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Oct. 24, 2005 

Get ready for some fireworks. The November sales of Impressionist, modern and contemporary art promise to be grander than ever. The trend has been upwards for several seasons now -- artworks by the most popular artists routinely sell for more than their presale high estimates -- and the market is giving no signs that it has peaked. The good prices are also serving to draw out some choice works in all auction categories.

Christie’s kicks off the action on Nov. 1, with a sale of Impressionist and modern art at its Rockefeller Center headquarters. The presale estimate for the 64-lot evening auction is $135.8 million-$190.5 million. The star lot is Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec’s La blanchisseuse, a moody portrait of a Parisian laundress painted in 1886-87 when the artist was 23 years old, which carries a presale estimate of $20 million–$25 million. (Toulouse-Lautrec’s auction record is $13.2 million.) The work is one of several lots from an anonymous private collection that market insiders say was formed by the late Art Institute of Chicago trustee Neison Harris, now being sold by his family to settle his estate.

The Harris consignment also includes Henri Matisse’s bouquet of flowers, Les marguerites (1919), estimated at $10 million-$15 million, and Pierre Bonnard’s Compotiers et assiettes de fruits (ca. 1930), which was included in the 1998 "Bonnard" retrospective at the Tate Gallery and the Museum of Modern Art, and is estimated to sell for $5 million-$7 million. Other artists in this group are George Braque, Edgar Degas, Claude Monet, Camille Pissarro, Alfred Sisley, Kees van Dongen and Edouard Vuillard.

Other top lots in the sale are Claude Monet’s 1907 Nymphéas (est. $10 million-$15 million), which sold at auction in 1989 for $11.6 million; Pablo Picasso’s 1901 painting of an absinthe drinker, Buveuse accoudée (est. $6 million-$8 million), from the collection of Evelyn Annenberg Hall; and Amedeo Modigliani’s 1916 portrait of fellow artist Moïse Kisling (est. $6 million-$8 million).

The Museum of Modern Art is putting four works on the block at Christie’s evening sale. Kees van Dongen’s Femme au grande chapeau (1908), which according to the sale catalogue has not been exhibited at the museum since its acquisition in 1980, is estimated at $2,000,000-$3,000,000. The pointillist Port de Cette, les tartans, painted in 1892 by Théo van Rysselberghe, was included in MoMA’s "Modern Starts" exhibition in 1999-2000, and is estimated at $1.5-$2 million. Also from MoMA’s storage is a rather restrained Pablo Picasso Femme assise from 1926, a gift to the museum from dealer Sidney Janis (est. $500,000-$700,000), and Henry Moore’s Seated Woman: Thin Neck, a bronze conceived in 1961 and cast in the artist’s lifetime (est. $500,000-$700,000). 

Other property in the sale includes works by Alberto Giacometti, Jacques Lipchitz, Matisse and Picasso from the collection of the late entertainment lawyer Lee V. Eastman, and works by Jean Arp, Constantin Brancusi, Barbara Hepworth, Henri Laurens, Fernand Leger and Lipchitz from the collection of Edward R. Broida.

Christie’s Nov. 8 evening sale of post-war and contemporary art features a hefty 70 lots and carries a total presale estimate of $101.2 million-$145.6 million. It features more of the Eastman collection, an impressive group of Abstract Expressionist works -- including 11 lots by Willem de Kooning, a longtime Eastman friend and client. Highlights include de Kooning’s 1977 Untitled abstraction (est. $4 million-$6 million) and a 1960 Franz Kline Untitled (est. $2.5 million-$3.5 million). In all, the Eastman collection is estimated at $30 million.

Christie’s Nov. 8 sale also features Roy Lichtenstein’s In the Car (est. $12 million-$16 million), consigned by Mitchell Lichtenstein, the artist’s son, and Francis Bacon’s Study for a Pope I (est. $7 million-$9 million). Another highlight is Mark Rothko’s 1953 Blue Over Red (est. $4.5 million–$6.5 million) from the Selma and Israel Rosen Collection.

Not to be forgotten are the contemporary works from the Broida collection, including Philip Guston’s 1953-54 abstraction, Zone (est. $4 million-$6 million). Other top lots are self-portraits by Pop heroes Andy Warhol and Jeff Koons (est. $2.5 million-$3.5 million and $2 million-$3 million, respectively).

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Sotheby's Impressionist and modern art sale is scheduled for the evening of Nov. 2, 2005, with the presale estimate set at $95 million-$132 million for a total of 61 lots. The star of the sale is a 1908 view of The Grand Canal in Venice by Claude Monet (est. $12 million-$16 million). The same painting sold at auction in 1989 for $11.5 million. A second star lot is Henri Matisse’s sensuous Robe jaune et robe arlequin (Nezy et Lydia) (est. $9 million-$12 million). The work had previously been auctioned at Sotheby’s London in 1999 for £7.2 million ($11.4 million).

The evening sale also features six Impressionist and modern works being sold by the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, including Amedeo Modigliani’s 1916 Portrait of Manuel Humbert Estève (est. $4 million-$6 million) and a two-foot-tall Alberto Giacometti bronze of a standing woman from ca. 1958 (est. $1.5 million-$2.5 million). In all, the LACMA trove includes 42 works by Max Beckmann, Edgar Degas, Henri Matisse, Henri Rousseau and other artists, with an estimated value of $10 million-$14 million.

The Art Institute of Chicago is also sending material to the block -- Marc Chagall’s rooster-headed, winged fantasia, Le Jongleur (1943), a work that the museum acquired in 1952 and that has been exhibited at the Tate Gallery and the Grand Palais in Paris. It carries a presale estimate of $2.5 million-$3.5 million.

Sotheby’s Nov. 2 sale also includes a consignment of six works that come from the collection of Walter Buhl Ford II and his wife Josephine, granddaughter of the legendary automobile pioneer Henry Ford. Top lots in this group include Alexej Jawlensky’s expressionist painting of a Sicilian Woman with a Green Shawl from 1912 (est. $3 million-$4 million) as well as works by Georges Braque, Marino Marini, Henri Matisse and a 1907 primitivist nude by Pablo Picasso that is a study for Les Demoiselles d'Avignon. Picasso’s rough-hewn watercolor and gouache, Nu Jaune (1907), is estimated to sell for $3 million-$4 million. Longtime patrons of the Detroit Institute of Arts, the Fords donated Vincent van Gogh’s portrait of the Postman Roulin to the museum. After her husband's death in 1991, Mrs. Ford underwrote the restoration of DIA’s great hall, now named for her and her husband. 

The sale also includes works by Aristede Maillol, Henry Moore and Odilon Redon from the estate of Laurance S. Rockefeller; works by Georges Braque, Salvador Dalí, Paul Klee and Pablo Picasso from the collection of Ruth McClymonds Maitland; works by Braque, Juan Gris and Picasso from St. Louis collectors John P. and Alice S. Meyer; and a portrait by Dresden Secessionist artist Conrad Felixmüller of Clemens Braun (1931) from the collection of actor Sean Connery.

The top lot of Sotheby’s evening sale of contemporary art on Nov. 9, 2005, is David Smith’s Cubi XXVIII (est. $8 million-$12 million). Other lots to watch are Andy Warhol’s Jackie Frieze (est. $8 million-$10 million), two paintings by Cy Twombly, Untitled (Rome) and Untitled (New York City) (est. $6 million-$8 million and $8 million-$10 million, respectively), and Jean-Michel Basquiat’s El Gran Espectaculo (History of Black People) (est. $4.5 million-$6.5 million). The 54 lots in the evening sale are estimated to bring a total of $78.6 million-$108.4 million.

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Phillips, de Pury & Co. is having two full days of sales at its headquarters on West 15th Street and Tenth Avenue. On the evening of Nov. 7 and during the following day, Phillips puts over 100 works of contemporary art and design from the collection of Princess Gloria von Thurn und Taxis on the block -- the "punk princess," as she has been called, is clearing out her personal apartment in her castle in Regensburg (so she can fill it again with new acquisitions).

Highlights include several Richard Prince joke paintings, which Princess Gloria bought in the mid-1980s for around $8,000 and are now estimated at $300,000 -- give or take $50,000. Juergen Teller made the photographs for the catalogue on site at the German castle, and the result is "unlike any auction catalogue ever seen," according to Phillips auction chief Simon de Pury. De Pury’s relationship with the princess goes back to 1993, when the auctioneer oversaw the sale of property from her late husband’s estate for a total of €26 million.

Phillips’ second set of sales is scheduled for the evening of Nov. 10 and the following day. Among the top lots in this auction is Damien Hirst’s Love Lost (est. $800,000-$1,200,000), a large fish tank with surgical instruments and a gynecological stool that was exhibited at Gagosian Gallery in New York in 1999. Also featured in the Nov. 11 sale are over 90 works of contemporary photography from the collection of Didier and Clemence Krzentowski, owners of the Paris contemporary design gallery KREO. Like the princess, the Krzentowskis are clearing out their apartment to begin building a new collection.