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  • Warhol, De Stael, Cattelan, Manzoni and Basquiat
    January 21, 2005 LONDON, UK.

    Frank Auerbach's Reclining Head of JYM

    Sotheby's evening sale of Contemporary Art in London on February 10, 2005 will feature a diverse selection of works spanning several important movements in Contemporary Art, ranging from iconic paintings by De StaŽl, Fontana and Basquiat to seminal works by Cattelan, Warhol and Hirst.

    The sale includes two works by Nicolas de StaŽl (1914-55). Figure Accoudťe is one of the artist's largest and most dynamic renditions of a reclining nude. Very few of his works exist on this theme and scale (89 by 130 cm), and this particular painting is being sold by the artist's family, having remained in their hands since it was executed in 1953-54. De StaŽl had spent the early part of the 1950s trying to re-establish a figurative basis for his work and in Figure Accoudťe he adopted traditional composition ideals, using a palette knife to create layer after layer of colour, building a chromatic basis from which the figurative space can begin to develop. It is estimated at £800,000-1,200,000.

    The second work by de StaŽl comes from the Estate of Sarabel Florsheim, following the sale of a group of works from the same estate at Sotheby's New York last November. Paysage ŗ Agrigente was acquired by Sarabel Florsheim within a year of its execution, and was the very first of a famous cycle of Agrigente paintings inspired by Sicilian light, which coincided with de StaŽl's rapid rise to fame in America, just two years before his tragic death. It is expected to fetch £500,000-700,000.

    Achrome, executed in 1959 by Piero Manzoni (1933-63), is one of the masterpieces from his most important series. During his life and in the decade following his tragic death in 1963 when he was aged 30, Manzoni's influence on international art trends was unrivalled. His adoption of a conceptual approach to viewing and making art was ahead of its time and was instrumental in extending the boundaries of artistic practice during a crucial period of innovation and change. This work is estimated at £300,000-400,000.

    Concetto Spaziale of 1963, comes from La Fine Di Dio series which marked the pinnacle of Lucio Fontana's (1899-1968) career. Within the embryonic form of an oval - a universal symbol of birth and regeneration - he was able to unleash the dramatic force of his signature rupture in full maturity, bringing together many of his earlier ideas in harmonious fusion. Executed over an eighteen-month period of enlightened, mature expression between 1963 and 1964 when Fontana was at the peak of his creative powers, all of the Fine di Dio canvases epitomise the dynamic complexity and spirituality of his oeuvre. It is estimated at £1,100,000-1,500,000.

    Two works in the sale by Jean-Michel Basquiat (1960-88) illustrate the free-style figuration which turned him into an overnight star. Untitled from 1982 is a stark portrait of a horned, masked figure, which powerfully evokes the demons which stalked Basquiat throughout his short artistic life. Kings of Egypt I, also from 1982, shows a completely different approach to the canvas. The title already hints at a historical perspective and Basquiat's use of a naÔve form of stretcher with the cross bars exposed at each corner, continues the theme. On the canvas he uses a much more diagrammatic form of draughtsmanship, interspersing predominant, repeated words such as 'Amenophis' (one of the ancient Pharoahs) and 'Sphinx stinks' with simplified symbols for a crown, a head and the sun. Apparently hinting at his education and borrowing the visual language of his text books, Basquiat once again combines these apparently mundane forms to explosive expressive effect. Both works are estimated at £600,000-800,000.

    Andy Warhol's (1928-87) fascination with iconic images and celebrity extended to his appropriation of famous paintings by the artists he most admired. The manipulation and projection of his own image lies at the heart of Warhol's work, and his paintings after other artists were not only homages but also proclamations of his own greatness. During the 1980s Warhol followed on from the series which referred to his own back catalogue by adapting works by numerous popular and famous artists in his Art from Art series. Botticelli's Birth of Venus, Leonardo's Mona Lisa and Matisse's Blue Woman had all become celebrities in their own right, much as Warhol's images of Marilyn. The Woman in Blue (After Matisse) series coincided with the honing of Warhol's silkscreen printing technique to almost mechanical perfection, enabling him to reflect his great influences with the mastery which they deserved. It is estimated at £350,000-450,000.

    The sale includes four works by Maurizio Cattelan (b. 1960) from a private European collection, all executed between 1992 and 1997, which offer a unique insight into the mature development of the many different themes and strategies which have become the cornerstone of Cattelan's revolutionary artistic vision. Emerging with no fixed movement, using no fixed media and based at no fixed studio address, Cattelan has spent his entire artistic life subverting the art world within which he operates. Charlie Don't Surf was chosen as the centrepiece for Cattelan's breakthrough solo exhibition at the Castello di Rivoli museum in Turin in 1997, and it represents one of the artist's most iconic works. The mannequin boy seated at his school desk, with his back to the viewer, was Cattelan's first sculpture to introduce his alter-ego 'Charlie', who has since become an ever-present in his work. It is estimated at £600,000-800,000.

    Glenn Brown's (b. 1966) paintings are often inspired by a variety of sources, from historical artists such as Jean-Honorť Fragonard and Salvador Dali, to utopian images of leading science-fiction artists. Beatification was inspired by Frank Auerbach's Reclining Head of JYM. It is estimated at £50,000-70,000.

    Following on from the extraordinary success of the Pharmacy sale last October, Sotheby's is delighted to offer three works by Damien Hirst. Untitled (Birthday Card) and Beautiful Green Jungley Undergrowth Painting afford a painterly and sublime insight into the underlying themes of Hirst's work, both possessing an immediacy of execution that mirrors the unpredictability and delicacy of existence. Untitled, executed in 2000, is estimated at £150,000-200,000, whilst Beautiful Green Jungley Undergrowth Painting from 1999, is estimated at £80,000-120,000. The third work, Charity (maquette) is estimated at £100,000-150,000.