Big art auctions open in NYC next week

NEW YORK (AP) — A sculpture of a kneeling Hitler and two rare Fauve period paintings are among the offerings at the impressionist, modern and contemporary evening art auctions in New York next week.

Many of the works are fresh to the market, like a group of Alexander Calder sculptures at Christie’s and a Francis Bacon diptych at Sotheby’s.

“We’ve really gone out looking for individual works which are going to be appealing to the top level of collectors,” said Brett Gorvy, head of Christie’s post-war and contemporary art.

Pre-sale estimates have been kept at a realistic level, but bidders will ultimately determine the works’ market value, he said.

Among the works is Frida Kahlo’s “Two Nudes in the Forest (The Earth Itself),” estimated at $8 million to $12 million at Christie’s on May 12.

“She is just such an intriguing artist, someone whose market is rightly being reevaluated, growing I think stratospherically in value right now as female artists gain their proper place in the order of things,” said Brooke Lampley, Christie’s head of impressionist and modern art.

The impressionist, modern and contemporary art auctions are being held over one week, instead of two, to accommodate the increasing number of collectors traveling from far-flung locations.

Christie’s starts off the auction week on Sunday with a themed sale titled “Bound to Fail,” that features “Him,” a controversial sculpture of a praying Hitler by Maurizio Cattelan estimated between $10 million and $15 million.

The special sale is curated by Christie’s deputy chairman of post-war and contemporary art, Loic Gouzer. It focuses on artists who create something new and groundbreaking, sometimes at the expense of what the market calls “successful,” he said.

Two days later, Christie’s offers “No. 17,” a major canvas by Mark Rothko, for a pre-sale estimate of $30 million to $40 million. Last May, it sold Rothko’s “No. 10” for nearly $82 million; the auction record for a Rothko is $86.8 million for “Orange, Red, Yellow.”

The May 10 sale also features nine Calder sculptures that were inspired by the artist’s visits to India in 1955. They include “Sumac 17,” estimated at $4 million to $6 million.

At a press preview last week, Sotheby’s paired impressionist and modern works alongside contemporary pieces — like an Auguste Rodin sculpture next to an Andy Warhol self-portrait — to better reflect how collectors live with their art.

“Often the breaks we make between those two markets … are arbitrary,” said Jeremiah Evarts, Sotheby’s head of evening sales of impressionist and modern art. “It’s not the way that collectors are thinking and collecting.”

On May 9, Sotheby’s will offer two masterpieces from the Fauve movement, distinguished by its use of saturated colors and simplified forms as a way to express the artist’s emotions. Fauvism lasted a short three years and only four major Fauve paintings have come to auction since 2010. Andre Derain’s 1906 view of the River Thames, “Red Sails,” carries a $15 million to $20 million estimate. Maurice de Vlaminck’s 1905 landscape near Paris, “Underbrush,” has a $12 million to $18 million estimate.

At the same sale, Auguste Rodin’s marble sculpture of embracing lovers, “Eternal Springtime,” could bring $8 million to $12 million.

Many of the works have estimates in the $1 million to $20 million range “where we know we have a lot of demand,” said Simon Shaw, co-head of Sotheby’s impressionist and modern art. “We also tried to focus on works totally fresh to the market.”

The Rodin was auctioned in 1977 and the Fauve paintings have never been at auction. “That’s something collectors really want,” he said.

Likewise, Bacon’s “Two Studies for a Self-Portrait,” estimated at $22 million to $30 million, has been in the same collection for decades. It goes under Sotheby’s gavel on May 11.

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