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Sotheby's announces December cross-category marquee evening sale
Pablo Picasso's Buste De Femme Assise. Courtesy Sotheby's.

NEW YORK, NY.- Sotheby’s announced a new, cross-category auction titled Impressionist, Modern & Contemporary Art | An Evening Sale, which will bring together masterworks encompassing the most renowned artists from the late 19th century to the most in-demand contemporary artists working today. The marquee Evening Sale will be held in New York and livestreamed to the world on Tuesday, 8 December. The announcement comes on the heels of the success of Sotheby’s global October auctions, including marquee Evening Sales of Contemporary and Impressionist & Modern Art across Hong Kong, Paris, London, and New York, which achieved $1 billion in consolidated sales. The cross-category format also builds on the success of Sotheby’s Rembrandt to Richter Evening Sale in London in July, which brought together works of art spanning 500 years of art history, and achieved $193 million with 95% of lots sold.

The December Evening Sale will be highlighted by Pablo Picasso’s masterful late-period painting Buste de Femme Assise, executed in 1962 and estimated to achieve $8/12 million. The portrait captures Picasso’s beloved second wife Jacqueline Roque, who remained with him until his death in 1973. In May 2019, Sotheby’s sold Picasso’s Femme Au Chien (1962) for $54.9 million, setting an auction record for a post-1960s painting by the artist.

The December sale will once again be presented in the dynamic, innovative digital format pioneered during Sotheby’s marquee summer sales and autumn sales. The auction will be broadcast globally from the New York salesroom to enable viewers to follow the bidding live, in high-definition through real-time video streams, while bidders will be able to place bids with Sotheby’s specialists in New York, London, and Hong Kong via phone, or via Sotheby’s interactive online bidding platform.

Sotheby’s Online Day Sales of Contemporary and Impressionist & Modern Art are currently open for bidding through 18 November and 19 November, respectively, and a live auction Contemporary Art Day Sale will take place 17 November in New York.

Amy Cappellazzo, Chairman of Sotheby’s Fine Art Division, commented: “Building on the success of our global October sale series, we are excited to offer an additional marquee Evening Sale in New York before the year closes. By presenting this new, cross-category Evening Sale in New York in December, we are continuing to rethink not only the traditional auction calendar, but also the ways in which our sales are organized and categorized. Collectors continue to be less concerned with the traditional art market categories of the past, and have consistently shown that masterworks, regardless of their category, retain their high demand at the top levels of the market, and this sale is a creative opportunity to present the finest works from the 19th century to today, side by side. There is no doubt this year has presented challenges to the market, but we are excited to close out the year on high mark with this special sale, and take that momentum and the lessons learned into 2021.”

As a highlight of the December Evening Sale, Pablo Picasso’s Buste de Femme Assise (estimate $8/12 million), which was painted in June 1962, belongs to an important series of portraits of the artist’s beloved second wife, Jacqueline Roque, who remained with him until his death in 1973. Picasso’s renderings of Jacqueline constitute the largest group of images of any woman in his life, and perhaps no other figure looms as large in his life and art than Jacqueline. The couple met in 1952 at the pottery studio in Vallauris, while Picasso was still living with the mother of his two children, Françoise Gilot. Unlike Françoise, Jacqueline was accepting of the notoriously temperamental artist and his obsession with his art. Her unflappable support and willingness to sacrifice herself on the altar of his ego won the artist’s heart, and they were married in 1961.

By 1962, Picasso and Jacqueline had decamped from the increasingly chaotic Villa La Californie in Cannes. After a brief period of time spent in the too-remote Vauvenargues Castle, near Aix-en-Provence, they settled in Notre Dame de Vie, a Mas in the town of Mougins, perched in the hills high above the coast. The spacious eighteenth-century farmhouse, surrounded by cypresses and olive trees with a view extending down to the Bay of Cannes, provided Picasso with unlimited time for his work—and unlimited inspiration from his wife Jacqueline. Unlike many other figural artists who employed professional models or negotiated with strangers and slight acquaintances to sit for them, Picasso’s figures always revolved around those who inhabited the closes portions of his personal life. In this new environment, where Jacqueline organized Picasso’s life for him, her role as muse was solidified throughout the vast body of work he produced in this late period.

The present portrait is a timeless rendition that stands out within the series of paintings devoted to the artist’s raven-haired wife. Painted over several days in June of 1962, the canvas crystalizes Jacqueline’s image at the height of Picasso’s late career, immortalizing his wife in fluid, paint-laden brushstrokes. Depicting Jacqueline in an armchair, a favorite motif that appears throughout Picasso’s oeuvre that generally served as a vehicle for expressing the palpable sexual tension between the painter and his model, she is also depicted in “double-profile,” a stylistic device invented in his portraits of Dora Maar, but the roots of which go back to his cubist experiments with multiple view-points. While borrowing elements from his own artistic past, Picasso here created an image with a force and freedom he only achieved in the last decade of his career.

Though Jacqueline claimed never to have modeled for the artist, her doting omnipresence in Picasso’s world informed nearly every aspect of his creation during these years; her almond eyes, dark hair and aquiline nose proliferating within his paintings, sculptures, drawings and ceramics. Their love engrossed the artist and propelled him to new heights, experimenting with the figure of his muse in all manner of color and pose, though never obliterating or demonizing her visage in his work as he had done with past muses.

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