework-like introduction of an explosive new range of colours and textures, and the present work relates closely to those in the celebrated Ferragosto series. Untitled is expected to realise £500,000 to £700,000. Twombly is a central artist of the collection in the Museum Brandhorst which opened earlier this year in Munich.
Country Nurse, 2003, by Richard Prince (b.1949) is one of the largest works created for the artists celebrated and highly coveted Nurse series. It will be offered at auction for the first time from the collection of an Important European Foundation (estimate: £1.5 million to £2 million). For the series, Prince has mined his own extensive collection of trashy romance novels from the 1950s and 1960s, lifting the protagonists and titles from their lurid covers and immersing them in layers of pigment. An exploration of female stereotypes, the series was subject to great attention in 2003 when Prince photographed Kate Moss for W magazine in front of one of his pictures while she was wearing a suggestive nurses outfit. The present work is based on the book Country Nurse by Maud McCurdy Welch, the author of many such steamy, dime-store love stories.
The auction will offer three works by Jeff Koons (b. 1955) which represent three distinctive moments from the artists career, and all of which are offered at auction for the first time. Moustache, 2003, is from the artists Popeye series which will be the subject of his first major exhibition in the United Kingdom, being held at the Serpentine Gallery, London, from 2 July 2009 (illustrated right). A complex visual game of contrasts, the work involves a metal monochrome form of a moustache which hangs like a medieval contraption from red chains. Perched absurdly on the twists of the vast, comedy Victorian moustache are two swimming pool toys reproduced in polychromed aluminium which hang face down, their maniacal grins intact. It is expected to realise £1.2 million to £1.8 million. Flowers, 1986, is from the artists Statuary series which also includes Rabbit, one of his most recognized works. For this series, Koons took diverse source objects in order to create, in uniform stainless steel, a range of subjects treating subjects as diverse as Louis XIV of France, Bob Hope, trolls and sexy nurses. The present work depicts a floral tureen filled with flowers and is expected to realise £300,000 to £400,000. Walrus (Blue) was executed in 1999 and carries an estimate of £350,000 to £450,000.
Coinciding with the 53rd Venice Biennale, the auction will offer Four Men (with Guns Pointed at their Heads), 1988, by John Baldessari (b.1931) who was awarded the prestigious Golden Lion in Venice on 6 June 2009 for a lifetime achievement as one of the most important artists of our time (estimate: £150,000 to £200,000). Untitled (Wax Cat), 1989, is a unique work inspired by the taxidermy models which have since become a crucial medium in the work of Bruce Nauman (b.1941), who is representing the United States at the Venice Biennale (estimate: £100,000 to £150,000).
Further highlights of the auction include Red Skull by Jean-Michel Basquiat (1960-1988) which was executed in 1982, a highpoint of the artists career, and which is offered at auction for the first time (estimate: £1.5 million to £2 million); Golden Independent Heart, 2004, a 4.5 metre tall, rotating heart made of plastic cutlery by Portuguese artist Joana Vasconcelos (b.1971) whose work has never before been offered at an international auction (estimate: £80,000 to £120,000) (illustrated left); Self-Portrait, 1966, by Andy Warhol (1928-1987) which was previously in the collection of two of the greatest Pop Art collectors, Leon Kraushar and Karl Ströher (estimate: £500,000 to £800,000); La coiffeuse (The Hairdresser), 1950, by Jean Dubuffet (1901-1985), one of the earliest of the artists Corps de dame series, examples of which can be found in museum collections incuding MoMA, Tate London and the Centre Georges Pompidou (estimate: £650,000 to £950,000); and two works by Damien Hirst (b.1965) including Anthrafuchsone, 2006, a large scale spot painting which is expected to realise £300,000 to £400,000.