The Kay Saatchi Collection went under the hammer as part of the Post-War and Contemporary Art Evening auction at Christie’s King Street tonight (28 June). The collection features an outstanding and rare group of early works on paper by Lucian Freud, executed in the 1940s, Ron Mueck’s Big Baby, the first work in the artist’s catalogue raisonné and Paula Rego’s masterpiece, Looking Back. These works represent Ron Mueck, Big Baby, 1996 Lucian Freud, Rabbit on a chair, 1944 the most important of their kind ever to appear at auction and are testament to Kay Saatchi’s extraordinary discernment and foresight as a collector. Kay Saatchi was the first wife of the advertising mogal Charles Saatchi she was selling a group of works some by the YBA’s (Young British Artists) Saatchi was a co-curator of the Royal Academy exhibition “Sensation: Young British Artists From the Saatchi Collection.’’ Among the works she was selling was “Big Baby,’’ a hyper-realist sculpture from 1996 by Ron Mueck. Estimated at $910,000 to $1.2 million, it made $1.3 million. Ms. Saatchi was also selling a group of drawings by Lucian Freud that were in high demand. “Rabbit on a Chair,’’ a 1944 depiction of a sleeping bunny that was expected to bring $460,000 to $600,000, sold to a telephone bidder for $1.6 million. Another work by Mr. Freud, “Woman Smiling,’’ a painting from 1958-59 that was estimated at $5.3 million to $6.8 million, sold for $7.5 million.
Francis Outred, Head of Post-War and Contemporary Art, Christie’s Europe: “Kay Saatchi has been supporting young artists in the UK since the 1980s, and she played a key role in the YBA movement that completely transformed the contemporary art landscape in Britain at the end of the 1990s. We are delighted to be able to present a selection of works from her collection at Christie’s in June which represent the canon of British contemporary art from the 1940’s to the present day. Common to all the forthcoming works by Freud, Rego and Mueck is an extraordinary sense of vulnerability in their depiction of humanity. From life to death, each work displays an insight and sensitivity to its subject. Freud’s works on paper, a unique constellation of this very rare period of his work, display the intricate detail and skill of a young artist who was to become one of the most important European painters of the twentieth and twenty first centuries. Ron Mueck’s Big Baby is the artist’s first documented work and a mesmerizing sculpture due to the tension between the extraordinary lifelike detail and its astonishing scale. Paula Rego’s acknowledged masterpiece, Looking Back is a work from her most sought-after period, painted at a time of deep personal tragedy. It is an exceptional occasion to be able to offer all of these magnificent pieces together – an event which is sure to excite collectors from around the world.”
Kay Saatchi: “After twenty five years in London, I have decided to move my base to Los Angeles and to offer a selection of works from my art collection, partly for practical reasons and partly for the excitement and challenge of building a new collection in a new environment. It was a privilege to be in London at such a significant moment in the development of contemporary British art, and to be a part of that process, meeting and working with some of the most gifted artists, curators and collectors to emerge at that time, as well as others who were already well established. It was also a privilege to be able to live with such exceptional works of art and to get to know them all so intimately. Inevitably there is sadness in leaving a city I love and in parting with works of art I treasure. But my hope is that the move to Los Angeles will be not so much a departure as a new beginning in which I can help foster broader artistic links between London and the West Coast whilst exploring fresh opportunities as a collector and curator.”
The works to be offered at the Post-War and Contemporary Art Evening Auction on 28 June: