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Seminal Andy Warhol Coke Bottle to spearhead special auction 'Up Close' during London's Frieze Week
Andy Warhol, Coke Bottle (1962), silkscreen ink, acrylic and ballpoint pen on canvas, 11⅛ x 6in. (28.3 x 15.2cm.). Estimate: £1,800,000 – 2,500,000. © Christie’s Images Limited 2017.

LONDON.- Andy Warhol’s seminal Coke Bottle will lead Up Close, a specially curated Evening Auction that will take place 3 October 2017, during London’s Frieze week. The auction will bring together an exceptional group of works to shed light on how artists, including Marcel Duchamp, Pablo Picasso, Cy Twombly and Andy Warhol, have turned to small-scale compositions to challenge themselves and unlock new modes of expression. These works can offer a zone of emotional intimacy, an exercise in delicate skill, or even a refreshing liberation from the supervening order of size.

One of Warhol’s very first paintings to incorporate the silkscreen technique for which he became well known, Coke Bottle (1962, estimate £1,800,000 – £2,500,000) tells the story of a turning point in twentieth century culture. Having previously worked entirely by hand, with the screenprint Warhol discovered the method that would dominate his oeuvre for the next twenty-five years. The age of Pop Art had arrived. Even before the Campbell’s soup cans, the Coke bottle – perhaps the ultimate symbol of American consumerism – was the first branded object to be depicted by Warhol. Yet this unflinching and iconic image also carries intimate, hand-drawn echoes of private devotion. The empty bottle is brought to gleaming life in black silkscreen ink, with hand-painting in pale green and white. Uniquely among the ten works of this series, one of which is now held in the Daros Collection and another in the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, a blue ballpoint outline is visible beneath the layer of green paint. Indisputably beautiful and alluring, Coke Bottle’s unfilled container is a perfect register of the quasi-religious promise of the American Dream: Warhol’s daring small-format presentation of the lone, empty bottle makes a bold statement of faith. ‘What does Coca Cola mean to you?’ Warhol was asked in 1962. He replied: ‘Pop.’

More highlights of the sale include Frank Auerbach’s Portrait of Leon Kossoff (1953, estimate: £450,000 – £650,000); Alberto Giacometti’s Homme (Apollon) (1929/1948-56, estimate £800,000 – £1,200,000) from the collection of Antoni Tàpies; and Nicolas de Stael’ s Composition (1950, £220,000 - £280,000), which was originally exhibited as part of the ‘Petits Formats’ exhibitions at Galerie Beyeler. La boîte en valise (1966, estimate £300,000-500,000) is Marcel Duchamp’s ‘Portable Museum’ – a compendium of almost all of the artist’s oeuvre in miniature that functions also as its own original and inimitably Duchampian work of art. La fenêtre de l’atelier (1958, estimate £700,000 – 1,000,000) is one of the last in a series of what Picasso called paysages d’intérieur (‘interior landscapes’) and presents an intimate glimpse into the haloed realm of Pablo Picasso’s studio at his home in the hills above Cannes, La Californie.

Alessandro Diotallevi, Specialist, Post-War and Contemporary Art, Christie’s, observes: “the contemporary art gallery is often a place of big objects and big ideas – things sometimes so large that standing in front of them, we can barely fit them in our field of vision. When an object can be held, something different happens: we can appreciate every physical nuance, every trace of the work’s story. Our attention is focused, heightened; a jewel-like sense of beauty takes hold. Presenting the greatest of the small, Up Close is a special auction and exhibition that will offer a new experience of the work of art. Transporting the viewer to a realm of altered perspective, conversations will be opened up and new avenues explored.”

Up Close will examine the different motives and ideas that bring artists to create small-scale works, and the varied parts they can play within an artist’s wider practice. A small-scale work requires meticulous care at every stage of composition, process, and technique. Brought closer to their own work, this can be as much a journey of self-discovery for the creator as it is a voyage for the viewer.

The auction takes inspiration from the visionary Ernst Beyeler, whose ‘Petits Formats’ shows at the Galerie Beyeler in 1954–55, 1967–68 and 1978 were each dedicated entirely to drawings, sculptures and paintings ‘as big as they need to be, and no more.’ Recognising the power of the intimate encounter, Beyeler himself called his Foundation ‘the ideal mini-museum.’ It is in this spirit – playful, pleasurable, with a fierce focus on art of outstanding quality – that Up Close will curate its own ‘Petits Formats’ show, celebrating the tiny and tremendous.

Up Close follows the success of the curated auction format that has been pioneered at Christie’s and has achieved world record prices for artists including Pablo Picasso, Amedeo Modigliani, Alberto Giacometti, Jean Dubuffet, and Roy Lichtenstein. Christie’s series of Post-War and Contemporary Art auctions during London’s Frieze Week are a highlight of one of the most important weeks in the art world calendar.

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