The 54-lot auction is expected to raise $245 million to $360 million on May 6, the highest presale target for such art since May 2010, according to Christie’s.
Beefed up by consignments from three estates -- heiress Huguette Clark, billionaire Edgar Bronfman and German collectors Viktor and Marianne Langen -- the auction caters to global collectors, with highlights being shown in Hong Kong this week. Picasso makes up 13 lots, with works from his Cubist, Surrealist and neo-Classical periods, as well as portraits of his lovers Marie-Therese Walter, Dora Maar and Jacqueline Roque.
“It’s a low volume, high value sale,” said Brooke Lampley, head of Impressionist and modern art at Christie’s New York, in a telephone interview. “We have a remarkable selection of works by the most commercial artists.”
Global art sales grew 8 percent last year to 47.4 billion euros ($65.2 billion), according to a report published last month by the European Fine Art Foundation. The demand is fueled by low interest rates and growing acceptance of art as an investment. Once the dominant category, Impressionist and modern art had given way to postwar and contemporary art in recent years as significant works became harder to source.
In November, Wang Jianlin, then China’s richest man, paid $28.2 million for Picasso’s painting of his two young children, Claude and Paloma. To court Chinese buyers, Christie’s will tour the highlights, including the top Monet as well as pieces by Picasso, Pierre-Auguste Renoir and Salvador Dali, in Hong Kong this week.
“That’s a trend we expect to continue and the one we are trying to foster with emphasis on Picasso and Monet,” Lampley said.
Monet’s iconic 1907 painting of water lilies painted in Giverny, France, has been valued at $25 million to $35 million, Christie’s said in a press release. The work is part of the Clark estate and has been off the market since 1930, Lampley said. Picasso’s 1942 portrait of Dora Maar in a purple dress, also estimated at $25 million to $35 million, is one of ten works consigned by the Langen estate.
Christie’s is appealing to Russian collectors with Langens’ 1909 Wassily Kandinsky canvas “Strandszene,” estimated at $16 million to $22 million, and Clark’s three Renoirs, Lampley said. Kandinsky’s top two auction prices, including his $23 million record, were set for his other 1909 paintings, also at Christie’s, according to an auction price database published by Artnet Worldwide Corp.
Picasso’s 1965 painting “Mangeuse de Pasteque et Homme Ecrivant,” depicting a nude woman biting into a watermelon slice next to a fully dressed man writing, may sell for $7 million to $10 million. Part of the Bronfman estate, the work used to hang in the billionaire’s Fifth Avenue penthouse which is currently on the market for $65 million.
The Canadian-born Bronfman, who led Seagram Co. for 23 years before retiring and was a long-serving president of the World Jewish Congress, died on Dec. 21 at 84.
The sale’s other highlights include Dali’s desolate Surrealist landscape, “Moment de Transition” (1934), estimated at $10 million to $15 million, and Georges Braque’s 1939 painting “Le Modele” estimated at $8 million to $10 million.
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