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ART MARKET WATCH
Apr. 16, 2007 

BIG-TICKET LOTS AT MAY SALES
The major May sales of Impressionist, modern and contemporary art in New York are on the horizon, and the two big auctioneers have begun to announce some of their star lots -- all works from the post-war category, as it happens, an indication of the current state of the market. Sotheby's specialist Oliver Barker told Linda Sandler of Bloomberg News that the top of the market consisted of 10 to 15 buyers worldwide, many of them seeking postwar art.

On May 15, Sotheby’s New York is selling a Francis Bacon "pope" painting, Study from Innocent X (1962), which is estimated to go for over $30 million. The Bacon is reportedly being put on the block by Mona Ackerman of New York, the daughter of pioneering corporate raider Meshulam Riklis, who bought the work more than 30 years ago. Bacon’s $27.6 million auction record was set in London in February 2007.

Another star lot in Sotheby’s May 15 sale is Mark Rothko’s White Center (Yellow, Pink and Lavender on Rose) (1950). Estimated at $40 million, the work is being sold by David Rockefeller, 91, who bought the painting for less than $10,000 in 1960. White Center is considered a pivotal work, one of the first in the artist’s signature style, and the estimate is well above Rothko’s auction record of $22.4 million. According to Carol Vogel in the New York Times, Sotheby’s has given Rockefeller a guarantee of $46 million. Museum of Modern Art curator John Elderfield told the Times that Rockefeller first offered the picture to the museum, but Elderfield declined. "We already have five Rothkos from the ‘50s," he said. 

Last but not least, Sotheby’s May 15 sale includes an untitled 1981 painting by Jean-Michel Basquiat that was given to the Israel Museum in 1985 by Barbara and Eugene Schwartz. The museum, which has a second Basquiat from that period, is selling Untitled to set up a Barbara and Eugene Schwartz Contemporary Art Acquisition Endowment Fund. The presale estimate is $6 million-$8 million. Basquiat’s auction record is $5.5 million.

As for Christie’s New York, the firm’s May 16 sale features Andy Warhol’s Green Car Crash (Green Burning Car I) (1963). The picture carries a presale estimate of $25 million-$35 million, well above Warhol’s current auction record of $17.4 million, and "is bound to set a new price structure for the artist," the firm says.

Christie’s is also offering a 1962 Yellow Marilyn by Warhol that the unnamed consignor supposedly bought for $250 from Eleanor Ward’s Stable Gallery in New York in 1962. The painting now carries a presale estimate of $15 million.

NEW AUCTION HIGH FOR CHINESE PAINTING
Sotheby’s four-day series of sales in Hong Kong, Apr. 7-10, 2007, put over 1,200 lots of art, jewelry and watches on the block, and totaled more than $135 million U.S. The auctions were kicked off with a sale of contemporary Chinese art that totaled $27.6 million, a new high for the category at Sotheby’s.

The top lot was Xu Beihong’s Put Down Your Whip (1939), an academic realist painting of a World War II era anti-Japanese street performance, which sold for $9,288,000 U.S., a record for any Chinese painting at auction. Auction records were also set for Liu Ye ($902,564), Wei Rong ($184,615), Michael Lin ($69,230) and Hou Chun Ming ($61,538).

NEW RECORDS FOR ORIENTALIST ART
Christie’s New York
sale of 19th-century European and Orientalist art on Apr. 12, 2007, totaled $11.7 million, with 197 of 229 lots finding buyers, or 78 percent. The top lot was William Adolphe Bouguereau's Chansons de Printemps (1889), which sold for $1,720,000, above the presale high estimate of $1.5 million. Twelve new auction records were set in the Orientalist section alone, including for Rudolf Ernst ($552,000), Pierre Tetar van Elven ($432,000) and Eugène Devéria ($240,000).

MUSEUMS LIKE THE CUVELIERS
The "white glove" sale at Sotheby’s New York on Apr. 13, 2007, of 41 photographs by Eugène Cuvelier, plus two by his father, Adalbert Cuvelier, was 100 percent sold, totaling $2,892,000, well above the presale high estimate of $2.1 million. New records were set for both father ($240,000) and son ($288,000), with several institutional buyers. The Tel Aviv Museum of Art won the record-setting lot by Adalbert, Along the Scarpe River, Near Arras (1853), while the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, took home Eugene Cuvelier’s Ferme du Parc de Courances for $103,200.


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