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Art Market Watch
Feb. 27, 2006 

After more than 100 years in the Metropolitan Museum collection, nearly 200 19th-century plaster casts of classical sculptures and architectural details go on the block at Sotheby’s New York on Feb. 28, 2006. On view in a special study gallery at the Met until the 1950s, the casts are now in a state of fashionable dishabille -- and are being offered without reserve, or estimates, for that matter. Who might want them? Decorators, perhaps, or collectors with an empty hall or two. Among the items are casts from the pediments of the Temple of Zeus at Olympia, reliefs from the Parthenon and the Pergamon Altar and the Cathedral of Notre-Dame in Paris.

On Mar. 6, 2006, Swann Galleries offers more than 250 prints and drawings from the collection of the late New York art dealer Sylvan Cole, director of Associated American Artists gallery for more than 35 years and a specialist in bringing inexpensive prints to a broad public. Among the lots is Ivan Albright’s comic Three Love Birds litho from 1940-41, which shows two birds in a cage and their nude (and rather scary) human owner (est. $3,000-$5,000), an artist’s proof of Milton Avery’s 1936 drypoint, Rothko with Pipe (est. $2,500 to $3,500), and a posthumous proof of Jackson Pollock’s 1944-45 etching, Untitled (P 17) (est. $4,000 to $6,000). The overall presale estimate is $619,000-954,700.

Swann is also holding a two-session auction of 100 fine works on paper and 19th- and 20th-century prints and drawings on Mar. 7.

After the art collectors have spent all their money at the Armory Show, Mar. 10-13, 2006, will they go to Phillips, Sotheby’s and Christie’s for more? The auctioneers are certainly betting on it. Sotheby’s New York puts more than 200 lots of contemporary art on the block on Mar. 15, 2006, in a sale whose catalogue features on its cover Robert Grosvenor’s Three Wheel Car (1969) (est. $15,000-$20,000), a work that combines the artist’s signature sense of sculptural form with a less-known interest in three-wheeled vehicles (the car was briefly used by Grosvenor’s daughter, but not raced). It is being sold to benefit the Cleveland Foundation. Among the other interesting lots is a drawing of Two Dancers (1986) by Eric Fischl (est. $7,000-$9,000), a 6 x 7 ft. painting from 1996 by Ross Bleckner (est. $40,000-$60,000) and an 18-in. diameter Damien Hirst spin painting (est. $10,000-$15,000).

Christie’s holds its third "First Open" sale on the following day, Mar. 16, 2006. Including nearly 300 lots with a total estimated value of $6 million, the auction features considerably more pricey material, despite its billing as an opportunity for "beginning collectors": a 1996 Lisa Yuskavage Still Life (est. $120,000-$180,000), a pink enamel heart-shaped painting with butterflies by Damien Hirst (est. $300,000-$400,000) and a 1999 painting of a suburban backyard by Thomas Schiebitz (est. $150,000-$200,000). The sale also includes a 2004 painting on paper of a crowd of cartoon faces by Chris Johanson (est. $5,000-$7,000), a Yoshitomo Nara drawing of a scowling toddler on an envelope (est. $5,000-$7,000) and a Maurizio Cattelan cartoon of Picasso (est. $5,000-$7,000).

The Judd Foundation plans to sell about 35 works by the late Minimalist sculptor Donald Judd (1928-94) from its collection at Christie’s New York on May 9, 2006. The unusual move cuts out the art-dealer middleman -- Judd traditionally showed with PaceWildenstein, but the foundation has been holding onto its stock and has generally not consigned works for sale since the late 1990s -- leaving all the revenue from the Christie’s sale, an estimated $20 million, to go to the Judd Foundation operations. (Presumably, the foundation is paying no seller’s commission; the auction house gets its end from the buyers.)

The foundation has had limited operating funds, according to sources, though its assets are listed on its most recent tax return as totaling over $200 million in value. The sale represents 10 percent of the foundation’s uninstalled works, insiders say. The Chinati Foundation, which operates the ranch-like museum in Marfa, has an annual operating budget of just over $1 million, according to recent tax records, with $176,000 earmarked for compensation of top staff.

The Judd Foundation maintains Judd’s former loft building at 101 Spring Street in SoHo and 16 more buildings in and around Marfa, Tx., all permanently installed with works by the artist. The Chinati Foundation, a separate foundation under the direction of Marianne Stockebrand, Judd’s partner at his death, runs the 340-acre museum installed with works by Judd and other artists. According to the New York Times, Stockebrand was opposed to the Christie’s auction, preferring to place works more carefully in chosen collections, and has resigned from the Judd Foundation board (she still runs Chinati).

"Auctions can be an efficient way to sell," said New York dealer Peter Freeman, who has handled Donald Judd works in the past, "but in return you sacrifice the opportunity to do a more controlled sale, to keep objects together in a museum situation." At least one museum has approached the foundation with the idea of creating just such a major installation, insiders say, but got no response.

Will the market be able to absorb 35 Judd works all at once? We’ll have to wait and see. According to the Artnet database, 52 Judd works sold at auction in 2005, 21 of them being sculptures, with the top price being the ca. $2.5 million paid for an untitled "stack" sculpture of steel and blue Plexiglas from 1989. The auction record for an untitled Judd sculpture is $4.6 million, set in 2002 by the sale of a large, six-part steel and yellow Plexiglas work from 1966-67.

The Judd foundation’s new (and first) director, Barbara Hunt McLanahan, suggested that the SoHo building, now open by appointment, might have more extended public hours.

In the hindsight of the recently announced Judd Foundation sale at Christie’s, it certainly seems nice that a group of contemporary artists has donated works to a benefit auction at Phillips de Pury & Co. on Mar. 13, 2006, to help the Chinati Foundation raise funds to match a $5 million challenge grant from the Lannan Foundation and the Leonard Riggio family. More than 50 artists are participating, ranging from Carl Andre, John Chamberlain and Michael Craig-Martin to James Siena, Billy Sullivan and John Wesley. The material carries a total presale estimate of $1.3 million, and goes on view Mar. 4, 2006.

The following day, Mar. 14, 2006, Phillips offers it’s own mixed-owner contemporary art sale titled "Under the Influence."

Sotheby’s can do more than sell art at auction. The New York-based auctioneer has mounted "an exhibition and private sale" of monumental sculpture on the grounds of the Isleworth Golf and Country Club in Windermere, Fla. The installation is under the supervision of Stephane Cosman Connery, Sotheby’s director of private sales, and features 28 artworks worth a total of $35 million, including Aristide Maillol’s L’Air, a gracefully reclining nude sculpture conceived in 1938 and cast in lead sometime after 1944.

The top piece is Oscar (1971), a 25-foot-tall stabile by Alexander Calder that was once owned by the Toledo Museum of Art (which inexplicably sold it in 1995 to a Korean corporate buyer). The price is $10 million, according to Lindsay Pollock in Bloomberg News. Other works are by Fernando Botero, César, Giorgio de Chirico, Jim Dine, Max Ernst, Barry Flanagan, Keith Haring, Joan Miró, Henry Moore and Auguste Rodin. The sculptures are on view through April.

auction house is selling the handwritten lyric sheet for John Lennon’s A Day in the Life (1967), the final track on the Beatles’ multiplatinum album, Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band. The two-page sheet -- containing the a first draft in cursive script, complete with crossings-out and corrections, and a second draft in printed block letters -- is being sold in a sealed-bid auction, which closes at noon on Mar. 7, 2006. According to Bonhams, the selling price is expected to be in the seven figures -- and could establish a new record for a 20th-century musical manuscript. For further details, see

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