Auction notes: Roundup

The New York Times declared “Christie’s Has Art World’s First $1 Billion Week,” which isn’t exactly true. The newspaper complained that such staggering sums spent on art were a “symptom” of widening income equality.

“L’homme au doigt”, Alberto Giacometti  1947.   “No. 36 (Black Stripe)”,  Mark Rothko 1958 (photo by Quartz).

“L’homme au doigt”, Alberto Giacometti 1947. “No. 36 (Black Stripe)”, Mark Rothko 1958 (photo by Quartz).

I thought we’d been through all this before. Back in November Christie’s and Sotheby’s together sold $1.78 billion in one week.

At the time, Augustino Fontevecchi of Forbes explained that the art market has effectively become “financialized,” turning works into assets that can be traded like equities and commodities. 

 

So at Christie’s “Looking forward to the Past” auction on May 11th, the big news was Pablo Picasso’s “Les Femmes d’Alger (Version O).”  It sold for $179.4 million – the highest price ever paid for a piece of art and about $30 million over its pre-sale estimate. 

There was no mention of Alberto Giacometti’s “L’homme au doigt” in the Times article, but it realized $141.3 million that same evening. It’s shown here on display at Christie’s with “Mark Rothko’s No. 36 (Black Stripe)” in the background. It fetched $40.5 million.

And now I have auction fatigue.

Picasso began the series of Les Femmes d’Alger paintings (versions A -O) in 1954, shortly after the Nationalist uprising in Algeria led to its independence from French rule. The series is based on Eugène Delacroix’s almost-the- same-named 1834 masterpiece.   

Not quite as famous and not for sale any time soon, is Delacroix’s “The Fanatics of Tangier,” which he painted a few years after “The Women of Algiers (in Their Apartment)”. He had been in North Africa since 1832 as part of a diplomatic mission to Morocco shortly after the French conquered Algeria.

The Fanatics of Tangier, Eugene Delacroix, 1838

The Fanatics of Tangier, Eugene Delacroix, 1838

Fanatics has been in my media files since February 2011. Last week’s auction frenzy reminded of it.

♠♠♠  

NOTE:  Delacriox’s Les Femmes d’Alger marked the beginning of French colonization in Algeria, while Picasso’s variations symbolize the end of the country’s foreign rule. 

Another day another Delacroix.

.


Guernica in Studio

The Spanish Republican government commissioned Picasso in January 1937 to create a mural as the centerpiece for the Spanish Pavilion at the 1937 World’s Fair, in Paris, May 25th – November 25th. 

Hermann Göring would later testify during the Nuremberg Trials that the Luftwaffe pummeled the small Basque town of Guernica on April 26th 1937 for target practice.  

Generalissimo Franco’s Nationalists denied collusion in the attack. The brutal leveling of Guernica sparked international outrage and focus on the Spanish Civil War.

Picasso painting Guernica: photo by Dora Maar 1937.
Picasso painting Guernica: photo by Dora Maar 1937.

Picasso was grief-stricken over the war and massacre in his home country. He abandoned his original conceptual idea for the mural — it would now become a testament to the atrocities of war.  On May 11th (77 years ago today) he began laying out his composition on a 25′ x 12′ canvas.

From May 11th until June 4th, Dora Maar visited his studio in the Rue des Grands-Augustins to shoot a photographic record of the entire creative process, in eight stages of development. The Guernica mural was finished in 24 days.

Dora Maar and Picasso’s Guernica

Guernica, Stage Two: photo by Dora Maar 1937
Guernica, Stage Two: photo by Dora Maar 1937
Guernica - Final: Pablo Picasso 1937
Guernica – Final: Pablo Picasso 1937

The only natural light filtered into the studio from tall bay windows on one wall. Picasso used spotlights and moved the lights across the huge canvas as he worked which sometimes caused distortions on the photos. To correct any defects, Maar used photomontage — she cut out and rearranged sections from several shots to photograph again into a final print. 

The tonal variations in her photos influenced Picasso’s development of the eight stages of Guernica. 

The woman with outstretched arm holding a lantern toward the horse of fury is Dora Maar – possibly illuminating the power of art over the printed word to convey the devastation of Guernica. 

♠♠♠

“My whole life as an artist has been nothing more than a continuous struggle against reaction and the death of art. In the picture I am painting — which I shall call Guernica — I am expressing my horror of the military caste which is now plundering Spain into an ocean of misery and death.”  — Pablo Picasso

 

.


Dora Maar by Man Ray, 1936

As I noted on my post before last, Buste de femme (Femme à la résille) is a portrait of Dora Maar, who was Pablo Picasso’s lover and muse for nine years. Maar was a prominent photographer in the Surrealist movement. She photographed the making of “Guernica,” Picasso’s 1938 masterpiece. She was the model for the woman holding the lantern, too. 

Dora Maar, Man Ray 1936,

Dora Maar, Man Ray 1936,

Maar was also an occasional model for Man Ray. The above photograph is solarized, a photographic process invented by Lee Milleranother prominent Surrealist photographer who, along with Ray, have quite a few posts on this blog.

♠♠♠  

NOTE: As does as Erwin Blumenfeld, who further developed Ray and Miller’s solarisation process. 

.

.


Auction notes: Bacon

As I noted on my previous post, Christie’s New York is holding its “Looking Forward to the Past” auction on May 11th where bidding for “Les Femmes d’Alger (Version O)” by Pablo Picasso is expected to open at $140 million.

Two days later, Christie’s New York will hold a Post-War and Contemporary Art auction featuring works by Lucien Freud and Francis Bacon, (and Cy Twombly, Mark Rothko, Andy Warhol, Jean-Michel Basquiat, Martin Kippenger, Franz Kline and Jeff Koons.)

Portrait of Henrietta Moraes, Francis Bacon 1963.

Portrait of Henrietta Moraes, Francis Bacon 1963.

The British artists Lucien Freud and Francis Bacon famously were friends and friendly rivals. As I recall on my Bacon Freud post, that’s one of the reasons Bacon’s “Three Studies of Lucian Freud” sold at Christie’s New York for $142 million in November of 2013.  

Bacon’s “Portrait of Henrietta Moraes” (1963) is offered at Christie’s New York auction on May 13th. It is the most seductive female figure he ever painted, according to Christie’s catalog, but it won’t command the same resounding nine-figure price point. The portrait sold for £21.4 at Christie’s London in February 2012. 

"When they first met in 1951, Francis Bacon was one of the few admirers of the model who did not sleep with her" -- The Daily Mail

“When they first met in 1951, Francis Bacon was one of the few admirers of the model who did not sleep with her” — The Daily Mail

Unlike Lucien Freud, who also painted Henrietta Moraes, Bacon did not bang her on the edge of a sink in her squalid Soho flat because he was gay. Read more about the beguiling Henrietta Moraes at The Daily Mail —

Portrait of a tragic muse: As this picture sells for £21m, we reveal the extraordinary story of the sexually voracious but deeply troubled woman who inspired it

♠♠♠

 

 


Auction notes: Picasso

I’ll be following a few artists and art pieces from Christie’s “Looking Forward to the Past” contemporary art auction on May 11th to see how much they fetch. Pablo Picasso’s “Les Femmes d’Alger (Version O)”  has a pre-sale valuation of $140 million.

I have another version (one of A -O) of Les Femmes on Algiers which, beyond the extravagant pre-sale estimate, brought my attention to the sale in the first place. 

 

Buste de femme (Femme à la résille), Pablo Picasso 1938.
Buste de femme (Femme à la résille), Pablo Picasso 1938.

Buste de femme (Femme à la résille) is another Picasso up for bid, but a valuation price is not available. My estimate is $60 – $70 million. It is a portrait of Dora Maar, who was Picasso’s lover and muse for nine years. Maar was a prominent photographer in the Surrealist movement and a model for Man Ray.

♠♠♠

Dora Maar Au Chat, Pablo Picasso, 1941.

Dora Maar Au Chat, Pablo Picasso, 1941.

 

Dora Maar au Chat (1941) had a pre-sale estimate of $50 million and sold at Sotheby’s in 2006 to an anonymous Russian buyer for $95.2 million. It was painted as the Nazis occupied France.

FINAL NOTE:

Buste de femme (Femme à la résille) — $67,365,000

 

 

 


Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 385 other followers

%d bloggers like this: