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Masterworks of contemporary printmaking highlight Sotheby's Prints & Multiples Auction
Edvad Munch, Two Human Beings. The Lonely Ones (W. 157) highlights the selection (estimate $700/900,000). Courtesy Sotheby's.

NEW YORK, NY.- Sotheby’s announced highlights of this season’s auction of Important Prints & Multiples in New York. Led by an exceptional selection of works on offer from prestigious collections including The Collection of Blema and H. Arnold Steinberg and Catherine Woodard and Nelson Blitz, Jr., the sale is highlighted by seminal works spanning the 20th century, including prints by Richard Diebenkorn, Andy Warhol, Robert Motherwell, and more.

The Prints & Multiples auction is on public view in Sotheby’s York Avenue galleries beginning 16 October ahead of the auction on 24 & 26 October in New York.

Following Sotheby’s auction of works from the Collection of Catherine Woodard and Nelson Blitz Jr. in October 2017, the October auction will feature 11 works from the Collection, including an exceptional selection of prints by Edvard Munch, Emil Nolde, Jasper Johns and Chuck Close.

Mary Bartow, Head of Sotheby’s Prints & Multiples Department in New York, commented: “Following our successful auction of works from the Blitz Collection in October 2017, we are delighted to once again offer prints by Jasper Johns, Edvard Munch and more on behalf of enthusiastic and generous collectors Catherine Woodard and Nelson Blitz Jr. It is a privilege to share another exceptional selection of rare, important works this season.”

The group is led by four Jasper Johns’s Flags, including unique examples of Flag I, Flag II and Flag III (estimate $1.8/2.4 million). New to lithography in 1960, the artist created three variations of the flag that year, each printed from one stone. Relying solely on lithographic tusche to render his first iteration (Flag I), this early adaptation of the subject closely resembles a drawing completed the year prior. The present example of Flag I is a unique work, utilizing the same stone but varying the ink color and paper type. With Flag II and Flag III, Johns appeared to have gained confidence and ventured to explore lithography more daringly, employing wash, crayon and a sharp tooling instrument. These unique impressions demonstrate how Johns pushed the boundaries of lithography to explore how subtle changes can have different visual effects. (separate release attached)

The ongoing sales series of works on offer from the esteemed collection of Blema and H. Arnold Steinberg continues this October. Passionately assembled across decades by the Canadian collectors from the mid-1960s through 2014, the collection represents the vast sphere of artistic innovation that took place across the United States and Canada in the post-war decades, from Abstract Expressionism to the Hard Edge and Minimalist movements. The Prints & Multiples Evening auction will open with two iconic examples of Roy Lichtenstein’s Pop Art: Reverie (Corlett 38) (estimate $100/150,000); and Sweet Dreams Baby! (estimate $80/120,000). Each work was issued in one of the 11 Pop Artists portfolios published by Original Editions, New York.

The October auction is highlighted by Andy Warhol’s Flowers (F. & S. II.64-73), a complete set of ten screenprints in colors from 1970 (estimate $1/1.5 million). A notable departure from the images of commercialism and celebrity for which the artist was becoming known at the time, Warhol’s Flowers today are emblematic of his iconography. Exemplifying the artist’s affinity for repetition, the Flowers were bold and accessible, representative of the Pop movement he championed. Fifty years after the publication of the portfolio, Warhol’s Flowers hold a unique position in the canon of his early prints.

This season’s examples of masterworks of Contemporary printmaking include Robert Motherwell’s Blue Elegy – an exceptional example from his revered Elegies to the Spanish Republic series, and one of the artist’s most important prints (estimate $150/250,000). Motherwell was a 21-year-old student when the horrors of the Spanish Civil War commenced in 1936. He subsequently produced Elegies to the Spanish Republic - the prolific body of work that dealt with his reflections on tragedy in the modern world. As the recurrent motif of his Elegies, the symbolism of these ovular slabs has been debated extensively. Ultimately, they are intended to be read as a lamentation or funeral song – a lyrical and poetic memorial to the immense human loss and suffering endured during these harrowing years.

Considered an icon of postwar printmaking in America, Richard Diebenkorn’s Green is a showcase of the artist’s achievement in this field (estimate $400/600,000). Its monumental size – measuring 45 inches tall – balanced composition, layers of abstraction and brilliant color all factor into this work’s label as the artist’s largest and most important print.

On offer from an important Japanese Collector, the Prints & Multiples auction features a group of works by Joan Miró, led by five examples of early etchings from the artist’s renowned Black and Red Series. A sequence of dramatic etchings that express Miró’s agony over the Spanish Civil War, horizontal and vertical plates were employed to create disorienting webs that convey the chaos and agony experienced under Francisco Franco’s rule. The prints from this series mark the beginning of the artist’s ‘savage’ period, and secured his status as one of Spain’s great satirists alongside Francisco Goya and Pablo Picasso.

In addition to the selection of early Joan Miró works on offer, the auction features over 35 prints spanning the artist’s career, including large format prints from the late 1960s and early 1970s which illustrate the artist’s continuous innovation throughout his life: Équinoxe, one of the most important prints the artist produced in the 1960s (pictured left, estimate $50/70,000); and La Pierre philosophale, one of the largest prints Miró ever created (estimate $30/50,000).

Sotheby’s is offering property from the prescient and playful collection of pioneering video game executive Ryan Brant across a series of sales through 2020. Brant founded Take-Two Interactive, the company behind iconic series including Grand Theft Auto, Red Dead and NBA 2K. The Prints & Multiples auction offers a selection of 11 works by KAWS from the Brant Collection, including celebrated subjects such as KAWSBOB and the Companion. The group is led by a complete set of ten prints from Blame Game (estimate $80/120,000).

A selection of linoleum cuts by Pablo Picasso from the 1950s further highlight the sale, led by a rare proof of Portrait de jeune fille, d’apres Cranach le Jeune. II (B. 859; BA. 1053) (estimate $250/350,000). Picasso began exploring linoleum cuts in earnest in 1953-4, making linocuts in different colors on separate blocks, which he would then superimpose on the same sheet of paper. On 4 July 1958, the artist first created Portrait de jeune fille, d’apres Cranach le Jeune in five different linoleum blocks – sepia, yellow, red, blue and black. He then printed different proofs, creating two states of the color blocks and three of the black to arrive at the final image. The present proof is printed from the first state of the black block, which served as the keystone of the composition.

The auction also features Portrait de Jacqueline au fauteuil (Ba. 1054), one of Picasso’s earliest significant works in the medium (estimate $150/250,000). Following Picasso’s move to the south of France in the late 1950s, the distance from Mourlot’s lithographic press in Paris motivated the artist to explore the linoleum cut as a creative outlet. While the present portrait of his wife Jacqueline employs the traditional linocut process of superimposing multiple blocks to achieve the final image, Picasso found it cumbersome, and as a result, the work is among the last works he created using the process before developing the reduction method.

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