London Auctions Preview, Part 5: Postwar & Contemporary Art Sale at Christie’s

Given the cautious state of the current art market, predicting the prospects for London’s June auctions is difficult, to say the least. In the days leading up to the sales, we’ll be previewing the works in each that seem to hold particular promise. Here are some to look for on June 29 in the Christie’s Postwar & Contemporary Art sale. (Data in graphs are based on hammer prices as reported by the BLOUIN ART SALES INDEX.)

Figurative art takes the center stage on the 29th at Christie’s, whose sale is anchored by two paintings by Georg Baselitz. “Der Halbierte (the Halved),” a prime dated work from 1966 that features the artist’s protean and heroic woodsman, is estimated at £900,000 to £1.2 million ($1.3–1.8 million). The equally iconic 1982 “Adler (Eagle),” depicting the menacing and symbol-laden titular bird hanging upside down, is estimated at £500,000 to £700,000 ($733,000–$1 million). The latter was completed just after Baselitz’s inclusion in the Royal Academy of Arts’ blockbuster exhibition “New Spirit in Painting”— co-curated by Norman Rosenthal, Nicholas Serota, and Christos Joachimides — which traveled to Berlin’s Martin-Gropius-Bau as “Zeitgeist” in 1982. “I think Baselitz is one of the great undervalued European artists,” said Francis Outred, Christie’s European head of post-war and contemporary art.

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The house is also offering an important and early Pop art work: Andy Warhol’s 1962 “40 Two Dollar Bills in Red,” estimated at £4 million to £6 million ($5.8–8.8 million). The totem-like 83-by-19-inch piece, in acrylic and stencil on canvas, presents the presidential mug of Thomas Jefferson in serial fashion. It last sold at Sotheby’s New York in November 1988 for $319,000, against an estimate of $150,000 to $200,000. “This was his first movement into silkscreen,” said Outred.

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Although it is not part of the postwar and contemporary evening, the house’s one-off Defining British Art evening sale on June 30 merits mention here for its headliner: Lucian Freud’s bravura 1992 “Ib and Her Husband,” a dual portrait of the artist’s pregnant daughter Isobel Boyt spooning with Pat Costelloe. Carrying an estimate on request in the region of £18 million ($26.4 million), it last sold at auction at Christie’s New York in November 2007 for a then-record $19.3 million.

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Graphs by Meghana Reddy; source: Blouin Art Sales Index

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