Christie’s will offer another outstanding week of auctions in February led by Gerhard Richter’s Vierwaldstätter See (Lake Lucerne), 1969, a sublime photo-painting of the famous Swiss Lake, held in the same private collection since 1973, which is presented during the Evening Auction in London on 11 February. Following the world record price of $69.6million achieved for Cy Twombly’s Untitled in November, the Evening Auction also includes Untitled (New York City), 1970, a mesmerising large-scale work from the same seminal series of ‘blackboard’ paintings. The week will also feature a selection of art donated by former students of Goldsmiths, University of London to benefit the building of a new gallery to be offered during our Day sale on 12 February.
This season offers the second highest, pre-sale low estimate for any Post-War & Contemporary Art Evening Auction ever to take place in Europe at £95million (64 lots). The record Post War and Contemporary Art Evening auction in Europe was held by Christie’s in June 2012, and realised £132 million against a low pre-sale estimate of £102 million. Last year’s equivalent February season at Christies broke the record for any Post War and Contemporary Art week in Europe when it realised £176 million, including the benchmark sale of Arte Povera and Post-War Italian art, Eyes Wide Open: an Italian Vision, which realised a total of £38million.
The Post-War and Contemporary Evening Auction is led by Gerhard Richter’s Vierwaldstätter See (Lake Lucerne) (estimate on request, illustrated on page 1, left). The painting is the largest of a distinct series of four views of the famous Swiss lake painted by Richter in 1969. Purchased from the artist by the present owner in 1973 after its inclusion in the Grand Art Exhibition at the Haus der Kunst Munich, it stems from a landmark period in Richter’s early oeuvre. Three further works by Gerhard Richter are also included in the auction spanning three decades of his celebrated practice: Karmin (Carmine), 1994 (estimate: £9,000,000 – 14,000,000, illustrated right), Abstraktes Bild, 1986 (estimate: £1,000,000 – 1,500,000), Abstraktes Bild, 1990 (estimate: £3,500,000 – 4,500,000).
BACON REFLECTS ON POPE PIUS XII A deeply human portrayal of Francis Bacon’s most enduring subject, Study for a Head,1955 (estimate on request, illustrated left), is one of only a handful of works depicting Pope Pius XII: the current, living incumbent at the time of the painting. One of the last paintings of Pope Pius XII held in private hands, the others are housed in major museum collections including Pope II, 1951 (Kunsthalle Mannheim, Mannheim), Figure Sitting, 1955 (Stedelijk Museum voor Actuele Kunst, Ghent) and Study (Imaginary Portrait of Pope Pius XII), 1955 (Sainsbury Centre for Visual Arts, Norwich). Fascinated by men of power and authority, Bacon was attracted to the fundamentally tragic combination of violence and vulnerability latent in their status, and sought to capture this paradox in his Papal portraits. Whereas previous works had presented the Pope as a screaming, agonised phantom, Study for a Head presents a figure submerged in existential contemplation, riddled with the same quiet dignity and introspective tension that was to define Bacon’s first self-portrait the following year. Exhibited at Tate, London, in 1962, Study for a Head remained unseen by the public for over 40 years, resurfacing in major retrospectives at the Institut Valencià d’Art Modern, Valencia, in 2003 and at the Fondation Beyeler, Basel, the following year. Christie’s is pleased to be one of the sponsors of the current exhibition, Francis Bacon and the Art of the Past at the State Hermitage Museum in Russia, which will which showcase paintings from the Sainsbury Centre of Visual Art alongside masterpieces from the Hermitage. This exhibition will travel to Sainsbury Centre for Visual Art in Norwich in April 2015.
TRACEY EMIN EXORCISM OF THE LAST PAINTING I EVER MADE Following the success of Tracey Emin’s iconic My Bed, 1998, which achieved a world record price at auction quadrupling its pre-sale estimate to realise £2,546,500/ $4,351,969/ €3,178,032 (estimate: £800,000-1,200,000) in July 2014, Exorcism of the Last Painting I Ever Made, 1996 (estimate: £600,000 – 800,000, illustrated left), documents a seminal moment of breakthrough within the artist’s oeuvre, witnessing an impassioned re-engagement with her painting and drawing practice after a six-year hiatus. Over a three week period Emin barricaded herself into a room at the Galleri Andreas Brändström, Stockholm, where, working completely naked, she launched herself into a frenetic artistic outpouring. Comprising 105 paintings, body paintings, drawings and letters, Exorcism of the Last Painting I Ever Made lays bare Emin’s entire artistic make-up, paying homage to her influences including Edvard Munch, Egon Schiele and Yves Klein. Emin’s paintings and drawings have since come to represent one of the most significant strands of her oeuvre, culminating in her appointment as Professor of Drawing at the Royal Academy of Arts, London, in 2011, and will be celebrated in the exhibition Tracey Emin – Egon Schiele: Where I Want to Go at the Leopold Museum, Vienna, in April this year.