New York to Billionaire Art Investors: Whip Out Your Checkbooks
(Bloomberg) -- The Rockefeller estate sale was just an appetizer. This week, $1.6 billion of art is hitting the block in New York.
A painting of a nude by Amedeo Modigliani, estimated at $150 million, and dozens of pieces by Pablo Picasso are leading the parade of Impressionist, modern, postwar and contemporary trophy art at Christie’s, Sotheby’s and Phillips. Sellers include Irish bloodstock billionaire John Magnier, embattled casino mogul Steve Wynn, the estate of Joan and Preston Tisch and a municipal authority in cash-strapped Illinois.
The stakes are ratcheting up worldwide as a growing population of billionaires chase brand-name artists to park and show off their fortunes. Last week, Christie’s tallied $833 million while selling out about 1,500 objects from the estate of Peggy and David Rockefeller, surpassing its $500 million target. Asian collectors set records for Henri Matisse and Claude Monet.
Magnier, who owns Coolmore Stud, the world’s biggest thoroughbred breeder, is selling the 1917 “Nu couche (sur le cote gauche)” by Modigliani on Monday at Sotheby’s. He bought the nude for $26.9 million at Christie’s in 2003. It’s already as good as sold, thanks to an irrevocable bid. What remains to be seen is whether it breaks the artist’s 2015 auction record of $170.4 million.
Wynn, who resigned from his namesake casino company this year amid a swirl of sexual harassment allegations, is selling paintings by Picasso and Andy Warhol, at Christie’s. The auction house though had to pull one of the highlights -- “Le Marin,” a self-portrait by Picasso -- after the painting was damaged. It was estimated at $70 million at the evening sale of Impressionist and modern art on Tuesday. Even without it, the auction is projected to tally $368 million.
The event also will showcase a Constantin Brancusi sculpture sold by the estate of Elizabeth and Frederick Stafford. The 31-inch-tall “La Jeune fille sophistiquee (Portrait de Nancy Cunard)” is estimated at more than $70 million. It was cast in brass in 1932 and purchased by the couple for $5,000 in 1955.
“Flesh and Spirit,” a monumental work by Jean-Michel Basquiat, estimated to reap about $30 million, is the cover lot of Sotheby’s contemporary auction on May 16. It’s being sold by the estate of Dolores Ormandy Neumann, an early champion of 1980s New York graffiti artists.
The auction will also offer “Past Times,” a painting by Chicago artist Kerry James Marshall, estimated at $8 million to $12 million. It’s being sold by the Metropolitan Pier and Exposition Authority, a municipal authority in Illinois, which purchased it for $25,000 in 1997.
Warhol’s 1963 “Double Elvis [Ferus Type],” sold by Wynn and depicting Elvis Presley dressed as a cowboy and shooting from the hip, could ring up more than $30 million at Christie’s postwar and contemporary evening auction on Thursday.
Phillips, a smaller rival to Sotheby’s and Christie’s, scored Robert Motherwell’s monumental 1971 canvas, “At Five in the Afternoon,” for its evening sale of 20th century art that same day. Estimated at $13 million to $16 million, the work is being sold by Holly Hunt, a Chicago-based interior designer and entrepreneur who bought it for less than $500,000 in 1981.
The auction also includes “Flexible” (1984) by Basquiat, showing a black figure with raised arms that are locked above the head. The 8 1/2-foot-tall painting is estimated at more than $20 million and comes from the artist’s estate.
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