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Evening dress at Christie’s

[13/11/2018]

At a time when rivalry between collectors seems to have reached an unprecedented high, Christie’s is poised to raise prices to exceptional levels.

Tonight the Art Market’s most powerful players will be present at an exceptional event: a prestige sale organised by Christie’s in New York (13 November 2018). Under the title An American Place, the British auctioneer will offer nearly 90 masterpieces from the collection of Barney Alec Ebsworth, an American businessman who made his fortune in the transport sector. Ebsworth was a major art collector who died last April. According to the estimates, this rare and prestigious collection is expected to generate around $350 million.

New records likely…

Among the most valued lots in the Ebsworth collection, Edward HOPPER’s canvas Chop Suey could reach into 9 figures. If it does ($100 million+), Hopper will become the seventh artist in the world to have crossed this exceptional price threshold, first crossed (at auction) by Pablo PICASSO’s Garçon à la pipe 14 years ago at Sotheby’s. According to the introductory wording of Christie’s short promotional video on its website, the Hopper masterpiece is the most iconic Edward Hopper painting still in private hands. Moreover, the man responsible for prompting the work towards the $100 million threshold is none other than Jussi Pylkkänen – Christie’s favourite auctioneer – who hammered $450 million for Leonardo da Vinci’s Salvator Mundi in November 2017 and a new record of $80.74 million for Matisse (Odalisque couchée aux magnolias) last May. Chop Suey is therefore in good hands after its promotion in some of the world’s primary art capitals (Paris, Hong Kong, Los Angeles and New York). Purchased by B.A. Ebsworth for $180,000 in 1973, the painting is expected to at least double the current Hopper record of $40.5 million for his East Wind Over Weehawken. That was in 2013, also in New York, and also at Christie’s.

Two other records expected tonight concern Willem DE KOONING and Gaston LACHAISE. De Kooning’s powerful canvas Woman as Landscape has never been sold publicly, but it has changed hands for large sums privately since it was painted in 1955. Described by Christie’s – with plenty of superlatives – as a “heroic” painting, the work could beat the artist’s current auction record of $66.3 million hammered by the same auctioneer two years ago (Untitled XXV). In a lower price range, there could also be a new record for the Franco-American artist Gaston Lachaise with a bronze statue expected to generate the artist’s first 7-digit result. The 221 cm tall female nude sculpture, Standing Woman [LF 92], is estimated between $1.5 and $2.5 million. Even starting at its low estimate, this large statue would triple Lachaise’s current record for a sculpture.

The most expensive living artist in the world?

Two days later, on November 15, another ‘historic’ result could well hit the headlines. The painting in question is three meters long and represents one of the best-known hedonistic scenes in Contemporary painting… a Californian swimming pool with boys under a blue sky. Titled Portrait of an Artist (Pool with Two Figures) (1972), David HOCKNEY’s iconic painting was one of the highlights of a major travelling retrospective organized in 2017-2018 by London’s Tate Britain, the Pompidou Center in Paris and the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York. It is one of the most important Contemporary works submitted for auction this year. Aware that the painting’s appearance on the market represents a unique opportunity to buy the artist best work, Christie’s is expecting around $80 million, in which case… Hockney would become the most expensive living artist in the world... ahead of Jeff Koons.

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