Hockney, Hopper chase headlines at NY art sales
Ayear after the art market was changed forever by the eye-watering $450.3 million sale of a Leonardo da Vinci, fall auction season is back, looking to crack new records for artists, albeit from less illustrious heights. The headliners next week in New York, the capital of the international art market, are an Edward Hopper, America’s most popular modernist, valued at $100 million, and British living legend David Hockney, whose iconic swimming pool picture painted after a break-up is estimated to fetch $80 million.
In the spring, Christie’s sale of the iconic Rockefeller art collection for $832 million set a new benchmark for billionaires and millionaires who might be looking to offload their own collections. This fall, several other collections will go under the hammer, as the wealthy who amassed art in the mid-20th century either die off or look to pass the baton to a new, increasingly international generation.
Chief among them is the remarkable collection of 20th century American art of US entrepreneur Barney Ebsworth, who made his fortune in travel and cruises. He died in April this year. The highlight of his holdings is 1929 canvas “Chop Suey” by Hopper, which Christie’s will be auctioning for an estimated $70-100 million. That would be a whopping profit. Ebsworth bought the work in 1973 for $180,000 and the painting should easily set a new auction record for the artist-currently $40.4 million paid in 2013 for “East Wind Over Weehawken.”
Several other works this season could also cross the symbolic threshold of $100 million, which these days won’t even necessarily make the top 10 works of art sold at auction. The Rockefeller sale “proved that the market is deep enough to absorb a vast quantity of works of art when they are offered at the same time,” says Adrien Meyer, Christie’s co-chairman of impressionist and modern art. “If we managed to pass that test, anything is possible,” he added.
Hockney is also in the running with his “Portrait of an Artist (Pool with Two Figures),” valued at $80 million. It is likely to set a new record for work by a living artist, until now held by Jeff Koons and his “Balloon Dog (Orange),” which sold for $58.4 million at Christie’s in 2013. “We rarely can say ‘This is the one opportunity to buy the best painting from the artist’,” said Ana Maria Celis, vice president of post-war and contemporary art at Christie’s. “This is it.” Advertising more than 1,000 works expected to fetch a billion dollars in sales, Christie’s is once again expected to out-dazzle old rival Sotheby’s across town. Sotheby’s might not be chasing the same kind of headlines, but it’s still offering buyers dozens of lots in the $10 million plus category.
One leading light is 1913’s “Pre-War Pageant” by Marsden Hartley, one of the prominent American painters in the first half of the 20th century. Valued at $30 million, the canvas is also likely to set a new auction record for Hartley. Records could be broken for Rene Magritte, Wassily Kandinsky and Willem de Kooning, in what dealers call evidence of the strong market. “If you don’t want to overflow the market, you have to curate,” says Gregoire Billault, head of the contemporary art department at Sotheby’s.
“We tried to be different and be relevant,” he said, “and what the younger generation is telling you is that they want to buy.” The biannual marquee art auctions offer a chance to see works often not viewed in public for decades and theatrical displays of purchasing power by a new generation of buyers, spread more widely around the world than ever. “Great collections which were formed in the ‘50s, ‘60s, ‘70s are now owned by collectors who are no longer with us or are about to move on to the next generation,” explained Meyer. “The art market is indeed going to see major collections coming up in the very near future. We’ve only seen the tip of the iceberg, I think, of what’s going to happen,” he added. The New York art auctions run from Sunday to Thursday. — AFP
AFrench court on Thursday ruled that celebrity US artist Jeff Koons copied an idea from an advertisement used by a French clothing chain, fining him along with the museum which exhibited the contested work. Franck Davidovici, a French advertising executive, had sued Koons for plagiarism over Koons’ “Fait d’Hiver” from 1988, which shows a pig standing over a woman lying on her back, her arms sprawled behind her head. It bore a striking resemblance to a campaign created by Davidovici for the Naf Naf chain in the mid1980s, down to the woman’s facial expression and hairstyle and the cask hanging from the pig’s neck. And the Naf Naf campaign was also called Fait d’Hiver, a play on words suggesting “Winter News in Brief”.
Davidovici sued Koons after the work was shown at the Pompidou museum in Paris in 2014. There are four copies of “Fait d’Hiver”, and one was sold for around $4.7 million at Christie’s auction house in New York. The court ordered Koons, his business, and the Pompidou museum to pay Davidovici a total of 135,000 euros ($154,000 dollars) in compensation. Jeff Koons LLC was also fined 11,000 euros for reproducing the pig on the artist’s website, while the Flammarion publishing firm was fined 2,000 euros for selling a book which contained the work. But the court did not order the sculpture’s seizure, as demanded by the plaintiff.
It was not the first time Koons has been found guilty of forgery. In March 2017, a Paris court ruled he had copied a French photographer’s picture as the basis for his “Naked” sculpture, also part of the artist’s Banality series which contained “Fait d’Hiver”. — AFP
In this file people look at ‘Chop Suey’ by US artist Edward Hopper, part of the Barney A Ebsworth Collection, during a presentation at Christie’s auction house in Paris.