Post-War and Contemporary Art Auction, part of 20th/21st Century at Christies, a season of sales that take place from 20 February to 7 March 2018, will present work by some of the greatest icons of the 20th Century alongside those artists at the forefront of contemporary art today. The season will be led by Andy Warhols Six Self Portraits (1986), a rare masterpiece completed just months before his sudden death in 1987. The present work stands among his last great artistic gestures, his self-image charged with a poignant sense of his own mortality. Jackson Pollocks Number 21, 1950 (1950, estimate: £10,000,000-15,000,000), an opulent, splashed and spattered painting from the peak of his seminal drip period. New York was the creative backdrop for a group of dynamic artists working in the 1980s including Jean-Michel Basquiat whose Multiflavors (1982, estimate: £10,000,000-15,000,000) dating from the year of Basquiats meteoric rise to fame is presented alongside four iconic self-portraits by Robert Mapplethorpe in which he grapples with his own multi-faceted identity. Lucio Fontanas Concetto Spaziale, Attese (1965, estimate: £8,000,000 -12,000,000), a masterpiece by the artist with 24 cuts on canvas enclosed in the artists unique black-lacquer frame, shows his quest for a fourth dimension at the apex of the space age. The Post-War and Contemporary Art Evening Auction will be held on 6 March 2018 and is followed by the Post-War and Contemporary Art Day Sale on 7 March 2018. All works will be exhibited at King Street from 2 to 6 March 2018.
Taking on the grand tradition of self-depiction in a manner unprecedented within art history, Andy Warhol assembled six distinct variations of his iconic 1986 fright wig self-portrait, creating a unique sequence that stands alone within his oeuvre, titled Six Self Portraits. His disembodied face emerges from darkness in six intimate 22 x 22-inch canvases, alternately pink, pale blue, lilac, orange, green and cobalt against a void of black. The fright wigs are widely considered to represent Warhols most deeply personal revelations, stark, rarefied exposures of an artist who ultimately became a greater cultural icon than his most famous celebrity muses. Six Self Portraits was unveiled at Anthony dOffays London gallery between July and August 1986 the first and only self-portrait exhibition of Warhols career. Works from this exhibition now hang in the collections of Tate, London, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, and the Carnegie Museum of Art, Pittsburgh. Warhols red Birth of Venus (After Botticelli) (1984, estimate: £4,500,000-6,500,000), one of just six large-scale images of Botticellis iconic goddess from the Details of Renaissance Paintings (Sandro Botticelli, Birth of Venus, 1482) series, is also offered in the Post-War and Contemporary Art Evening Auction.
Francis Bacon, The Eye of the Architect
Francis Bacons Three Studies for a Portrait (1976, estimate: £10,000,000-15,000,000) is the artists penultimate ode to his great muse Henrietta Moraes, whose stark depiction of facial features and realist palette reveal the influence of Picasso on Bacons work. Unseen in public since its inclusion in Francis Bacons historic exhibition at Galerie Claude Bernard, Paris, in 1977, the work is spiked with abstract colour and texture across three cinematic panels. It is the last of only six portraits of her painted in his celebrated 14-by-12-inch format, the first of which now resides in the Museum of Modern Art, New York. Exhibited at Claude Bernard alongside the poignant black triptychs and self-portraits painted in the wake of Dyers death, it represents a glimpse of light at the end of a long, dark tunnel: a wistful reflection on his golden Soho days.
Number 21, 1950 (1950, estimate: £10,000,000-15,000,000) is a beautiful and important work from the peak of Jackson Pollocks iconic drip period. It was included in the artists seminal third solo show at the Betty Parsons Gallery, New York, which opened on 28 November 1950. Now recognised as the crowning moment of Pollocks career, this exhibition contained several of his greatest large-scale masterpieces, all of which were painted that year: Number One, 1950 (Lavender Mist) (National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C.); Number 27, 1950 (Whitney Museum of American Art, New York); Autumn Rhythm (Number 30) (Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York); One: Number 31, 1950 (Museum of Modern Art, New York); and Number 32, 1950 (Kunstsammlung Nordrhein-Westfalen, Düsseldorf). Number 21, 1950 was among thirteen square-format works in the exhibition.
With its raw urban poetry, vivid colour and painterly pyrotechnics, Jean-Michel Basquiats Multiflavors (1982, estimate: £10,000,000-15,000,000) presents the artists signature crown set against a background of royal blue shot through with broad swathes of dripping black paint, words and symbols are scrawled in white, yellow and red. Held in the same collection since 1990, and prominently exhibited during that time, the work belongs to a celebrated group of paintings characterised by exposed stretcher bars tied at the corners. Comparable works are held in museum collections worldwide, including the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, the Broad Art Foundation, the Menil Collection and the Montreal Museum of Fine Art.
Lucio Fontana, Alberto Burri and Thomas Schütte
A collection of artists who radicalised traditional methods for making art by pushing the boundaries of the pictorial plane, using revolutionary materials, and dismantling visual history will be led by Lucio Fontanas masterpiece Concetto Spaziale, Attese (1965, estimate: £8,000,000-12,000,000), a two-metre long white canvas cut with 24 of Fontanas iconic vertical slashes, the greatest number he ever committed to a large-scale work, enshrouded in a highly reflective black lacquer frame. The artwork is a totally unique object by Fontana. Additional highlights include Alberto Burris Ferro T (1959, estimate: £3,000,000-5,000,000), an imposing and beautiful patchwork forged from jagged panes of soldered metal, weathered using fire and the process of oxidation, from Burris celebrated series of 12 Ferri (Irons), nine of which are housed in museum collections internationally. Thomas Schüttes Bronzefrau Nr. 7 (2002, estimate: £2,000,000-3,000,000) offers a powerful critique of monumental sculpture: created from bronze and Cor-Ten steel, it both mines and undermines Classical and Renaissance traditions. Dan Flavins untitled (monument for V. Tatlin) (1968 / 89, estimate: £250,000-350,000), Anselm Kiefers Am Anfang (In the Beginning) (1998, estimate: £400,000-600,000) and Gerhard Richters Abstraktes Bild (755-4) (1992, estimate: £400,000-600,000) are also presented.
German Masters: Gerhard Richter, Georg Baselitz and Andreas Gursky
Coinciding with the recently opened landmark retrospectives of Georg Baselitz at the Beyeler Foundation in Basel and Andreas Gursky at the Hayward Gallery, London, Christies will be offering works by these key German artists. Die Geisselung (The Flagellation) (1983, estimate: £2,200,000-2,800,000) is one of an important series of paintings made in 1983 in which Baselitz turned to religious iconography, reworking familiar scenes from Christian art history in a startling and radically new way. Spanning five metres in width, Andreas Gurskys Cocoon II (2008, estimate: £350,000-450,000) offers an immersive spectacle. Included in the artists major retrospective at the Kunstmuseum Krefeld that year, the work belongs to a small series of photographs depicting the former Cocoon Club in Frankfurt, owned and designed by the artists friend, DJ Sven Väth. Also included in the auction is Gerhard Richters Venedig (Insel) (Venice (Island)) (1985, estimate: £4,000,000-6,000,000), completing the group. Reproduced on the cover of Gerhard Richters first Catalogue Raisonné, Richters work is a sublime eulogy to the shining, sun-kissed waters that form a shimmering gateway to Venice
Robert Mapplethorpe and François-Xavier Lalanne
Following the success of the curated auction Masterpieces of Design and Photography, four standout self-portraits by Robert Mapplethorpe will be presented alongside a desk by François-Xavier Lalanne, the latter from the collection of American photographer, filmmaker and producer Steven Sebring. Adorned with make-up in SelfPortrait [lot 3] (1980, estimate £60,000-80,000), Mapplethorpe explores a theme central to his work: his own sexuality. In another Self-Portrait [lot 1] (1980, estimate: £80,000-120,000), by contrast, he presents himself as an archetypal 1950s bad boy, channelling James Dean and Marlon Brando with his coiffed hair, black leather jacket and cigarette dangling from his mouth. Wearing horns in Self-Portrait [lot 2] (1985, estimate £100,000-150,000), he casts himself as the devil, dramatically illuminated from below. Created the year before his diagnosis with HIV, Self-Portrait [lot 4] (1985, estimate: £40,000-60,000) is already infused with a sense of his own transience. Here his head is captured in motion, leaving behind a ghostly after-image. For Lalanne, animal sculpture is central in his oeuvre, finding inexhaustible inspiration in forms present in nature. His work manages to combine the secular approach of animal bronzes with the modernity and singularity of a simple line.
Peter Doig Two works sold to benefit the Donald R. Sobey Foundation
An icon of Peter Doigs early practice, Charleys Space (1991, estimate: £6,000,000-8,000,000) is the first of the celebrated snow paintings that would come to define the artists output of the 1990s. Begun during his final year at Chelsea School of Art in London, the work coincides with Doig receiving the prestigious Whitechapel Artist Award, an accolade that propelled him into the public eye. The proceeds of the sale of Charleys Space and Snowballed Boy (1995, estimate, £400,000600,000) will support an ambitious multi-year programme by The Donald R. Sobey Foundation in conjunction with the Sobey Art Foundation to strengthen international exhibition opportunities for contemporary Canadian artists.
Mark Bradford and Louise Bourgeois
Spanning almost three metres in width, Bear Running from the Shotgun, (2014, estimate: £2,200,000-2,800,000) is a monumental example of the Mark Bradfords ground-breaking social abstraction. In the present work, 41 lengths of striped, brightly coloured cord run at equal intervals horizontally through a vast, textural black and white surface, using a similar technique to his site-specific installation Picketts Charge, which is on show at the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Washington, D.C., until November 2018. Louise Bourgeois, Spider III (1995, estimate: £4,000,000-6,000,000) is a rare and unique steel example of her iconic arachnid motif. Bourgeois produced a single version in steel before each subsequent bronze edition, intended either for the artist herself or for acquisition by museums or close personal friends.
Alighiero Boetti and Lucio Fontana: Thinking Italian
Building on the October season Thinking Italian a further selection of work by Italian Post-War artists is led by Alighiero Boettis acclaimed Mappa (1984, estimate: £900,000-1,300,000) held in the same private collection for almost thirty years. Concetto spaziale, Teatrino (1965, estimate: £200,000-300,000) is a striking example of the Teatrini (Little theatres) that captivated Lucio Fontana between 1964 and 1966. The painting has rarely been seen in the last 50 years. Completing the group is Lucio Fontanas Concetto Spaziale, its vivid scarlet surface perforated by an ovular arrangement of holes, the works central formation echoes the egg-shaped canvases of the artists iconic cycle Fine di Dio (The End of God), created just three years prior.