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Michael Crichton Collection Features World-Class Artists
Jasper Johns' "Flag," a pop art rendition of the American flag created in the 1960s that author Michael Crichton bought from the artist in 1973. The painting is one of many in Crichton's collection that will go on the auction block during Christie's Post-War and Contemporary Art sale in New York on May 11-12, 2010. AP Photo/Christie's.

By: Ula Ilnytzky, Associated Press Writer

NEW YORK, NY (AP).- Best-selling author Michael Crichton approached art in the same way he did his writing — through extensive research — but also by developing close friendships with many of the artists whose works he collected.

The popular thriller writer died in 2008 leaving behind such blockbusters as "Jurassic Park," ''The Andromeda Strain" and the TV series "ER."

But he also left a 20th century art collection that features some of pop art's best known artists, including Jasper Johns, Roy Lichtenstein and Claes Oldenburg.

Crichton's family is selling about 80 percent of the collection at Christie's auction house in New York on May 11-12.

Among the highlights is Jasper Johns' "Flag," a rendition of the American flag that Crichton bought from the artist in 1974, and which decorated the writer's Beverly Hills bedroom. It was last exhibited in 1992-93 at the Royal Academy of Arts in London.

About 70 of the 100 works from the collection, including paintings by Jeff Koons, Pablo Picasso and Robert Rauschenberg, will be displayed at Christie's Rockefeller Center galleries from Friday through April 13.

Brett Gorvy, deputy chairman of Christie's Americas, said Crichton was generous in lending works from his collection for exhibitions, but was possessive about the "Flag."

"With the 'Flag' it was such a personal thing because of his relationship with Johns," said Gorvy.

Their close friendship and Crichton's knowledge of Johns' work led the artist to ask Crichton to write the catalog for his 1977 retrospective at the Whitney Museum of American Art in New York.

Within the art world, Gorvy said, Crichton was renowned as a leading authority on Johns and the Whitney catalog, expanded and reprinted, has become the definitive text on the artist.

The "Flag" has a pre-sale estimate of $10 million to $15 million, but Christie's believes it will set a new world record for the artist.

"It will go substantially higher," given that the work "is so superb and rare ... and coming from a famous fella and also from someone who understood the artist," said Gorvy.

The current Johns record stands at $18 million for "Figure 4," set at Christie's in 2007. A larger flag of the artist's seminal image was purchased privately last month for $110 million by hedge fund billionaire Steve Cohen, Gorvy said.

Crichton "was a master of research" in his art collecting as much as in his writing, he said. "He collected artists in depth to know them better."

Crichton, one of the world's most commercially successful writers whose many books have been turned into film, also forged close friendships with Oldenburg, Lichtenstein and Rauschenberg.

Oldenburg's 1970 "Three Way Plug Soft Sculpture," which he purchased from the artist, is estimated at $250,000 to $350,000. Lichtenstein's "Girl in Water" has a pre-sale estimate of $800,000 to $1.2 million, while Rauschenberg's "Studio Painting" is estimated at $6 million to $9 million.

Crichton's collection is part of Christie's post-war and contemporary art sale.



Copyright 2010 The Associated Press.





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