Thursday, November 09, 2006

Extra! Extra! Klimt, Kirchner, Schiele, Gauguin, Early Picasso Are Suddenly Postwar Painters!! ... (Paging Norman LeBrecht!)

Postwar Art Auction Nets $491M in Sales

"An auction of postwar art that resulted in a staggering $491 million sales total featured four Gustav Klimts and an array of other blockbuster impressionist and modern works.

Christie's auction house said that all the paintings at Wednesday evening's sale exceeded their estimates, beating its previous record of $269 million set in 1990. Only 84 lots were offered; six failed to sell.

Five of the works, including the Klimts, had recently been the subjects of Nazi restitution.

The Klimts -- four landscapes and a portrait -- recently hung in the Neue Galerie, a Manhattan museum co-founded by cosmetics heir Ronald S. Lauder. They were originally owned by industrialist Ferdinand Bloch-Bauer and his wife, Adele, an art patron in Vienna at the turn of the 20th century.

They were handed over by Austria in January to Maria Altmann, Adele Bloch-Bauer's niece, following a seven-year legal battle. An arbitration court had ruled that the works were improperly seized when the Nazis annexed Austria during World War II.

The Klimt portrait of Adele Bloch-Bauer, richly colored in golden hues, sold for $87.9 million -- a record for a Klimt that caused the auction room to explode in applause. Its presale estimate was $40 million to $60 million. Klimt's ''Birch Forest'' went for $40.3 million, above its estimate of $30 million; ''Apple Tree I'' brought $33 million and ''Houses in Unterach on the Attersee'' fetched $31.3 million, both above their $25 million presale estimates...

''Berliner Strassenszene,'' a colorful scene of Berlin's famous streetwalkers, was one of only 11 street scenes painted by Ernst Ludwig Kirchner. It was another work involving Nazi restitution that sold for $38 million, above its $18 million-to-$25 million presale estimate, setting a record for the artist. It was purchased by the Neue Galerie, Christie's said.

The Kirchner work recently was turned over to the heirs of Jewish shoe factory owner Alfred Hess by the Bruecke-Museum in Berlin, where it hung since 1980. Hess' widow, Tekla Hess, contended she was intimidated into bringing the painting back to Germany from safety in Switzerland. It was sold to an artist friend of Kirchner's.

Three works by Egon Schiele that were consigned to the auction by the Neue Galerie also set high prices. They included a two-sided painting, ''Houses (With Mountains)'' on one side and ''Monk 1'' on the other,'' that realized $22.4 million, a record for the artist.

Among several artist records at the auction was Paul Gauguin's ''Man With an Ax,'' which sold to an anonymous telephone bidder for $40.3 million. The painting, depicting a Tahitian in front of his boat, had been in the collection of the Sultan of Brunei's family, The New York Times said. It had been estimated at $35 million to $45 million....

Another potential star of the evening sale -- Picasso's ''Portrait de Angel Fernandez de Soto'' -- was withdrawn by Christie's and its seller, the foundation of composer Sir Andrew Lloyd Webber, just hours before the auction was to begin. A day earlier, a federal judge had dismissed a lawsuit brought by a man who claimed his ancestor, a wealthy banker from Berlin, was forced by the Nazis to sell the painting cheaply." ...

Associated Press "Postwar Art Auction Nets $491M in Sales" November 9, 2006

Jasper Johns

American Abstract Expressionist/Pop Painter and Sculptor, born in 1930

Grey Alphabets, 1956

The Menil Collection, Houston


“The Menil Collection is indeed an imagined museum…
the American embodiment of Malraux’s mythic ‘museum without walls.’”

-- Bertrand Davezac, former Menil Curator of Byzantine and Medieval Art


The Menil Collection, Twentieth Century Art


Plato's Cave and the Light Inside: Modern Art, Modern Architecture, Modern Museums: The Menil Museum/Rice University Lecture Series


Photo credit: (c) Jasper Johns via British Library/Poetry Express. With thanks.


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