An important large solid gold plate by Pablo Picasso, Visage Tourmenté comes to the market for the first time, having been unseen in public for over 40 years. Weighing over 2.5kg, it is made from 22 carat gold. It is extremely rare to see gold pieces by Picasso at auction as the artist only created a limited number of designs for platters in precious metals. Of the 19 designs made in collaboration with celebrated goldsmith François Hugo, 20 were produced in silver and only one in gold. Visage Tourmenté was bought by the current owner directly from François Hugo in the early 1970s (estimate: £100,000-150,000, Picasso Ceramics, 18 June 2013).
Other things on offer at Christies summer auction includes, an epic large scale diptych by Jean-Michel Basquiat from 1982, Untitled (illustrated page 1 top left) forms part of the pantheon of great double portraits including Untitled (Two Heads on Gold) and Dustheads. A pivotal year in the artist’s career, the full length double portraits of 1982 marked Basquiat’s ascension to the big time, the dominant figures exalt the joyous spirit of the early, heady days when he had just broken through to art world super-star status. Towering above the viewer, one is instantly struck by the monumentality of scale, the decisiveness of his line and the sheer brilliance of the artists’ signature colour palette of vibrant red, azure blue, and blaring yellows. Boldly articulated in Basquiat’s confident scrawl, Untitled is a defiant assertion of artistic and individual independence. Fuelled by the buzz of celebrity and television and music-fuelled creativity, coupled with a sense of the artist’s own potent existentialism, the two heavy-handed postures and screaming features of the figures are expressive of the confidence that came with this newly received fame (estimate on request, Post War & Contemporary Art Evening Auction, 25 June).
Studie zu Improvisation 3, 1909 is a rare Expressionist masterpiece by Wassily Kandinsky. With the majority of works from Kandinsky’s ‘Improvisation’ series in major institutions – including the final version of this work which is in the Centre George Pompidou, Paris – this painting provides international collectors with a very exciting opportunity, following Christie’s landmark sale of Studie für Improvisation 8, 1909, which set a record for the artist at auction in November 2012, selling for $23 million. A work of great art historical importance, Studie zu Improvisation 3 belongs to Kandinsky’s revolutionary series of paintings, started earlier that year, known as ‘Improvisations’, which mark his first major forays into the realm of abstraction. These were the very first paintings intended to convey an inner emotional response to and understanding of the visual phenomena of the outer world, through spontaneously and unconsciously created near-autonomous coloured forms. They are among the first paintings in the history of art to mark the deliberate freeing of form and colour from their conventional pictorial duties towards the creation of non-material, non-objective and abstract art of the spirit (estimate: £12-16 million, Impressionist and Modern Art Evening Sale, 18 June).