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Exceptional British art selection highlights Sotheby's contemporary art evening auction
Peter Doig, Bellevarde. Oil on canvas, 200 by 275cm. 78 3/4 by 108 1/4 in. Estimate: 1,500,000-2,000,000 GBP. Photo: Sotheby's.
LONDON.- Sotheby’s forthcoming Contemporary Art Evening Auction on Thursday, October 13, 2011, which coincides with London’s Frieze Art Fair, will be led by an exceptionally strong section of British Art that is highlighted by Lucian Freud’s Boy’s Head of 1952. The British Art section also includes important pieces by Peter Doig, Frank Auerbach, Leon Kossoff, Marc Quinn and Glenn Brown. The auction will also feature works by established greats such as Andy Warhol, Jean-Michel Basquiat, Miquel Barceló and Sigmar Polke as well as an offering of artworks by younger artists including Jacob Kassay. The 47-lot auction is estimated at in excess of £19 million.

Discussing the forthcoming auction, Cheyenne Westphal, Sotheby’s Head of Contemporary Art Europe, commented: “Sotheby’s established the record for an auction of Contemporary Art staged in Europe with our Contemporary Art Evening Sale in London just three months ago, which is resounding testimony to the buoyancy of this market sector. The sale we have assembled this season features works by established titans such as Warhol and Basquiat, as well as art by the young and upcoming generation of artists such as Jacob Kassay. The focus of this year’s October Auction is our exceptionally strong offering of British Art, led by the outstanding portrait ‘Boy’s Head’ by Lucian Freud, an indisputable masterpiece by the great legend of the London School.”

The sale will be headlined by Boy's Head of 1952 by Lucian Freud (1922-2011), depicting Charlie Lumley, one of Freud's most immediately recognisable subjects from this seminal early period in his oeuvre. This oil on canvas transmits a remarkable psychological intensity that is exemplary of the artist's sensational powers of observation and is estimated at £3-4 million. The work measures 21.6cm by 15.9cm and comes to market from a private collection. Enclosed within the glassy marbles of the boy's eyes, his depthless black pupils and serene grey-blue irises emit a hypnotic intensity that pierces out to confront and transfix the viewer. The features of the boy are physically and compositionally held in place by the palm of his left hand, which buttresses against his cheek and jaw bones. The drooping flesh of the boy's ample cheek is pulled taught by his hand, stretching the mouth open to bare the pearly young teeth below. This remarkably observed detail accentuates dramatically the psychosomatic character of the sitter. The artist's careful selection of a focused scale, consistent with works of this period, is here fundamental to its impact as it enables the maximum exertion of control over the subject**.

Head of Helen Gillespie II by Frank Auerbach (b. 1931) was forged in the artist’s Camden studio during the same crescendo of creativity that witnessed the execution of Head of Helen Gillespie, which achieved the record price of £1.9 million at Sotheby’s London in July 2008. The present work is in the highest tier of early paintings by Auerbach ever to be offered at auction and represents the pinnacle of his artistic achievements during the mid-1960s. The gestural energy that comprises Head of Helen Gillespie II is palpable on the surface in the cascading folds and burrowed troughs of the artist’s extraordinary mark-making. It is a distillation of Auerbach's thoroughly inimitable, emotionally urgent and psychologically compelling portraiture. Held within the swathes of impasto, the character of Auerbach's subject emerges. As is so characteristic of early works from this period, the palette is derived from deep red and brown ochres, whites and blacks. The focused range of hues forces the viewer to address both the presence of the sitter and the physical substance of the paint material itself. This remarkable portrait, a crystallisation of Auerbach's very best work, is estimated at £800,000-1,200,000.

A Street in Willesden by Leon Kossoff (b. 1926) was executed in 1985 and is an outstanding example of the artist’s lifelong dedication to transposing into paint the rich phenomenological sensation of vision. Defined in the 1996 Tate Retrospective catalogue as the most important work from this salient series, the present work emerged during a particularly fertile period of production between 1985 and 1988 and it synthesises a translation of North London, where the artist has always lived and worked. At once psychologically intimate and atmospherically evocative, this painting is a celebration of both the urban environment and the human condition. With a dramatic mastery of impasto paint, Kossoff triumphs in elevating the everyday into the grand realm of epic painting. A Street in Willesden represents a significant contribution to Kossoff's lifelong artistic engagement with London's urban landscape. Like his contemporaries Auerbach, Freud and Bacon, Kossoff painted that which he knew best; in limiting his subject to the immediate vicinity of his neighbourhood, the anonymous people that passed through these places, and the friends that posed for his portraits, Kossoff transformed the everyday into the extraordinary. A culmination of Kossoff's highest achievement, this work places him within the canon of great 20th century artists and comes to the market with an estimate of £350,000-450,000.

Marc Quinn succinctly summed up the appeal of the series embodied in Microcosmos (Siren) in an interview he did with Will Self for the catalogue to his British Museum exhibition: "It's called Siren, because in a sense it represents everything that lures people to wreck themselves on the rocks: money, perfection, unattainable images – all these things." Comprised of 10kg of 18 carat gold, the sculpture depicts Kate Moss in a yoga pose and is a spectacular apex of the artist's output: the definitive contemporary Venus. Executed in 2008, the iconic subject of the world's most famous supermodel struck in the ultimate material of prosperity and affluence, this work is in the highest tier of the artist's prestigious oeuvre. One of the most consciously iconic sculptures of this century, it is estimated at £500,000-700,000.

Monumental in scale and eliciting a velvety texture seemingly imbued with the very texture of snow itself, Peter Doig’s Bellevarde of 1995, illustrated on page one, represents a consummate example of the artist’s snowscapes, among the most renowned and desirable within his oeuvre. Portraying the base of the Bellevarde peak within the Val d'Isère ski resort in the French Alps – the Face de Bellevarde was the location of the men's downhill race as part of the 1992 Winter Olympics – the present work simultaneously evokes both the artist’s Canadian youth as an avid skier and his uniquely painterly technique and knowledge of art history which have brought a completely fresh and invigorated perspective to landscape painting. The work carries an estimate of £1.5-2 million.

Estimated at £1.4-1.8 million is Miquel Barceló’s Pluja Contracorrent, which narrates a richly textured swell of dark water crashing against a crowded river boat in an archetypical masterpiece of his oeuvre. Inspired by the artist’s travels down the river Niger in 1991 during a period of political unrest in Mali, it contemplates the historically specific realities of society in turmoil, while aesthetically capturing the atemporal and Romantic ideals recalled from J.M.W. Turner’s reverence for the elemental power of the seas. The immaterial and the tangible collide as masterful manipulation of light and shadows combine with the sculptural frothing of waves and violent incisions of rain. This monumental tableau is emblematic of the impact of Barceló’s nomadic lifestyle on his art: "Wherever he may be, Miquel Barceló surely seems to be embarked on a voyage without an end. Behind him he leaves a wake of fragmented visions, sparkles that gleam in the night” (Francisco Calvo Serraller, Miquel Barceló: Paintings from 1983 to 1985).

Jean-Michel Basquiat’s powerful Spike from 1984 almost certainly depicts the film director Spike Lee with bared teeth and outstretched arms against a vast field of cadmium yellow and carries an estimate of £1.1-1.6 million. Created around the time that Lee was starting what would become his first major film “She's Gotta Have It”, Basquiat’s image uses his characteristic conflation of African ritualism with Christian iconography to present Lee as an archetypal figure which faces the viewer replete with commanding symbolic authority. Basquiat and Lee were near contemporaries and both were from Brooklyn; the artist’s choice of subject advances his canonization of a pantheon of heroes of black culture including jazz musicians, boxers and baseball players.

Elizabeth Peyton’s oil on canvas Liam + Noel (Gallagher), estimated at £350,000-450,000, is one of the largest portraits the American artist painted of the front men of the epoch-defining Brit Pop band Oasis between 1996 and 1997, another of which is today housed in the permanent collection of the Museum of Modern Art, San Francisco. At the time, Oasis was conquering the international music scene – topping the charts in the UK and the US - while Damien Hirst and the YBAs were the rising stars of the British Art scene. In her departure from the source image, a photographic image culled from a glossy music magazine, Peyton’s delicate, deceptively spontaneous brushstrokes achieve the effect of making the viewer feel as though they are looking at a candid snapshot from the Gallagher family's photo album. The painting bypasses the aura surrounding their fame and public life, tapping into their personal histories in a portrait which is devoid of the voyeurism and the intrusive gaze of the media.

Sigmar Polke’s images of the opium dens of Quetta, Pakistan are among his most important works of the 1970s. His interest in photochemical exploration in the darkroom went hand in hand with experimentation with hallucinogenic drugs and a passion for exotic experiences and travel. His trip to Afghanistan and Pakistan in 1974 witnessed a highpoint of this adventure and Untitled (Quetta, Pakistan: Tea Ceremony, estimated at £200,000-£250,000, of 1974/1978 powerfully reflects his heightened visual and spiritual awareness during this period. Polke photographed the opium dens and painstakingly hand coloured the prints and overlaid the images with lyrical linear schema in silver and gold paint to convey the mind-expanding experiences he found there. These images show the full gamut of Polke's fully evolved photographic practise which revolutionised the medium's painterly capacity.

An exciting paradigm defining a new generation of up-and-coming talent is Untitled, a shimmering acrylic and silver deposit work on canvas of 2009 by American artist Jacob Kassay. Heralded as a rising star, Kassay’s first solo institutional exhibition opens at the ICA in London in October. The work is estimated at £50,000-£70,000.

Sothebys | British art |


Last Week News

September 26, 2011

Andy Warhol's headline works presented by the National Gallery of Art, Washington

80 outstanding 19th century French drawings from the Louvre go on view at the Morgan Library

With over one hundred loans "Picasso 1905 in Paris" exhibition at Kunsthalle Bielefeld

American artist Dan Colen's first major exhibition in Rome opens at Gagosian Gallery

Dutch and Flemish paintings on view at the Museum of Fine Arts in Saint Petersburg

The Denver Art Museum is first venue for "Robert Adams: The Place We Live" exhibition

Rijksmuseum is largest loaning institution to exhibition at Kunsthistorisches Museum in Vienna

Exhibition of recent work by Japanese artist and architect Yutaka Sone at David Zwirner

Major exhibition on Sam Maloof and his circle of artist friends on view at the Huntington Library

Survey exhibition of paintings and drawings by Hans Burkhardt at Jack Rutberg Fine Arts

"Combinations Described" by Bruce Nauman on view at Donald Young Gallery

NRW-Forum Exhibition by Magnum photographers focuses on war and crisis photography

Connecticut College's steel house by Winslow Ames getting chance to shine again

Two new AGA exhibitions explore pioneers of both early French photography and the frontier landscape

Ohio mosque designed to blend in, not stand out

Exhibition is inspired by the concepts behind Czech author Milan Kundera's novel Slowness

Docks Art Fair achieves a highly praised 3rd edition

FLAG Art Foundation presents two exhibitions: Art², a group exhibition and Jane Hammond: Fallen

High presents major exhibition of wildlife sculptures by artist Grainger McKoy

September 25, 2011

Lehmbruck Museum's most extensive exhibition celebrates its 100th anniversary

Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden Presents "Andy Warhol: Shadows"

Houston's Menil Collection Announces Return of Byzantine Frescoes to Cyprus in 2012

MFA Houston announces major Frank Stella acquisition: "Palmito Ranch" (1961), a landmark in American painting

Made in the UK: Contemporary art British art at the Museum of Art Rhode Island School of Design

Edge of Empires: Pagans, Jews and Christians at Institute for the Study of the Ancient World

Third solo exhibition by Brazilian artist Beatriz Milhazes on view at Galerie Max Hetzler

Restoration work to begin on Joan Miró mural in Wichita State University's Ulrich Museum of Art

Larry Wright appointed Managing Director of Bellevue Arts Museum in Washington

Exhibition at Victoria & Albert Museum tackles tough task: define "Postmodernism"

First Ever Museum Exhibition Showcases Giorgio di Sant' Angelo's Innovation and Influence

De La Warr Pavilion explores Andy Warhol's beliefs, lifestyle and above all, his legacy

Neuberger Museum of Art presents first ten-year survey of paintings and drawings by Dana Schutz

Arnolfini celebrates 50th anniversary of presenting the very best in contemporary art in all its forms

Des Moines Art Center exhibition explores issues of loss and extinction in Dario Robleto's work

New study identifies pine bush as "Stop Over" for migrating birds

Taglialatella Galleries announcemens two new executive positions

National Museum of American History receives Peace Corps objects

Andrew Raftery: Open House on view at the Fleming Museum of Art

"Modify as Needed" at the Museum of Contemporary Art, North Miami

Newark Museum Patchwork exhibition now open

Studies suggest 2 waves of ancient Asia settlement

Massachusetts library undoes century-old Twain book ban

Israel donates money for preservation of Auschwitz

Nation's largest pinball museum to open in Baltimore

September 24, 2011

Copyrights and images from Marilyn Monroe's first photo shoot to be auctioned

Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, and Turkish Republic reach agreement for transfer of top half of Weary Herakles

The Morgan Library & Museum holds major exhibition this fall celebrating the birth of Charles Dickens

Richard Serra: Two new sculptures, Junction and Cycle, on view at the Gagosian Gallery

Works by world's preeminent contemporary artists sold at Christie's New York to benefit Artists for Haiti

"Wizard of Oz" ruby slippers up for sale at California auction house Profiles in History

Focused survey of installation art by Sanford Biggers at the Brooklyn Museum

Seeing Stars: Visionary Drawing from the collection on view at the Menil Collection

Sotheby's London to offer important newly discovered and unseen early photographs by Linnaeus

Arco Gallerywalk, new idea from Arco Art Fair to boost visits to art galleries in Madrid

Large scale steel sculptures by Jonathan Prince at The Sculpture Garden at 590 Madison Avenue

First solo show in Mexico by Darío Villalba at Luis Adelantado Gallery in Mexico City

Longtime Michener Director/CEO Bruce Katsiff announces plan to step down

De Hallen Haarlem presents an international group exhibition centering on an artwork by Louise Bourgeois

The Rencontres D'Arles: Photography festival 2011 breaks attendance record

"What would you name a new worm?" asks UK museum

Edward Barber & Jay Osgerby: Ascent on view at Haunch of Venison in London

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Looters plunder $8.5M from Ivory Coast museum

Poland receives 2 stolen paintings seized in New York

September 23, 2011

"MemyselfandI: Photo portraits of Picasso" opens at the Museum Ludwig in Cologne

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Recently rediscovered early body of work by Ad Reinhardt on view at The Pace Gallery

Exhibition of Bob Dylan's drawings and paintings on view at Gagosian Gallery in New York

Photographer Elliott Erwitt's archive to be housed at University of Texas' Harry Ransom Center

J. Paul Getty Trust and the Hellenic Republic sign agreement creating framework for cultural cooperation

Boldini and Dore highlight Christie's 19th Century European art sale in New York

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Exhibition of new paintings by Belgian painter Raoul De Keyser at David Zwirner

Banksy's iconic Monkey Detonator sells for £97,250 at Bonhams Urban Art sale     

Beatles' anti-segregation 1965 contract sold for $23,000 by Nate D. Sanders Auctions

Chinese Gilt-Bronze Bell achieves $482,500 at Doyle New York's Asian works of art sale

Exhibition of paintings from the 1960s to the 80s by the late Milton Resnick at Cheim & Read

Phillips de Pury & Company to auction historic collection of over 4350 Swatch watches in Hong Kong

Newly acquired portraits of Johnny Vegas, Matt Lucas, and Jimmy Carr in National Portrait Gallery display

Site specific retrospective installation by pioneering Los Angeles artist Betye Saar at Roberts & Tilton

Carsten Höller wins the Enel Contemporanea Award 2011

Photos, films find profound in ordinary people

World's oldest running motor car to be auctioned at RM's Hershey sale

September 22, 2011

Tate Britain unveils John Martin's lost masterpiece for the first time in almost a century

The Rijksmuseum presents Johan Maurits & Frans Post: Two Dutchmen in Brazil

Sotheby's contemporary art evening auction to be highlighted by four masterworks by Clyfford Still

Marlborough Gallery presents an exhibition by Red Grooms on the theme of New York

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Sotheby's to sell the BAT Artventure Collection formerly known as the Peter Stuyvesant Collection Part III

South African artist William Kentridge exhibits at the Museum of Fine Arts in Budapest

Chiara Parisi appointed new Director of the cultural programs at the Monnaie de Paris

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Exhibition of photographs in the spirit of alchemy at Galerie Guido W. Baudach

Picasso and Braque: first exhibition to unite works from pivotal years at the Santa Barbara Museum of Art

Major collection of antique telephones will keep collectors "engaged" at Morphy Auctions

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Florian Maier-Aichen's defiant new works at Baronian_Francey in Brussels

Bonhams Fall salon jewelry and watches sale a starry success

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Leslie Hindman Auctioneers' fine jewelry and timepieces auction realizes over $3 million

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Frieze Art Fair 2011 announces works to be installed at Sculpture Park

September 21, 2011

Art Moscow welcomes over forty national and international Contemporary art galleries

Exhibition of portraits by Andy Warhol of the late Elizabeth Taylor at Gagosian Gallery

Works by Roy Lichtenstein from his celebrated Entablatures series at Paula Cooper Gallery

Museo de Arte de Ponce announces exhibition of masterpieces from the Prado Museum

Christie's announces fashion and accessories sale from the Elizabeth Taylor Collection

Cherry and Martin restages landmark 1970 exhibition "Photography into Sculpture"

National Portrait Gallery announces Lucian Freud portraits exhibition in February 2012

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China Institute Gallery presents Blooming in the Shadows: Unofficial Chinese Art, 1974-1985

Sotheby's to sell an important private collection of works by Alexander Benois this November

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Contemporary art from the Estate of Dr. Edmund P. Pillsbury, Oct. 26, at Heritage Auctions

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3.- Carlo Mollino's idealized vision of the female form in new book published by Damiani/Crump

4.- Tate Britain displays works by Frank Auerbach from the collection of Lucian Freud

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6.- Lambert Collection opens an ambitious project housed at the Sainte-Anne Prison

7.- Centre for Contemporary Art Singapore announces the first 18 artists in the CCA Residencies progamme

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9.- Thirteen's American Masters Series co-produces new documentary about photographer Dorothea Lange

10.- Sotheby's New York to offer 548 Edward Weston photographs as a single lot this September

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