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More Than $2 Billion in Art Hits New York Auctions

Wassily Kandinsky
"Herbstlandschaft" (1911) by Wassily Kandinsky. Valued between $20 million and $30 million, it is being sold by Christie's in New York on Nov. 4. Source: Christie's Images Ltd. 2013 via Bloomberg

More than $2 billion of Impressionist, modern, postwar and contemporary art is coming to the auction block in New York, up 40 percent from the May auction cycle.

Expect the biggest numbers at five evening sales held by rivals Christie’s and Sotheby’s. Phillips and Bonhams have lower-priced work.

Sellers include hedge-fund billionaire Steven A. Cohen, newsprint magnate Peter Brant, guitarist Eric Clapton and Miami Marlins owner Jeffrey Loria.

There are at least 31 works with a low estimate of $10 million or more. The Christie’s contemporary sale has the most, 14, led by Francis Bacon’s “Three Studies of Lucien Freud,” which may sell for more than $95 million.

Christie’s starts with an evening sale from the collection of art dealer Jan Krugier, who died in 2008.

Here are the highlights of the first of two weeks of sales.

Pablo Picasso’s sculpture “Tete” leads the Nov. 4-5 Krugier sale, where the 156 lots may bring as much as $255.6 million. The Geneva-based dealer was a friend of the artist and “Tete” is one of 30 Picassos of the Krugier group. Estimated at $25 million to $35 million, the sheet-metal piece is a maquette for the 65-foot sculpture outside of the Civic Center building in Chicago.

Wassily Kandinsky’s 1911 landscape “Herbstlandschaft” is valued at $20 million to $30 million. A similar Kandinsky fetched 13.5 million pounds ($21.2 million) at Christie’s in London in June.

Two Giacomettis

In an odd coincidence, Alberto Giacometti’s very different portraits of his brother Diego lead the evening sales at both Christie’s and Sotheby’s.

The 1954 painting, “Diego en Chemise Ecossaise,” depicts a seated man with intense expression, clad in a tartan shirt. The work is expected to fetch $30 million to $50 million at Christie’s on Nov. 5. It has been consigned by Loria, according to state regulatory filing. Christie’s guaranteed minimum price for the lot has been financed through third parties, according to the catalog.

A bronze head of a gaunt Diego, conceived in 1954 and cast in bronze the following year, appears at Sotheby’s on Nov. 6, valued at $35 million to $50 million.

Sotheby’s Stars

The stars of Sotheby’s evening sale are 14 pieces representing early-20th-century European avant-garde: Futurism, Cubism, Dada and Surrealism. The highlight is Giacomo Balla’s “Automobile in Corsa,” a 1913 Futurist painting that could bring as much as $18 million.

Picasso’s 1935 portrait of Marie-Therese Walter is estimated at $20 million to $30 million. Walter has been a popular subject with wealthy collectors. Last year, Cohen paid $155 million for Picasso’s “Le Reve,” the most expensive painting of the artist’s young lover.

Camille Pissarro’s country scene, “Le Jardin de Maubuisson, Pontoise, la Mere Bellette” is the star of an evening sale at Bonhams on Nov. 5. Estimated at $1.5 million to $2 million, the painting was once owned by French Prime Minister Fernand Bouisson and has been in the same family collection since 1947.

Muse highlights include Elin McCoy on wine, Lance Esplund on art.

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