Christies Fall 2013 Auction Preview

Three Cauliflowers 

One of the best perks of living in Midtown Manhattan is going to the auction preview exhibits at Christies, Sotheby’s and Phillips De Purey.  Christies is easier because I can walk to it!  A lot of people don’t realize that anyone can go. It’s great because you get to see all sorts of art from famous artists, works that usually aren’t available to view because they are in private collections.   One thing to keep in mind though is that sometimes what you see is not the artists’ finest. Since the economic crisis in 2008 there hasn’t been a lot of super impressive stuff for sale, in my opinion.  Sales were down, so no one wanted to sell their best stuff.   

This year I really enjoyed the Christie’s preview shows of Post War and Contemporary as well as Impressionist and Modern Art on exhibit before their November 5th and 13th auctions. There was still a lot of mediocre stuff, but there were a few things I’m glad I saw.  The prices just seem ridiculous.  And, if you believe all the hype, everything is a masterpiece. If I were planning on selling a 5 x 5 inch color-pencil drawing by Lichtenstein for between $1.5 - $2 million at next week’s Post-War and Contemporary sale, I might be a bit worried.  I mean really! I understand it is an important piece because it was drawn at the start of pop art and everything, but it is 5 x 5 inches and looks like it is on cheap paper!  

It’s too bad that art has become such a commodity.  I am so sick to death of Jeff Koons.  This morning in the paper he is quoted as calling his Balloon Dog “mythic” and comparing it to the Trojan Horse.  Gag. 

Apparently a lot of the works didn’t reach the minimum bid and weren’t sold like a real dog by Edvard Munch - a painting of a horse.  It was lousy.  Nothing like his amazing figurative and landscape paintings.  Apparently it didn’t sell! The paintings I photographed were my favorites and they seemed overall to fair okay in the sale.  I guess I have a good eye!

Francis Bacon Three Studies of Lucien Freud 1969

I have never been a Francis Bacon fan - to say the least.  I’m sorry, but I like to be able to look at paintings without some sort of unconscious revulsion.  I have never - ever - liked his paintings - but the triptych in the exhibit is about as close as I will ever get. They were big and with three together on a wall, they were super impressive.  I loved the colors.  If I could just get past his creepy slimy-ness, I would actually really like them.  I must say, they really do pulse with vitality.

“When I was younger, I needed extreme subject matter for my paintings. Then, as I got older. I realized I had all the subjects I needed in my own life.”

–Francis Bacon

According to all the Christies hype, the other big thing is the Giacometti painting of his brother Diego.  It too did not disappoint.  It was fabulous.  But then, this is coming from an admitted Giacometti huge fan.  It is amazing to me to see how consistent his perception of his subjects is in the paintings and the sculptures.


Alberto Giacometti Diego En Chemise Écossaise 1954 Oil 32 x 25 inches (Realized $32,645,000   Estimate $30,000,000 - $50,000,000) 

Alberto Giacometti Tête De Diego Au Col Roulé 1951 Painted Bronze 13 inches (Realized: $3,973,000   Estimate: $6,000,000 - $9,000,000)

Here’s a selection of other art works at the preview show, works by Stella, Calder, Magritte, Picasso, Chagall, Monet, Van Gogh, Kandinsky, Modigliani and the ubiquitous Warhol and Basquiat:

Frank Stella Mitered Squares 1966 Alkyld and Graphite 69 x 69 inches and Alexander Calder Little White-Bottomed painted sheet metal and wire 5 x 35 x 35 inches Alexander Calder Little White-Bottomed painted sheet metal and wire 5 x 35 x 35 inches

 Magritte - title unknown

Egon Schiele Selbstbildnis 1910 watercolor, charcoal on buff paper 17¼ x 12 inches (Realized: $1,625,000 Estimate: $800,000 - $1,200,000)

Pablo Picasso Tête (Maquette Pour La Sculpture En Plein Air Du Chicago Civic Center) - didn’t get a single bid.

Jean-Michel Basquiat Number 18 1981 acrylic, oil stick, collage on canvas 46 x 49 inches (Realized: $965,000   Estimate: $1,000,000 - $1,500,000)

Marc Chagall Au Cirque 1976 oil on canvas 43¼ x 48¼ inches (I don’t think this sold.)

Jean-Michel Basquiat Number 18 1981 acrylic, oil stick, collage on canvas 46 x 49 inches

Pablo Picasso Femme au béret orange et au col de fourrure (Marie-Thérèse) 1937 oil on canvas 24 1/8 x 18 1/8 inches (Realized:$12,149,000   Estimate: $8,000,000 - $12,000,000)

Vincent van Gogh Paysanne au bassin dans un jardin 1885 black crayon, pen, brush and black and sepia ink and pencil on paper13 x 10 3/8 inches

Wassily Kandinsky Scharf im dumpf 1929 oil on board 19¼ x 19¼ inches (Realized: $1,085,000 Estimate: $1,000,000 - $1,500,000)

A pair of Warhols

A pair of Monets

The Basquiat below instantly reminded me of Van Gogh’s self-portrait in blue.  I wonder if that is what he was thinking of?

Jean-Michel Basquiat Number 18 1981 acrylic, oil stick, collage on canvas 46 x 49 inches

originally published: November 6, 2013


© Trixie Pitts 2009