Munch’s $80 Million ‘Scream’ Leads New York May Auctions

'The Scream'
"The Scream" by Edvard Munch, one of four versions of the composition by the Norwegian artist, went on display at MoMA after selling for a record price. Source: Sotheby's via Bloomberg

A version of “The Scream” by Edvard Munch headlines the big May auctions, with the three New York houses gearing up to sell as much as $1.5 billion of Impressionist, modern and contemporary art in the next two weeks.

Works are coming from the estates of philanthropist David Pincus, Wall Street financier Theodore Forstmann and Los Angeles art patron Beatrice Gersh. Christie’s has 15 artworks valued at $10 million or more; Sotheby’s has 11 and Phillips de Pury has three.

“More people believe in art as a good wealth holder, and that’s driving the market upward,” said Suzanne Gyorgy, global head of art advisory and finance at Citi Private Bank. “We are seeing a lot of activity in Asia and the Middle East. They want to buy real estate in the U.S. and in London and they want to buy art for the blank walls.”

Here are some auction highlights.

The biggest presale estimate belongs to “The Scream” (1895), the only one of four renditions by the Norwegian artist (1863-1944) that remains in a private collection.

The consigner is Petter Olsen, a Norwegian businessman whose father, Thomas, was a friend and patron of Munch. The family has owned the work for over 70 years. It’s expected to fetch more than $80 million during Sotheby’s Impressionist and modern evening sale on May 2.

Forstmann Works

Sotheby’s is selling an estimated $75 million of works from the Forstmann collection, led by Picasso’s 1941 portrait of Dora Maar, valued at $20 million to $30 million.

The top lot at Christie’s Impressionist and modern evening sale on May 1 is Cezanne’s watercolor “Joueur de cartes” from the estate of Texas collector Heinz Felix Eichenwald, expected to fetch $15 million to $20 million.

There will be more fireworks at Christie’s postwar- and contemporary-art sale on May 8.

Yves Klein’s 1962 fire-color painting “FC 1,” whose creation involved two naked models and a blowtorch, is expected to set an auction record for the French artist at Christie’s on May 8.

Estimated between $30 million and $40 million, the work has been guaranteed by a third party. Klein completed it several weeks before his death at 34.

In the same sale, Christie’s will include 13 of 40 artworks that belonged to Pincus, the former chairman of apparel manufacturer Pincus Brothers-Maxwell, who died last December.

Rothko, Pollock

Among them is an 8-by-7-foot Rothko titled “Orange, Red, Yellow” (1961) and expected to bring $35 million to $45 million. The painting hung for many years at the Philadelphia Museum of Art, loaned by Pincus, a former museum trustee.

Another highlight is Pollock’s “No. 28” (1951), estimated to bring $20 million to $30 million. The work was included in the artist’s 1967 retrospective at the Museum of Modern Art in New York.

Barnett Newman’s 1952 “Onement V” has a $10 million to $15 million estimate. The canvas, featuring his signature “zip,” had also been on loan to the Philadelphia Museum of Art.

At Sotheby’s, “Figure Writing Reflected in Mirror” (1976) by Francis Bacon is also valued between $30 million and $40 million. It’s the highlight of Sotheby’s contemporary-art evening sale in New York on May 9.

‘Sleeping Girl’

Warhol’s “Double Elvis [Ferus Type]” (1963) is heading to the auction block with a $30 million to $50 million estimate. It was one of 22 Elvis silkscreen paintings first exhibited at the Ferus Gallery in Los Angeles in late 1963. Nine of them are in museum collections, including MoMA.

Roy Lichtenstein’s “Sleeping Girl” is expected to fetch $30 million to $40 million. Since 1964, the work was in the collection of the late Hollywood talent agent Phil Gersh and his wife Beatrice who bought it from the Ferus Gallery. The Gershes were founding members of the Museum of Contemporary Art in Los Angeles.

The auctions will conclude at Phillips de Pury, the smallest of the three houses, owned by Russia’s Mercury Group. Its evening sale on May 10 will star a 1981 canvas by Jean-Michel Basquiat in which a central figure wears a crown of thorns. It’s expected to sell for $8 million to $12 million.

Christie’s Impressionist and modern art evening auction is on May 1, at 20 Rockefeller Plaza, at 7 p.m. Sotheby’s is on May 2, at 1334 York Ave., at 7 p.m.

Christie’s postwar and contemporary evening auction is on May 8, at 7 p.m. Sotheby’s contemporary evening auction is on May 9, at 7 p.m.

Phillips de Pury contemporary art evening sale is on May 10, at 450 Park Ave., at 7 p.m.

Muse highlights include Zinta Lundborg’s NYC Weekend and Greg Evans on movies.

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