Christie’s New York: quick overview of their May masterpieces


The world’s leading art auction house has announced a series of exceptional sales for the month of May, including Modern and Contemporary art from major private collections.

Under the title Christie’s 20/21 Century, Christie’s May sales in New York will bring together works spanning a whole century of art from the Sandra and Gerald Fineberg collection, the Paul G. Allen Collection, the S.I. Newhouse Collection, the Alan and Dorothy Press collection and, lastly, the Jacques and Emy Cohenca Collection. Artmarket by Artprice takes a quick look at two of these exceptional collections.

The S.I. Newhouse Collection (11 May)

Works from the collection of billionaire media magnate S.I. Newhouse, who died in 2017, could fetch over $144 million in May. In 2019, Christie’s had already dispersed a set of 11 works from the Newhouse Collection taking a total of $216.2 million. One of the works was Jeff Koons’ famous Rabbit sculpture and its sale for $91 million made Koons the world’s most expensive living artist in 2019.

There are only sixteen works in the set offered in May, but they are sixteen works of impressive quality. They include most of the great signatures of Post-War American art: Warhol, Lichtenstein, Jasper Johns, Willem de Kooning, but also give pride of place to Pablo Picasso, Lucian Freud, Francis Bacon and Cy Twombly.

The most affordable is a Brice Marden canvas, Number 1 (1962, 45.7 x 57.2 cm), estimated between $400,000 and $600,000, and the most valuable, estimated at over $20 million each, are works by Picasso, Lichtenstein, Bacon and de Kooning. An important Jasper JOHNS canvas, Decoy (1971), is expected to fetch between 12 and 18 million dollars. At a previous auction in November 1997, the work was acquired for $4.4 million (Christie’s, New York). Willem DE KOONING’s painting Orestes (1947), considered one of the finest black-and-white works by the artist to ever be auctioned, could top $25 million. The canvas was purchased by Mr. Newhouse at a Sotheby’s sale in 2002 for $13.2 million.

The Sandra and Gerald Fineberg Collection (May 17)

A Century of Art: The Gerald Fineberg Collection” is one of the most anticipated sales of this late spring. It brings together 220 extraordinary works inherited from the late collector Gerald Fineberg, which will be dispersed in two parts on May 17 and 18. This rare collection offers a journey through a century of art history, with works representative of Surrealism, Abstract Expressionism, Gutai, Pop Art, Minimalism and even Arte Povera. It is also a “dynamic and inclusive collection”, according to Christie’s, with artists such as Barkley Hendricks, Beauford Delaney, Ruth Asawa, Alma Thomas and Alice Neel.

Among the most notable works in the collection are Badende (Bathers), an important figurative painting by Gerhard RICHTER estimated at $15-20 million, and a rare multicolored lettered text painting by Christopher WOOL in the same price range. There is also a painted Man Ray portrait of Kiki de Montparnasse that is expected to fetch between $1 and 1.5 million. Pablo PICASSO’s 1969 canvas Buste d’homme lauré is carrying an estimate of $12 million, less than five years after reaching $7.8 million at Sotheby’s Hong Kong (September 30, 2018).

Sales from private collections of this caliber are always a boon for auction houses. There is an undeniable element of risk-taking, but also an immense opportunity to present creations of exceptional quality and bodies of work brought together by individuals or couples, often with remarkable life stories. It was thanks to a few leading private collections that in 2022 the art market posted six results above the $100 million line, an unprecedented score and from just two prestigious collections dispersed at Christie’s: five from the Paul Allen Collection and one from the Thomas and Doris Ammann Collection. Indeed, Paul Allen’s Collection turned a new page in art auction history by alone generating a total of $1.62 billion.