From Monet to Ernie Barnes, the stars of an $831 million evening at Christie’s

From Monet to Ernie Barnes, the stars of an $831 million evening at Christie’s On 12 May 2022, the Anne H. Bass Collection and 20th Century Art auctions achieved a total of $831 million at Christie’s. An overview of the key works from both sales, from Claude Monet to Ernie Barnes. By G. Fernández · theartwolf.com · Image: Claude Monet, “Le Parlement, soleil couchant” (1900–1903). Although the historic sale of Warhol’s “Shot Sage Blue Marilyn” for $195 million three days ago is likely to be the most memorable of this auction season, in terms of volume and quality of the works, May 12 was the big day. The Anne H. Bass collection fetched a total of $363 million, a remarkable figure considering that it consisted of only 12 works. The first indication that the auction would be a success was the sale of the second lot, “Petite danseuse de quatorze ans” -one of the bronze copies of the only sculpture Edgar Degas exhibited during his lifetime- for $41.6 million, twice its most conservative pre-sale estimate, and far surpassing other prices achieved by other copies of the work, such as the one sold at Sotheby’s in 2015 for £15.8 million, or the one sold -also at Sotheby’s- for £13.3 million in 2009. Despite this, the sale of the two “twin” Rothkos at auction turned out to be somewhat “cold”. “Untitled (Shades of Red)” fetched $66.8 million, and “№1, 1962” went for $49.6 million, in both cases barely beating their most conservative pre-sale estimate. In any case, Christie’s deserves credit for sensing the difference in valuation between these works by Rothko, an artist whose works are notoriously difficult to value. Image: Mark Rothko, “№1, 1962”, (175.3 x 152.4 cm) and “Untitled (Shades of Red)” 1961. (175.3 x 142.2 cm) But above even Rothko, the star of the sale was Claude Monet. “Le Parlement, soleil couchant” (1903) is one of the 19 views of London’s parliament painted by Claude Monet, and had a pre-sale estimate of between $40 million and $60 million. Compared to the version auctioned seven years ago for $40.5 million, this painting is a bit more monotonous, looking similar to a version kept at the Kunstmuseen in Krefeld, and even to another version auctioned in 2004 (also by Christie’s) for $20.2 million. The painting fetched $76 million, an excellent result. A beautiful canvas from the Water Lilies series sold for $56.5 million, in line with the most optimistic pre-sale estimate. On a personal note, the sale of “Peupliers au bord de l’Epte” for $36.5 million (pre-sale estimate of $30–50 million) was somewhat disappointing, considering the colossal importance of the “poplar” series within the artist’s oeuvre, and that the painting was the only relevant work from this series to come to auction in over ten years, since “Les Peupliers” was auctioned at Christie’s for $22.5 million in 2011. Following the sale of the Anne H. Bass Collection came the much larger 20th Century Art Auction, which fetched a total of $468 million. From the collection of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, Pablo Picasso’s sculpture “Tête de femme (Fernande)” fetched $48.5 million. An excellent result considering that another copy of the work, which had belonged to Ambroise Vollard, was auctioned in 2001 for nearly $5 million at Christie’s New York. Despite its modest size, “Number 31 (1949)” had virtually everything one could ask of a Jackson Pollock painting. Painted in 1949, in the midst of a lustrum of creativity during which Pollock was, in the words of Pierre Restany, “like a meteor from which all kept a respectful distance”, the work fetched $56 million. Pablo Picasso — Tete de femme Fernande — 1909Jackson Pollock — Number-31–1949 Images: Pablo Picasso, “Tête de femme (Fernande)”, 1909. Bronze, 40.6 × 26 × 25.4 cm. Image © 2022 Estate of Pablo Picasso / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York · Jackson Pollock, “Number 31”, 1949. Oil, enamel, aluminium paint and gesso on paper mounted on Masonite, 78.7 × 57.2 cm. © Jackson Pollock / Artists Rights Society, New York “Champs près des Alpilles”, one of the many landscapes painted by Vincent van Gogh during his stay at the Saint-Rémy sanatorium between May 1889 and May 1890, fetched $51.9 million. Not a bad result, but perhaps a little cold when compared to the recent sale -half a year ago- of “Cabanes de bois parmi les oliviers et cyprès” (painted just a month before this work, and with very similar dimensions) for $71.3 million. Shortly after the Van Gogh came what was to be the big surprise of the auction, and predictably one of the surprises of the year: “The Sugar Shack” (1976) by Ernie Barnes. With a pre-sale estimate of between $150,000 and $250,000, the painting seemed a priori out of place among so many works with multi-million dollar estimates, despite the recent -and fair- increase in the value of the works of this African-American artist. After a vibrant bidding battle, the work was sold for $15,275,000, one hundred times its most conservative pre-sale estimate. A spectacular result that will undoubtedly affect future sales of the artist. Ernie Barnes — The Sugar Shack — 1976Emanuel Leuze — Washington Crossing the Delaware — 1851 Images: Ernie Barnes, “The Sugar Shack” (1976). Acrylic on canvas, 91.4 x 121.9 cm. Succession Ernie Barnes / Artists Rights Society, New York ·· Emanuel Leutze, “Washington Crossing the Delaware”, 1851. Oil on canvas, 101.6 x 172.7 cm. Perhaps the most iconic work of the auction, “Washington Crossing the Delaware”, one of two versions of the painting by Emanuel Gottlieb Leutze, had a pre-sale estimate of $15–20 million, which we warned a few weeks ago seemed rather conservative given the painting’s importance. In a move that is debatable from an academic point of view, but undeniably savvy from a commercial point of view, Christie’s included this mid-19th-century painting in an auction of 20th-century art, following the trend of including old masters and 19th century works in the Modern and Contemporary art auctions in order to attract wealthier buyers, as happened with the “Salvator Mundi” sold for a record price in 2017. The painting fetched $45 million, three times its most conservative pre-sale estimate. #2022 #ArtMarket #Christie’s #theartwolf

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