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May’s Auction Action


This month is rich in auctions, especially in New York, with sales of Impressionist, modern and contemporary art in the offing, as well as American paintings and assorted other fields.

Leading Sotheby’s Impressionist evening sale on May 3 will be Paul Gauguin’s Jeune Tahitienne, made between 1890 and 1893 and the artist’s only fully-realized portrait bust. Estimated at $10–15 million, the South Seas sculpture has not been seen by the public in 50 years. A 1930 Picasso, Femme, surrealistically renders his then-wife Olga as a concatenation of bones (est. $3–5 million).

On May 10, Sotheby’s contemporary art evening sale will be highlighted by two Round Jackies by Andy Warhol, estimated at $3–4 million apiece, and a group of early works by Jean Dubuffet.

The star of Christie’s Impressionist and modern sale on May 4 is expected to be Les Peupliers, the largest painting from Claude Monet’s Poplars series, painted in Giverny in 1891 (est. $20–30 million). This painting, almost four feet high, was formerly owned by the noted connoisseur Arthur M. Sackler.

A Bonnard interior, Le Petit Déjeuner, from 1936, is estimated at $6–9 million. On May 11, as part of its postwar and contemporary art sale, Christie’s will offer a monumental, if kitschy, 23-foot-high yellow teddy bear sculpture by Urs Fischer (estimate on request). Untitled “Lamp/Bear” (2005–06) will be displayed outdoors in the plaza of the Seagram’s Building on Park Avenue for five months, as part of an unusual agreement between the auction house and the building’s owners.

Later in the month, American paintings will be offered by both auction houses. On May 18, Christie’s sale will feature John Singer Sargent’s elegant Ladies in the Shade, Abries, a watercolor from 1912, estimated at $500,000–700,000, and Frank Benson’s Eleanor and Benny, from 1916. A corporate collection from the Alabama–based Westervelt Company—one of the best of its kind—will include Albert Bierstadt’s Big Horn, Ovis, Montana (est. $300,000–500,000), as well as works by William Trost Richards, Childe Hassam, Thomas Hart Benton, Charles Burchfield and Andrew Wyeth. A remarkable Maxfield Parrish mural is also in the sale.

Sotheby’s American paintings offerings on May 19 include Bierstadt’s sublime Light in the Forest (est. $2–3 million), George Bellows’ Dock Builders (est. $2–3 million), Marsden Hartley’s New Mexico Recollection No. 8 (est. $800,000–1.2 million) and Thomas Hart Benton’s Flood Disaster (est. $800,000–1.2 million), which dramatically depicts the damage done to Kansas City by the Missouri River in June 1951.

Bonhams will have a variety of sales, in New York and in California. Its modern and contemporary art auction on May 9 in New York will be highlighted by Eva Gonzalès’ Une mariée, from 1879 (est. $150,000–200,000).

On May 12 the house’s African and Oceanic sale there will feature a very large Kuyu head from the Democratic Republic of the Congo, estimated at $70,000–90,000. It once belonged to the actor Vincent Price. A Fiji Islands coconut-shell bowl for drinking kava, probably from the 18th century, is estimated at $4,000–6,000. On May 17, also in New York, a Natural History auction will feature natural pearl jewelry, including a conch pearl and diamond necklace estimated at $70,000–80,000.

And in Los Angeles on May 24, Bonhams will mount its “Made in California” sale. Works by Edward Kienholz and Paul Wonner will appear in the sale, but the tastiest offering will be Wayne Thiebaud’s Milkshake and Sandwiches from 2000 (est. $600,000–800,000). —A&A Staff

Author: Art & Antiques Magazine | Publish Date: May 2011

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