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Exceptionally rare and important Contemporary art masterpieces to be sold at Sotheby's
A Sotheby's employee poses next to a work titled 'Sleeping Girl' by US artist Roy Lichtenstein at Sotheby's. The work is expected to fetch around 30 - 40 million USD (19 - 25 million GBP) when it is auctioned at the Contemporary Art Evening sale in New York, on May 9, 2012. AFP PHOTO / CARL COURT.
NEW YORK, NY.- On 9 May 2012 Sotheby’s May sale of Contemporary Art will showcase exceptionally rare and important works spanning the past six decades. The cover lot of the sale is Roy Lichtenstein’s Sleeping Girl from 1964 one of the high-points of the artist’s comic book inspired paintings and an icon of Post-War American art (est. $30/40 million). The auction also features Double Elvis [Ferus Type] by Andy Warhol, a painting that epitomizes the artist’s obsessions with fame, stardom, and the public image (est. $30/50 million) one of the most powerful and sophisticated paintings by Francis Bacon – Figure Writing Reflected In Mirror (est. $30/40 million), Untitled (New York City), one of the most important works by the American master Cy Twombly to have appeared at auction (est. $15/20 million).

Sleeping Girl
The beautiful women of Roy Lichtenstein’s comic book series are not only one of the most instantly recognizable icons of the Pop Art movement but continue the long, rich tradition of artists’ celebrations of the sleeping female form. Paintings from this series are featured in the collections of major institutions throughout the world such as the Museum of Modern Art, New York. Sleeping Girl has not appeared on the market since it was purchased by noted West Coast collectors and philanthropists Beatrice and Phillip Gersh, from the Ferus Gallery in 1964. The painting is the highpoint of Lichtenstein’s most acclaimed and sustained body of work, painted between 1961 and 1965, and stands out as the clear masterpiece among the single figure, square-format paintings of women from 1964, with a perfect harmony of size, composition and color.

Double Elvis [Ferus Type]
Double Elvis [Ferus Type] from 1963 is a seminal piece from the iconic series devoted to the singer and actor that was first seen at the Ferus gallery in Los Angeles that same year. The celebrities of Warhol’s portraits – Marilyn Monroe, Jackie Kennedy, and Elvis Presley among others - were presented as glamorous and powerful icons whose image was imprinted on the public consciousness. Warhol’s signature style, coupled with the instantly recognizable faces of his subjects creates a blurred boundary between artist and sitter. Of the 22 works in the Elvis series, nine are in museum collections with others in highly distinguished private collections and this is the first Double Elvis to appear on the market since 1995.

Figure Writing Reflected In Mirror
The extraordinary 1976 painting Figure Writing Reflected In Mirror incorporates some of Francis Bacon’s most important themes and iconography, synchronizing the essence of his life and art. Figure Writing Reflected In Mirror was included in the legendary 1977 exhibition at Galerie Claude Bernard, Paris, where it was shown alongside Triptych, 1976, which holds the record price for any work of Contemporary Art at auction. The present owners purchased the painting at that exhibition and it has not appeared on the market since.

Untitled (New York City)
Cy Twombly’s 1970 masterpiece Untitled (New York City) is one of the high points of the artist’s career and a superb example of the backboard paintings. In 1966, Twombly abandoned the use of color that had defined so much of his previous output to embark on a cycle of matte grey works including Untitled (New York City) that became a discourse of mood and movement. The present painting evokes the liberal movement of Jackson Pollock’s action paintings while the low pressure all-over energy is similar to Jasper John’s grey paintings. Six horizontal bands that are at once typographical and illegible cover the entire canvas, avoiding any central composition or specific subject matter.

Pop Art
One of the most indisputably iconic images of Pop Art on a astounding scale, Andy Warhol’s immense Ten-Foot Flowers from 1967 is a further highlight of the sale (est. $9/12 million). Composed upon a canvas nearly one hundred square feet in size, this painting was conceived specifically for the artist’s first retrospective exhibition in Europe, held at Moderna Museet, Stockholm in 1968. It is one of just eleven Flower paintings created in this ten-by-ten foot format and reflects the degree to which Warhol had honed and refined the screen-printing process by this stage in his career.

The Contemporary Art from the Estate of Theodore J. Forstmann will be led by Roy Lichtenstein’s Sailboats III, an interpretation of a theme that has been explored by artists for centuries (est. $6/8 million). In this and other series the artist worked on in the early and mid-1970s, he looked to the Cubists as well as more traditional paintings for inspiration. Sailboats III is one of the most evolved works from this series, and stands as a seminal composition of movement, geometry and color.

Recent Contemporary Art
Abstraktes Bild 768-2 by Gerhard Richter from 1992 was acquired by the present owners from the artist’s London gallery in 1995 and has been off the market since (est. $8/10 million). A triumphant act of painting, Abstraktes Bild 768-2 epitomizes the mature achievement that is Richter’s abstraction. It is a remarkable example of the artist’s bravura technique, standing out as one of Richter’s most impressive contributions to his continued investigation into the nature of process. This towering work delivers a breathtakingly symphonic and enveloping field of primary color. The incontestably beautiful Wolken (Clouds) is a further Richter highlight in the sale (est. $5/7 million).

Aluminum Girl by Charles Ray took no fewer than eight years to produce and its appearance at auction is a momentous event (est. $4/6 million). Ray has continually reinterpreted Contemporary sculpture from his early performance works of the 1970s to the figurative works of the 1990s. The creation of Aluminum Girl marked a further shift to an idealized depiction of a woman that was influenced by Renaissance sculpture.

Ring from 1981 is a striking self-portrait by Jean-Michel Basquiat which portrays the artist as a warrior poised for battle in the boxing ring, his arrow raised and ready to strike (est. $4/6 million). The work which comes from the Forstmann Collection offers a rare insight into the mind of one of the 20th century’s most acclaimed yet tormented artists.

Other highlights in this section of the sale include Untitled (W38), one of the instantly recognizable Word paintings by Christopher Wool (est. $4/6 million), and Black Like Me #1 a 1992 work by Glenn Ligon (est. $600/800,000).

Abstract Expressionism
Arshile Gorky’s Khorkom, also from the Forstmann Collection stands at the crossroads of European Surrealism and American Abstract Expressionism, having been painted during a time when the artist was looking to memories of his childhood in Armenia to inform his works (est. $3/4 million). The Surrealist movement that was gaining traction in New York in the 1930s was a major influence, and helped the artist to develop his individual style of painting. Traces of Cubism also can be seen in Gorky’s paintings from the 1930s, including the present work.

The sale also includes a number of works by Willem de Kooning. Untitled from 1951 comes from a period in which the artist was gaining increasing recognition with his first solo show at the Charles Egan Gallery, participation in the 1950 Venice Biennale and museum purchase of Woman I (est. $4/6 million). Woman On A Sign II from 1967 is from a series of languid and graceful depictions of Women that the artist painted after his move to East Hampton, the flowing brushwork and warm palette clearly contrasting with the aggressive figures from the previous decade (est. $3/4 million). Untitled from 1970-1974 was also painted after de Kooning moved from Manhattan to Long Island and, like many paintings from this period, reflects his new-found closeness to nature (est. $5.5/7.5 million).



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May 7, 2012

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