Ryan Murphy announced as guest curator for Sotheby's 'Contemporary Curated' auction

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Ryan Murphy announced as guest curator for Sotheby's 'Contemporary Curated' auction
Jean-Michel Basquiat, Untitled (The Color of Yam), 1985, est. $500/700,000. Courtesy Sotheby's.

NEW YORK, NY.- “In the future, everyone will be world-famous for 15 minutes” is one of the most oft-quoted phrases attributed to the iconic artist Andy Warhol, whose prescient prediction captured the popular ethos of “15 minutes of fame” that has become synonymous with the culture of stardom. This March, Warhol himself takes centerstage with the premiere of a new Netflix docuseries, The Andy Warhol Diaries, executive produced by celebrated writer, showrunner, Ryan Murphy, who also lends his curatorial eye to Sotheby’s Contemporary Curated auction on 11 March in New York with a selection of 13 standout works from the sale. Among Murphy’s picks from the auction is Warhol’s signature portrait of Japanese composer, pianist, and singer Ryuichi Sakamoto, along with two exceptional works by the late Wayne Thiebaud—marking the first paintings by the artist to come to auction since his death in December—as well outstanding examples by Jean-Michel Basquiat, Cecily Brown, and John Baldessari, among others.

The original Netflix docuseries, The Andy Warhol Diaries, which will premiere on 9 March and is written and directed by acclaimed documentarian Andrew Rossi, takes a closer look at one of the most renowned and scrutinized artists of the 20th century through Warhol’s personal diaries and the revealing secrets behind his public persona that he chronicled within them. After he was shot in 1968, Warhol began documenting his life and feelings in his now famous diaries, and the docuseries features interviews with insiders like Bob Colacello and Jerry Hall to unwrap the man from the artist known to the world at large.

Ryan Murphy is a producer, writer, director, and showrunner known for his distinct and baroque filmmaking. Helming shows and movies such as Glee, Nip/Tuck, American Horror Story, The Assassination of Gianni Versace: American Crime Story, Eat, Pray, Love, Pose, and The Politician, among countless others, Murphy has helped define a new cinematic style that has rejuvenated television’s anthology format and championed inclusive storytelling.

Launched in 2013, Contemporary Curated is an editorialized version of Sotheby’s contemporary art auctions, and takes place twice a year in New York and London, with editions also in Hong Kong, Paris, and Milan. For each sale, Sotheby’s engages influential figures from the worlds of fashion, food, music, film, and culture to contribute their unique perspectives on works of art from a range of artists and styles, showcasing their individual tastes and interests and creating a dialogue between these figures and the art.

Past curators have included singer, songwriter, and art enthusiast Ellie Goulding; music mogul Swizz Beatz; philanthropists Oprah Winfrey and Agnes Gund; celebrated chef Massimo Bottura; fashion icons Kim Jones and Virgil Abloh; Mandopop megastar Jay Chou; DJ Steve Aoki; and actor and singer Cynthia Erivo, among others. These individuals—along with exceptional works of art from the post-war period—add a unique editorial point-of-view to each sale.


Live Auction in New York 11 March

In a nod to the upcoming docuseries, The Andy Warhol Diaries, premiering on Netflix 9 March, Murphy selected an exceptional work by the iconic 20th century artist to lead his curated picks from the sale; a portrait of Ryuichi Sakamoto, a Japanese composer, pianist and singer that rose to prominence in the late 1970s as a founding member of Yellow Magic Orchestra, a band that has been considered influential and innovative in the genre of popular electronic music since that time (estimate $500/700,000). Sakamoto partook in the artistic exchange that categorized the 1980s downtown New York scene in which Warhol had undoubtedly been a paramount figure for many years. With its flat planes of saturated color and dynamic line work, Ryuichi Sakamoto embodies Warhol’s signature style and ethos – a quality of Warhol’s work which Murphy credits as “timeless.”

“I love Jean-Michel’s printing and his word usage almost as much as his imagery. I think he's always sending a message about who he was and his place in time; what it was like to be a minority in this very white art world of the '80s, and how deep his struggle was.”

– Ryan Murphy

An enigmatic puzzle and artistic treasure, Jean-Michel Basquiat’s Untitled (The Color of Yam) draws upon many of his signature symbols including the head, disjointed maxims, crossed-out maxims, and a familiar copyright from his SAMO graffiti period, whilst highlighting Basquiat’s maturation as an artist (estimate $500/700,000). Brilliantly connecting disparate cultural inferences and art-historical motifs with the use of words and drawing, the present work from 1985, stands as a tangible record of the artist’s otherworldly way of thinking and an acute critique of the world around him.

The thing about Cecily's work that I really love is the subtle sexuality and hidden erotic elements that are buried within her paintings. There's a naughtiness that you have to really search for, but you can find it if you're looking. Every time I look at it, I get up close to it, and I see new things, new images. So to me, it's something that would be a constant discovery as you live with it.”

– Ryan Murphy

Richly seductive and fantastically expressive, Cecily Brown’s Girder and Joist exemplifies the artist’s extraordinary fusion of rich painterly abstraction with figurative allusion (est. $500/700,000). Through the sensuality of its painted surface, the work exhibits the implied human presence inherent to Brown’s distinctive style, and her thickly layered gestural marks – lush throughout with candy pinks, soft lilacs, and rich fuschias – invites viewers to consume its luscious forms immerse the viewer in a fantasy of layered references.

“Wayne takes everyday things like food and turns them into some surreal fantasy of the American dream, which you can say Warhol did the same thing with the Campbells Soup cans. Something as ordinary as a bowl of cherries, or a cantaloupe is fetishized here. And I think Andy of anybody, would love to have collected these, because Wayne Thiebaud makes the banal, everyday item an object of fantasy.”

– Ryan Murphy

Murphy’s selection also features two exceptional works by the late Wayne Thiebaud—marking the first paintings by the artist to come to auction since his death in December 2021. The allure of Thiebaud’s works rests not only in its luscious quality of epicurean delight, but also in the cultural appeal and powerful sense of nostalgia with which Thiebaud is famously capable of infusing in his work—a nostalgia that is irrefutably linked to the cultural feel and tone of the sixties. Amidst the proliferation of consumer goods and rising commodification of culture, Thiebaud successfully captured in early works, such as Cantaloupe from 1962, the zealous spirit of the American moment of prosperity and abundance – which he continued to employ in later works such as Cherries #1 from 1981 (both estimated $1.5/2 million). Though readily considered a Pop artist, Thiebaud differs from his contemporaries such as Warhol in that his aim is not to critique society but rather to celebrate and remember it. Foregoing the cynicism and ironic appropriation so typical of Pop Art in favor of careful, sincere consideration of familiar images, Thiebaud’s work functions as an honest and commemorative societal mirror based not only on personal, but more importantly, collective memory

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