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Masterpieces by Francis Bacon lead Sotheby's Contemporary art sale in New York
Donald Judd, Untitled. Est. $5/7 million. Photo: Sotheby's.

NEW YORK, N.Y.- On 9 November 2011 the Contemporary Art Evening Sale at Sotheby’s New York will be led by masterpieces by Clyfford Still, Gerhard Richter, Francis Bacon and Mark Rothko, among others. Four paintings by the celebrated American Abstract Expressionist Clyfford Still come from the Estate of Patricia Still and are being sold by the City and County of Denver to further support the endowment of the new Clyfford Still Museum, which is scheduled to open to the public in Denver on 18 November 2011. Abstraction-Figuration: A Private Collection includes one of the most important groups of works by Gerhard Richter ever to appear at auction along with important works by other artists that thrive in the fertile space between abstraction and figuration. The pre-sale exhibition opens on 5 November with selected highlights on view from 28 October.

Clyfford Still
The insightful selection of four paintings from the collection of Patricia Still represents a complete historical retrospective of the artist’s repertoire. From his earliest exploration into Surrealist-tinged abstraction of the late 1930s / early 1940s to the majesty of the later paintings of the 1970s, each seminal stage in his inspiring career is represented with a work of quality and critical importance.

The years from summer 1946 to 1950 were Still’s most triumphant period in which he elaborated his vision on an even larger scale with paintings such as the exquisite and profoundly important 1949-A-No. 1, (est. $25/35 million). In this painting Still’s unfettered display of color within a holistic union of form, space and line achieved his desire to transform art into a force of nature.

The quintessential painterly abstract style exhibited in 1949-A-No. 1 is equally evident in 1947-Y-No. 2, in which the human gesture was the sole signifier of the human presence in Still’s art (est. $15/20 million). In (PH-1033), from 1976, Still created an expansive masterpiece of grand sweep coupled with a nuanced surface in which accumulated and interwoven strokes of intense color overwhelm the viewer (est. $10/15 million). Along with 1949-A-No. 1, (PH-1033) was chosen for the major 1979-1980 retrospective of Still’s work organized with the Metropolitan Museum of Art, just prior to his death in June 1980. Executed in 1940, his oil painting (PH-351), is the earliest work in this group. It was painted while Still was an assistant professor of art at Washington State College in Pullman and eloquently demonstrates the degree to which he had already developed his innovative technique (est. $1/1.5 million).

A further highlight is Three Studies for a Self Portrait by Francis Bacon (est. $15/20 million). Bacon painted self-portraits throughout his career, beginning in 1956 and returning to the subject in the late 1960s and early 1970s. This 1967 painting is believed to be the artist’s first self-portrait triptych and has been in the same collection since it was purchased from the Marlborough Gallery exhibition of Bacon’s recent work in London that same year. The triptych has been widely published and was included in the critically acclaimed landmark 1971 Francis Bacon: Retrospective exhibition at the Grand Palais in Paris.

Abstraction-Figuration: A Private Collection
Abstraction-Figuration: A Private Collection is a remarkable offering of paintings from leading figures in key modern movements from Surrealism to Abstract Expressionism and others who defy categorization. It is led by one of the most important groups of works by Gerhard Richter ever to appear at auction, but also includes works by Francis Bacon, Sigmar Polke, and Lee Krasner. The group of eight works from the collection by Richter encompasses the full breadth and complexity of his triumphant abstractions. They are led by Abstraktes Bild (849-3) from 1997 (est. $9/12 million), and also include: Abstraktes Bild (769-2) from 1992 (est. $5.5/7.5 million), Gudrun (633) from 1987 (est. $5.5/7.5 million), and Möhre (558-2) from 1984 (est. $2.5/3.5 million).

The collection also features two works by Francis Bacon. Interior of a Room is the defining work of the Irish-born artist’s pre-war career (est. on request). The pictorial and thematic layering coupled with the artistic and ideological complexity demonstrates the unrestrained ambition of the young Bacon. Corner of the Studio is one of the earliest surviving Bacon works, and solidifies his connection with Pablo Picasso (est. $150/200,000) which is also one of the strongest features of Interior of a Room. In Forest, Lee Krasner used a collage of medium to mix fragments of previous oil paintings with shreds of paper to emulate abundant vegetation and an abstract tangle of trees (est. $800,000/1 million). An Untitled 1999 work-on-paper by Sigmar Polke is also included in sale (est. $250/350,000).

Masterpieces of Minimalism
The sale will also include a group of major works by Donald Judd, Carl Andre, Ellsworth Kelly, and Richard Tuttle from a Distinguished American Collection. These artists radically redefined the nature of painting and sculpture in the 1960s by subverting the traditional boundaries between the two practices. “The group is led by Donald Judd’s Untitled (DSS 155), a landmark work from the advent of Minimalism (est. $5/7 million). One of the artist’s earliest floor boxes, the piece consists of red Plexiglas encasing a stainless steel core which seems to float inside it, brilliantly conveying a sense of weightlessness. Like Untitled (DSS 155), Pyre (Element Series) by Carl Andre (est. $2/3 million) and Four Red Horizontals (to Sonja) by Dan Flavin from 1963 (est. $1/1.5 million) also interact directly with the floor or wall, ignoring the historical precedent of a base or pedestal. The other works in this group are: Chatham X: Black Red from 1971 by Ellsworth Kelly is from a series of 14 paintings which are among his earliest examples of multi-panel paintings, and serves as a testament to the depth and range of Kelly’s aesthetic invention (est. $4/6 million), Yellow by Richard Tuttle (est. $600/800,000), and an Untitled work from 1980 also by Judd (est. $3/5 million).

From a different collection comes Untitled (Plum and Dark Brown), an important mature painting by Mark Rothko (est. $8/12 million). Only a few canvases separate this 1964 work from the artist’s preparatory paintings for the famous 1965 Rothko Chapel series in Houston, Texas. Untitled (Plum and Dark Brown) was featured in one of the most comprehensive exhibitions ever mounted on the topic of abstract art, The Spiritual in Art: Abstract Painting 1890-1985 at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art. In this landmark exhibition, the painting represented the importance of Rothko’s work within the tradition of modern abstraction and the sublime.

Recent Contemporary Art
The Last Supper from 1986 by Andy Warhol comes from the series of the same name which served as a grand finale to his glittering career (est. $5.5/7.5 million). This homage to the Leonard da Vinci masterpiece is sourced from reproductions rather than the original painting, and so fits perfectly into the artist’s aesthetic program of bringing universally recognizable imagery into the realm of fine art. In addition, The Last Supper touches on a more personal side of Warhol – his lifelong, and exceedingly private, commitment to spirituality.

Oozewald, a seminal 1989 work by Cady Noland is based on the shooting of Lee Harvey Oswald just two days after the assassination of President John F. Kennedy (est. $2/3 million). Like much of the artist’s oeuvre it references an iconic moment of political anxiety and unrest that came to inherently define the era. The silkscreen image of Oswald on a thick aluminum plate is dotted with larger-than-life bullet holes that serve as both a depiction of that day’s violence, and a symbol of the challenges that America would face in the coming decade. Also by Noland is Bloody Mess from 1988 which brings together disparate objects such as Budweiser Cans, police equipment, car parts and rubber mats which suggest the aftermath of a riot or police encounter without showing the violence itself (est. $400/600,000).

A further highlight in this section of the sale is an Untitled sculpture made from African masks, mirror and wire form 1996 by David Hammons (est. $1.5/2million). The Harlem-based artist directly references the black experience throughout his work; however it is also deeply rooted by the ideas of assemblage and the Duchampian ‘ready-made.’

Today's News

October 26, 2011

Paintings from El Greco to Rippl-Ronai on view at the Museum of Fine Arts in Budapest

Masterpieces by Francis Bacon lead Sotheby's Contemporary art sale in New York

Getty Museum displays first comprehensive overview of photographs by Lyonel Feininger

Chinese works of art from an important European collection to be offered at Christie's Hong Kong

Charles Dickens: Life and Legacy in new display at the National Portrait Gallery in London

Life and work of American photographer Milton Gendel celebrated in two exhibitions

Photographer John Jansheski creates a home in Miami for unconventional artists

Frick acquires unique Sevres porcelain vase and important Renaissance drawing

Definitive film about American design icons Charles and Ray Eames to be premiered in the U.S.

Bonhams to sell Julia Margaret Cameron's intimate image of Virginia Woolf's mother, Julia Jackson

Matthew Day Jackson's first solo exhibition in Europe organized by Museum of Art Lucerne

As metal prices boom in the markets, copper thieves target South African bronze art

Most comprehensive retrospective of the work of Robert Breer at Museum Tinguely in Basel

Hepworth Wakefield presents 'The Unquiet Head' exhibition

Publisher, author and artist Fleur Cowles's archive donated to Harry Ransom Center

Joseph Heller letters reflecting about Catch-22 to be auctioned

Serge Gainsbourg autograph lyrics at auction in Paris

Tibetan artists transports 20,000 kg of soil from Tibet to Dharamasal India for art installation

Morphy's Nov. 12 sale features noted antique doll collection, private collection of early teddy bears

Exhibition of Yuendumu doors at the South Australian Museum

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