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Seminal Pop Art Works by Warhol, Klein Going on the Block

by WorthPoint Staff (05/10/10).

Andy Warhol’s “Holly Solomon,” the cover lot of the Post-War and Contemporary Art Evening Sale hosted by Christie’s, , is estimated to bring between $7-$12 million.

Andy Warhol’s “Holly Solomon,” the cover lot of the Post-War and Contemporary Art Evening Sale hosted by Christie’s, , is estimated to bring between $7-$12 million.

NEW YORK – Forty-nine seminal works by the leading lights of modern and contemporary art are being offered in a Post-War and Contemporary Art Evening Sale taking place on May 11, 2010 at Christie’s. Led by extraordinary works by Yves Klein and Andy Warhol, the auction will offer collectors highly important examples by Jasper Johns, Jeff Koons, Yayoi Kusama, Roy Lichtenstein, Chris Ofili and Christopher Wool.

“The quality exhibited by this sale demonstrates how much the psychology of the market has shifted over the past year. It has become evident that the world’s top collectors are eager to consign in a market, which is once again, realizing record prices,” said Robert Manley, dead of Christie’s New York Post-War & Contemporary Art Evening Sale.

Yves Klein’s “ANT 93, Le Buffle”( “The Buffalo,” 1960-61, estimate: $8-$12 million) leads the sale and is a monumental work from the artist’s celebrated “Anthropométrie” series. Standing almost six feet high and more than nine feet wide (70 x 110 3/8 in. / 177.8 x 280.4 cm.), “ANT 93, Le Buffle” is a dramatic work from the last great series created by the artist before his untimely death at the age of 34. Painted in the signature “International Klein Blue”—the artist’s specially patented pigment for which he is most recognized—it is a work that captures the artist’s fascination with movement, form and the artistic process. Over a giant support, Klein created the series by orchestrating the movement of curvaceous women as they writhed on the surface of the picture coated in his signature, using the female form as the paintbrush. Offered for the first time on the auction market, its sale coincides with the first major American retrospective of the artist’s work for 30 years, “Yves Klein: With the Void, Full Powers,” which will be held at the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Washington D.C., from May 20 to September 12, 2010 and The Walker Art Center, Minneapolis, from October 23 to February 13, 2011.

In addition to Klein, Christie’s will also be offering works from several artists associated with the Zero Group, including Piero Manzoni’s “Achrome” (1958, estimate: $3-$4 million) and Jan Schoonhoven’s “R60-27” (1960, estimate: $300,000-$400,000).

Andy Warhol's “Silver Liz” (1963, estimate: $10-$15 million).

Andy Warhol's “Silver Liz” (1963, estimate: $10-$15 million).

The sale will include five works by Andy Warhol, and will be led by the iconic images “Silver Liz” (1963, estimate: $10-$15 million), “Holly Solomon” (1966, estimate: $7-$12 million) a stunning double self-portrait of the artist, titled “Self Portrait” (1964, estimate: $5-$7 million).

“Silver Liz” is considered one of Warhol’s most personal works, reflecting his passion for one of Hollywood’s most glamorous stars. It is a shimmering Pop icon and an early example of his silkscreen canvases. With impeccable provenance of the Ferus Gallery, Leo Castelli Gallery and the distinguished collection of Mr. and Mrs. Holly and Horace H. Solomon (from which the cover lot also comes), this painting is one of the most iconic pieces of Warhol’s work still in private hands. It was included in the artist’s ground-breaking shows that made him the most famous artist in the world, including the Ferus Gallery in 1963, the Institute of Contemporary Art in Philadelphia in 1965 and his first traveling retrospective in 1970. Central to his pantheon of Pop icons, which included Marilyn Monroe, Jackie Kennedy and Elvis, “Silver Liz” immortalizes Elizabeth Taylor as the embodiment of the cult of celebrity.

Yves Klein’s “ANT 93, Le Buffle”( “The Buffalo,” 1960-61, estimate: $8-$12 million).

Yves Klein’s “ANT 93, Le Buffle”( “The Buffalo,” 1960-61, estimate: $8-$12 million).

Warhol’s “Self Portrait” also finds its origin in the unmediated snapshot of a four-for-a-quarter Times Square photo-booth. The distinguished provenance of the present work clearly indicates the significance of its place within the history of Pop Art, as it found its first home in the Scull collection, whose early support helped Warhol to become the most influential artist of his age. It is a further testament to the importance of this Self Portrait that it was included and prominently displayed in Warhol’s internationally touring retrospective in 1970.

“Holly Solomon,” the cover lot of the sale, is a nine-panel portrait of the legendary New York art dealer and socialite. In 1966, Holly Solomon was an aspiring actress who, with her husband Horace Solomon, started to build an extensive collection of Pop Art. As an avid collector, she became a well-known personality around the gallery scene. She already owned a Marilyn painting when she decided to have her own portrait done. The work is based on a single photo booth picture of Solomon and is one of the most celebrated works in the artist’s series of silkscreen portraits of art world figures and movie stars of the 1960s. It was unveiled in public at Warhol’s first major retrospective at the Institute of Contemporary Art in Boston in 1966.

“Andy Warhol’s portrait of Holly Solomon is pure Pop and comes from a period in his career when he was producing some of his most innovative and exciting work. His use of the photo booth snapshots allowed him to mix together elements of “high” and “low” art. The photo booth represented a quintessentially modern intersection of mass entertainment and private selfcontemplation”, said Robert Manley, head of Christie’s Pop department.

Untitled Composition (Figures with Sunset),” Roy Lichtenstein (1977, estimate: $2.5-$3 million).

Untitled Composition (Figures with Sunset),” Roy Lichtenstein (1977, estimate: $2.5-$3 million).

“Untitled Composition (Figures with Sunset),” Roy Lichtenstein (1977, estimate: $2.5-$3 million), is one of the artist’s most significant works of the 1970s. Part of his “Surrealist” series, “Untitled Composition (Figures with Sunset)” is one of eight mural-sized works from the series he began in 1977 and completed 18 months later. Since the beginning of his career, Lichtenstein had established a dialogue with modern masters within his work. This painting demonstrates a great range of influence from his artistic role models, including allusions to the surrealist works of Magritte, Picasso and Leger, which he also combines with references to his own work. The work is an exhilarating blend of wit and symbols realized in his iconic comic book style. Additional pop masterpieces within the evening sale will include Jasper Johns’ “Figure 0” (1959, estimate: $3-$4 million), Robert Rauschenberg’s “Untitled” (1954, estimate: $3.5-$4.5 million) and Wayne Thiebaud’s “Coming and Going” (2006, estimate: $1.8-$2.5 million).

Christopher Wool’s “Blue Fool” (1990, estimate $1.5-$2 million)

Christopher Wool’s “Blue Fool” (1990, estimate $1.5-$2 million)

For this sale, Christies is also offering three extraordinary paintings by internationally acclaimed contemporary artists, including American Christopher Wool’s “Blue Fool” (1990, estimate $1.5-$2 million), British artist Chris Ofili’s “Dead Monkey – Sex and Drugs” (2001, estimate: $1-$1.5 million) and German Neo Rauch’s “Suche” (2004, estimate: $800,000-$1.2 million). Executed in 1990, “Blue Fool” is a quintessential example of Wool’s celebrated word paintings, and at 108 inches tall, is one of the artist’s largest. Its outsized capital letters leap out off the wall at a volume loud enough to be heard over the noise of the city. The aesthetics are clear and explicit, but the work’s meaning remains more ambiguous.

Ofili’s “Dead Monkey – Sex and Drugs” is the final canvas from a trio of paintings called “Monkey Magic.” The painting encompasses many of the personal and artistic challenges the artist was facing at this pivotal point in his career. Superbly representing Ofili’s unique ability to mix racial, religious and cultural themes to produce works of amazing beauty, it became one of his favorite works.

Rauch’s status as one of the most important painters working today is currently being underscored by a retrospective spanning two museums, the Pinakothek der Moderne in Munich and the Museum der bildenden Künste of his native Leipzig, to celebrate his 50th birthday. Painted in 2004, the monumental “Suche” represents one of his finest and most complex paintings from a moment when his work began to take on new scale and ambition, specifically looking at nineteenth century narrative painting. The title “Suche” means “search” and for Rauch, painting is a quest in its own right, an organic process by which the various elements on the canvas suggest themselves, rearrange themselves, and finally coalesce to form a single dreamlike narrative. In “Suche,” Rauch is mining his own rich seam of memories and images, rearranging them and reconfiguring them in such a way as to create an image that, while rooted in his own personal iconography, has a gnawing relevance to all viewers.

Yayoi Kusama’s “No. G.A. White” (1960, estimate: $1.5-$2 million).

Yayoi Kusama’s “No. G.A. White” (1960, estimate: $1.5-$2 million).

“No. G.A. White” (1960, estimate: $1.5-$2 million) is a striking example of Yayoi Kusama’s “Infinity Nets” series in which she combines lace-like painting with swathes of impasto to produce a work of touching delicacy. Recently rediscovered in a private collection, this picture was purchased by the late Mary Louise Freeman, who acquired the work on a whim from one of Kusama’s first U.S. solo shows at the Gres Gallery in 1960, the gallery which was responsible for introducing Kusama’s work to the American art market. “No. G.A. White” was the first and last work that Freeman ever purchased, and it has remained a point of pride within her family home for the past 50 years.

Kusama’s enthusiastic and energetic application of paint to the canvas clearly has its roots in Abstract Expressionism, but the piece’s machine-like repetition and purity also appealed to artists who later became involved in minimalism, such as Donald Judd who championed and collected her work. In addition to the Zero Group with which she exhibited, Kusama was also an inspiration to artists who belonged to the Post-Minimalist movement, such as Eva Hesse, as she provided a more sensual and organic repetition that departed from the industrial aesthetic of minimalism. “No. Red Q” (1960, estimate: $1-$1.5 million) is another magnificent example of Kusama’s appreciation for both the physical and psychological properties of color.

Lee Bontecou's “Untitled” (1962, estimate: $2-$3 million).

Lee Bontecou's “Untitled” (1962, estimate: $2-$3 million).

Also featured is Lee Bontecou’s “Untitled” (1962, estimate: $2-$3 million), the most important sculpture from the artist to come to auction. Bontecou’s materials—gaping orifices of steel and canvas pulled and stitched like skin—evoke both industrial technology as well as metaphors for the body. In these groundbreaking works, Bontecou built up a heavy armature of metal, which she then covered in scraps of canvas and an array of industrial materials and objects, including screws, zippers, pipes, saw teeth, fan blades and even helmets and masks. The result is a highly charged assemblage, which thrusts outward into the viewer’s space with a distinctly aggressive energy. The work comes from the celebrated Abrams Family collection, who acquired the work 40 years ago. The offering coincides with Lee Bontecou’s exhibition at the Museum of Modern Art, “Lee Bontecou: All Freedom in Every Sense,” April 16-August 30, 2010.

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