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Sotheby's To Spearhead its Contemporary Art Sale with Andy Warhol's Skulls Series
Andy Warhol, (1928-1987), Skulls. 5,000,000—7,000,000 GBP. Photo: Sotheby's.

LONDON.- Sotheby's will follow its record-breaking series of Contemporary Art sales in recent years with its October Contemporary Art sale, to coincide with the Frieze Art Fair. Following the stunning success of the Beautiful Inside My Head Forever sale of Damien Hirst’s work, Sotheby’s will offer a selection of top contemporary works on 20 October, 2008. The sale will include an unprecedented selection of Andy Warhol’s iconic Skulls series (est. £5,000,000-£7,000,000), as well as works by Gerhard Richter, Richard Hamilton, Anish Kapoor, Anselm Kiefer and Gilbert and George. Also to be included in the sale is a selection of works to be sold in celebration of the 60th anniversary of the Institute of Contemporary Arts by artists who have donated them for the event, including Howard Hodgkin, Jake and Dinos Chapman, John Currin, Antony Gormley, Damien Hirst, Anish Kapoor and Barbara Kruger.

The highlight of the October Contemporary Art sale is Andy Warhol’s series of ten skull paintings, a group that brings together an unprecedented number of the finest of one of Warhol’s most important series. At once iconic and aesthetically brilliant, these ten hand-selected canvases provide the perfect assemblage of replication. Presenting a striking commentary on death and mortality, Skulls occupies a central position in the artist’s oeuvre and offers a fascinating insight to one of Warhol’s most important relationships. The series was compiled by Thomas Ammann, a Swiss art dealer and close friend of Warhol, whose remarkable selection combines a series of identical images each with varying levels of detail and colouration. Discussing the sale, Sotheby’s senior international specialist Oliver Barker said, “The optimism and vitality of the colours only serve to underline the transience of life pitted against the omnipotence of death. Warhol’s point – ever concise and brilliantly pithy – is that even death, the nemesis of humankind, becomes mere lurid mundanity when perceived through repetition and familiarity.”

Gerhard Richter’s oil painting of the Middle Eastern landscape Jerusalem (est. £5,000,000-7,000,000) is one of the artist’s most important landscape pieces and represents one of the most significant uses of an identified landscape in his entire canon. In this haunting work the only element in any kind of detail or focus is a tree-enclosed car park. Jerusalem demonstrates the central importance of landscape in Richter’s output, not only as a vehicle to take on questions of perception and visual communication, but in this exceptionally rare case it provides the platform to address themes of a wider politico-social context.

Richter’s strong presence in the sale is continued with the abstract work Abstraktes Bild (Rot) (£3–4 million). Belonging to the monumental project of Abstract painting that Richter had initiated in 1976, this work demonstrates the astounding diversity and artistic range that characterizes this great artist. Sotheby’s specialist Michael Macaulay comments, “This work achieves a sublime chaos, becoming less an art object and more an experience in itself.”

Anish Kapoor's Untitled (est. £360,000-480,000), introduces the play of opposites between light and dark, inner and outer, past, present and future, defining a moment of transition as if between two worlds. Rooted in its physicality, the visual orchestration of the present work is based on a harmony of these opposing elements and their co-existence in the same space and materials. Its earthy surface has an aura of deeper purpose within its luminous core; one that displays the dual conditions of presence and absence, which inspires in the viewer contemplation of the infinite.

Peter Doig has actively sought-out, observed and embraced the many incidents, situations and atmospheres that he has been exposed to on his extensive travels, and the present work, Pelican (est. £70,000-90,000), bears witness to the ongoing exchange and development of the ideas and experiences that continue to shape his creative sensibilities. Pelican is a subject he has reworked in numerous formats over the past five years since moving to live and work in Trinidad in 2002. Both ambiguous and specific in mood, personal to the artist yet somehow familiar to the viewer, Pelican embodies the unique manner in which Doig's paintings explore the ambiguous and complex nature of emotions, experience and memory.

Indian artist Subodh Gupta is known for using his works to challenge our preconceived ideas about Indian society. In his sculpture Cow (est. £250,000–300,000) he takes two powerful symbols of modern India, the bicycle and the milk churn, and uses them to hint at an Indian worker in transit with the precious commodity from that most sacred of animals.

Also included in the sale is a strong section of works by American artists such as Robert Indiana, Tom Wesselmann and Jean-Michel Basquiat, as well as some important works by Indian contemporary artists including TV Santhosh, Ravinder Reddy and Rashid Rana.

As part of both the Contemporary Art Evening and Day sales, Sotheby’s will auction a selection of works donated by the artists to the Institute of Contemporary Arts in celebration of its 60th anniversary. The selection, comprising many brand new pieces, includes works by Howard Hodgkin, Jake and Dinos Chapman, John Currin, Antony Gormley, Damien Hirst, Anish Kapoor and Barbara Kruger. The works have been generously donated by the artists in recognition of the ICA’s impact on the contemporary art landscape and in acknowledgement of the support that the institution has shown new artists at crucial stages in their careers; many of the artists involved had their first exhibition at the ICA and now wish to support the next generation of artistic talent with the funds raised through the auction.

The most important highlight among the works to be offered to benefit the ICA is the oil on board, Ekow, a newly created painting by the artist Howard Hodgkin. The artist - Vice President of the ICA - first showed at the ICA as part of the exhibition Pop Painting, 1960 and then again in the two-person show Two Young Figurative Painters, 1962, alongside Allen Jones. The painting is an abstract portrait of the ICA’s Artistic Director Ekow Eshun, who visited Hodgkin’s studio to sit for the work, and is estimated at £150,000-200,000.

One Day You Will No Longer Be Loved is a new painting donated by Jake and Dinos Chapman (est. £35,000-45,000) from a series based on eighteenth and nineteenth century aristocratic portraits, doctored by the brothers to include ghoulish deformations. Other works from this series were included in a recent exhibition at White Cube.

Domain by Antony Gormley (est. £100,000-150,000) has been created specifically for the ICA auction and forms part of the Domain series which the artist started in 1999, a breakthrough in sculpture that substitutes space and light for mass and structure and described by Gormley as “an attempt to separate the subtle from the material body, to abstract an attitude and expose it to light and space.”

Today's News

October 8, 2008

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Sotheby's To Spearhead its Contemporary Art Sale with Andy Warhol's Skulls Series

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