LONDON - For the 5th year, Christie’s launches its summer season with Masterpieces - an innovative curated free public exhibition from 7 to 11 June 2013. Highlighting the timelessness and beauty of the very best works coming to the market from across categories, the exhibition presents over 100 works by many of the most celebrated artists of the last 500 years, many of which have not been seen on public exhibition for generations. The exhibition is led by an epic double portrait from 1982, Jean-Michel Basquiat’s Untitled, (estimate upon request) and an explosive Expressionist oil by Wassily Kandinsky, Studie zu ‘Improvisation 3’ of 1909 (estimate: £12 -16 million), alongside masterpieces by artists including Burne-Jones, Hepworth, Lowry, Picasso and Jan Steen, as well as exceptional European furniture, decorative arts and early books and manuscripts including works by Bob Dylan and Virgil.
In 2012, Christie’s welcomed a record number of visitors to the exhibition over three days. To further enhance the accessibility and potential for art lovers to engage in this increasingly anticipated exhibition, Christie’s has extended the 2013 viewing period to 5 days. The beauty, quality, provenance, rarity and condition of the works exhibited set the tone for the wealth of works to be offered at Christie’s during June and July when art collectors from all over the world congregate in London for the busy annual season of exhibitions and sales.
Jussi Pylkkänen, President & Chairman of Christie’s, Europe, Middle East, Russia & India: “A masterpiece is a work of art that has lasting beauty. As art collectors from around the world congregate in London for the summer season of major international auctions, Christie’s is proud to present a truly exceptional offering of masterpieces in our 5th annual exhibition of curated highlights, which has become one of the most anticipated events in the London art calendar. This initiative allows us to celebrate and share with the public a broad array of extraordinary works of art - many of which have rarely, if ever, been seen in public. This will be an extraordinary show."
Masterpieces Exhibition Co-curator and International Director of Old Master Pictures, Henry Pettifer noted: “We have really given equal emphasis to works of all different values which are interesting for their inherent cultural value.” Masterpieces Exhibition Co-curator and Head of Post-War & Contemporary Art Day Auction, Darren Leak added: “The way that we have juxtaposed and also installed the works is very different to how a museum or especially an auction house would traditionally display them.”
Selected highlights of the exhibition
An epic large scale diptych by Jean-Michel Basquiat from 1982, Untitled forms part of the pantheon of great double portraits including Untitled (Two Heads on Gold) and Dustheads. A pivotal year in the artist’s career, the full length double portraits of 1982 marked Basquiat’s ascension to the big time, the dominant figures exalt the joyous spirit of the early, heady days when he had just broken through to art world super-star status. Towering above the viewer, one is instantly struck by the monumentality of scale, the decisiveness of his line and the sheer brilliance of the artists’ signature colour palette of vibrant red, azure blue, and blaring yellows. Boldly articulated in Basquiat’s confident scrawl, Untitled is a defiant assertion of artistic and individual independence. Fuelled by the buzz of celebrity and television and music-fuelled creativity, coupled with a sense of the artist’s own potent existentialism, the two heavy-handed postures and screaming features of the figures are expressive of the confidence that came with this newly received fame (estimate on request, Post War & Contemporary Art Evening Auction, 25 June).
Studie zu Improvisation 3, 1909 is a rare Expressionist masterpiece by Wassily Kandinsky. With the majority of works from Kandinsky’s ‘Improvisation’ series in major institutions – including the final version of this work which is in the Centre George Pompidou, Paris - this painting provides international collectors with a very exciting opportunity, following Christie’s landmark sale of Studie für Improvisation 8, 1909, which set a record for the artist at auction in November 2012, selling for $23 million. A work of great art historical importance, Studie zu Improvisation 3 belongs to Kandinsky’s revolutionary series of paintings, started earlier that year, known as ‘Improvisations’, which mark his first major forays into the realm of abstraction. These were the very first paintings intended to convey an inner emotional response to and understanding of the visual phenomena of the outer world, through spontaneously and unconsciously created near-autonomous coloured forms. They are among the first paintings in the history of art to mark the deliberate freeing of form and colour from their conventional pictorial duties towards the creation of non-material, non-objective and abstract art of the spirit (estimate: £12-16 million, Impressionist and Modern Art Evening Sale, 18 June).
Acquired by the 1st Earl of Lonsdale in 1763, it is exactly 250 years since Easy Come, Easy Go by Jan Steen (1626-1679) last appeared on the art market. A work of exceptional quality and inventiveness, it has long been regarded as one of Steen’s masterpieces and can now be considered the most important large-scale genre scene by the artist still to remain in private hands. Painted in 1660 at the pinnacle of Steen’s career, the picture reveals his mastery of composition and his supreme skill at rendering light, texture and detail. The artist cast himself as the decadent wastrel and warns that over-indulgence and selfish greed will lead inescapably to ruin, a message as pertinent and universal today as it was in 17th century Holland (estimate: £7-10 million, Old Master & British Paintings Evening Sale, 2 July).
Unseen in public for over 50 years, Love among the Ruins is a rare, important pre-Raphaelite masterpiece, by Sir Edward Coley Burne-Jones, Bt., A.R.A., R.W.S. (1833-1898). It is the most important work by the artist to come to auction since Laus Veneris was sold to the Laing Art Gallery in Newcastle in 1971. A highly-significant work in the artist’s oeuvre, it has been much celebrated since it was first exhibited in 1873, at the Dudley Gallery in London. It went on to be shown at the Exposition Universelle in Paris in 1878, where it established the artist’s international reputation, and was also shown at the exhibition which inaugurated the Birmingham Art Gallery in 1885-6 (the artist’s hometown), the Royal Jubilee Exhibition at Manchester in 1887, an annual loan exhibition at the Guildhall, London, in 1892, and in the Burne-Jones’s retrospective exhibition at the New Gallery, London later that year. It is expected to realise £3-5 million in the Victorian & British Impressionist Art sale on 11 July 2013.
Christie’s presents the Lequesne coffee-pot, a Rococo masterpiece by Paul de Lamerie (1688–1751) - the greatest silversmith working in Britain in the 18th century – it is the most important coffee-pot ever to come to the market. This George II silver coffee-pot was created in 1738, for a successful merchant. An exceptional piece of craftsmanship, it was recently the centerpiece of the British Silver exhibition at The Metropolitan Museum in New York. It is expected to become the most valuable piece of English silver ever to be sold at auction when it is auctioned in The Exceptional Sale on 4 July 2013 (estimate: £3.5– 4.5 million).
A newly discovered, deluxe copy of Opera by Virgil (70-19 B.C.) will be offered in the sale of Valuable Printed Books & Manuscripts on 12 June 2013 (estimate: £500,000 – 800,000). The Aeneid is accepted as the foundation stone of western literature, and this copy is the earliest edition a collector could ever aspire to own. Printed in 1470, within a year of the beginning of printing in Venice, it is the second edition, acknowledged to be textually superior. Its rarity is indicated in the fact that the last copy to come on the market was sold almost a century ago, in 1920. This newly discovered copy is complete and printed on costly vellum for a wealthy patron; the elegance of its pages and the hand-painted decoration add to its resemblance to a Renaissance manuscript, and indeed, an earlier owner may have regarded it as a manuscript, perhaps contributing to its true identity not being recognised until now. This book combines rarity with great aesthetic beauty but also represents a monumental moment in the history of printing.
The extraordinary Ogden Mills Armoires à Sept Medailles (estimate: £1– 1.5 million, The Exceptional Sale, 4 July) were acquired circa 1910 by the philanthropist and collector Ogden Mills (1857-1929) for his Parisian residence. They are lavishly decorated with spectacular gilt-bronze mounts that fuse seamlessly with the scrolling foliate pattern of the sumptuous ground of brass and tortoiseshell première and contre-partie marquetry. The Louis XIV armoire in contre partie is attributed to André-Charles Boulle, while the late Louis XV in première partie is by Delorme. They are decorated to the doors with trails of medals celebrating the Life of Louis XIV as well as the figures of Aspasia and Socrates. Conceived initially with shelves to house collections of precious medals, this series of armoires proved so successful it remained in production in Boulle’s workshop throughout the first half of the 18th century and was subsequently continued by Boulle’s followers.
Unreleased lyrics by Bob Dylan will be offered in the Pop Culture sale on 26 June 2013. The ‘Bomb’ song, Go Away you Bomb, was written for an unpublished book of anti-nuclear protest songs in 1963 when Dylan was working on his seminal album The Freewheelin Bob Dylan. The lyrics were never released and have never before been seen on the market. They include handwritten deletions and alterations, providing invaluable insight into the mindset of the great artist as he composed. The lyrics are being sold by Israel ‘Izzy’ Young, founder of the Folklore Center in Greenwich Village, New York, who organized Bob Dylan’s first ever concert. The lyrics are estimated to realise between £25,000 and £35,000 and proceeds will benefit the Folklore Center in Stockholm.
A stunning large solid gold plate by Pablo Picasso, Visage Tourmenté comes to the market for the first time, having been unseen in public for over 40 years. Weighing over 2.5kg, it is made from 22 carat gold. It is extremely rare to see gold pieces by Picasso at auction as the artist only created a limited number of designs for platters in precious metals. Of the 19 designs made in collaboration with celebrated goldsmith François Hugo, 20 were produced in silver and only one in gold. Visage Tourmenté was bought by the current owner directly from François Hugo in the early 1970s (estimate: £100,000-150,000, Picasso Ceramics, 18 June 2013).