As New York's November auction season shifts into overdrive, all manner of high-profile sellers are taking advantage of one of the hottest art markets ever. As has now been widely reported, Hollywood mogul David Geffen has sold Jackson Pollock's No. 5, 1948, for some $140 million to David Martinez, 48, the Mexico-born founder of the London-based Fintech Advisory Ltd. The price is said to be the highest ever for a contemporary painting. The sale was reportedly brokered by Sotheby's auctioneer Tobias Meyer.
Formerly owned by S.I. Newhouse, the 4 x 8 ft. work was included in the 1998 Pollock retrospective at the Museum of Modern Art. Speculation has Geffen, who last month reportedly sold two other blue-chip contemporary works for a total of $145.3 million, raising funds to make a bid for the Los Angeles Times. As for Martinez, two years ago he bought a 76th-floor apartment in the new Time Warner Center with 360-degree views of Manhattan and Central Park for $54.7 million, a record for a residential property in New York.
Adding a touch of mystery to the transaction is a report by auction expert Josh Baer (in his Baer Faxt email newsletter) that Martinez was not the buyer.
Another big seller is cosmetics tycoon and Neue Galerie head Ronald Lauder, who has put three of the museum's works by Egon Schiele on the block at Christie's on Nov. 8 to help defray the cost of his purchase of Gustav Klimt's Adele Bloch-Bauer I (1907) for $135 million in July 2006. For some reason, Lauder consigned the Schieles anonymously, though they didn't stay anonymous for long.
The three works, which go on the block one after the other in the evening sale, are the 42 x 53 in. Houses with Mountains of 1915 (est. $20,000,000-$30,000,000), a smaller work in gouache, watercolor and crayon depicting a Half-dressed Nude Twisting to the Side (1917) (est. $6,000,000-$8,000,000) and a 1917 watercolor of two young women embracing, Two Girls on a Fringed Rug (est. $5,000,000-$7,000,000). Two of the works also contain fragmentary drawings on the verso.
Another seller is the Toledo Museum of Art, which has no stranger to the auction rooms in recent years, selling works from the collection to raise funds for acquisitions. Toledo properties at Sotheby's Nov. 7 Impressionist auction include Alfred Sisley's vibrant riverside scene, Un Noyer dans la prairie de Thomery (1880) (est. $1,000,000-$1,500,000) and Pierre-Auguste Renoir's Paysage à Cagnes avec femme et enfant (1910) (est. $900,000-$1,200,000), a charming landscape showing a mother and her young daughter relaxing in the shade of a tree.
According to Toledo Museum director Don Bacigalupi, the deaccessions are part of an ongoing, careful fine-tuning of the museum holdings -- about 26,000 objects in all -- with the proceeds informally earmarked for purchases of works from the same period. Toledo is deaccessioning some 50 works from its European collection, Bacigalupi said. One recent purchase by the museum was Marisol's 1968 Cocktail Party installation, which is now on view in the museum galleries.
Sotheby's clients also include actor Sean Connery, who has sold his house in London, and expects to spend more time at his place in the Bahamas. He's selling a group of works on paper -- which wouldn't fare so well in the humid Caribbean -- including an impressive Edouard Vuillard pastel of Sacha Guitry in his dressing room (1911-12) (est. $700,000-$900,000) and a 1928 charcoal by Henri Matisse, a peculiarly geometric, almost proto-minimal, view of his window in Nice (est. $800,000-$1,200,000).
Other sellers at Sotheby's include Manhattan superdealer William Acquavella, who is selling the ca. 1895 still life by Paul Cézanne (est. $28,000,000-$35,000,000), financier Henry Kravis, who is selling Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec's 1893 The Card Game, a sedate scene of two prostitutes in housedresses (est. $5,000,000-$7,000,000), and Jean-Christophe Castelli, son of the legendary dealer Leo Castelli, who is selling a small (20 x 16 in.) 1964 Andy Warhol self-portrait (est. $3,500,000-$4,500,000), according to Carol Vogel in the New York Times.
Meanwhile, Heritage Auction Galleries down in Dallas -- the world's largest numismatic auction company, with 2005 sales of $425 million -- is getting into the fine art business with a sale scheduled for Nov. 9, 2006. Organized by Edmund P. Pillsbury, the former director of the Kimbell Art Museum in Fort Worth (and a director at Heritage since January of this year), the sale includes works by Jacopo Bassano, Gian Lorenzo Bernini, Peter Paul Rubens, Elisabeth Louise Vigée-LeBrun, Thomas Moran, Thomas Eakins, Maxfield Parrish and Milton Avery.
New Yorkers can see highlights of the auction at the Fletcher-Sinclair Mansion at 2 East 79th Street, Nov. 1-3, 10 am to 7 pm, and Nov. 4, 10 am to 5 pm. The overall presale estimate of the two-day sale is $16.6 million-$26 million. For further details, see the Heritage Auction Galleries website at www.HA.com -- and note that the auction lots include the reserve, which is kept secret by most auctioneers.
Finally, returning to the painter of the hour, Pollock-fever has clearly penetrated even into the heartland. The unauthenticated Jackson Pollock painting that went on the block at Beloit Auction House in Beloit, Wis., on Oct. 25, 2006, fetched a healthy $53,000 ($61,215 including the buyer's premium and sales taxes.). The small (ca. 8 x 24 in.) work was part of the estate of architect Lynn Anderson. For further details, see Artnet News, Oct. 19, 2006.
About 120 people attended the auction, according to the Associated Press, but bidding on the Pollock was slow, dropping from $25,000 to $5,000 in a "reverse auction" before rocketing back up to sell for about double the opening bid. The buyer was Bill Kold, an abstract painter from Austin, who beat out a phone-bidder from Florida. A Pollock fan, Kold was in Beloit to visit his mother. "My gut tells me this is real," he told the AP, adding that he would consider authenticating the painting, and that he believed it was a piece cut from a larger work.
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