Preview to the May 2016 Art Auctions in New York

The May 2016 Evening auctions are about to take place in New York. Phillips opens the week on Sunday 8th May after which there will be an auction every night until Thursday, when Christie’s holds its Impressionist and Modern sale. With the art fairs taking place this week, including contemporary behemoth Frieze, held on Randall’s Island, we’ll see if collectors still have an appetite for the big ticket items on offer next week, even though some pretty spectacular lots will be hammered off.

On Sunday May 8th Phillips kicks off the week with its 38-lot 20th Century and Contemporary Art Evening Sale. It offers an important Basquiat, Untitled, 1981 (lot 30), painted in the year that is often considered the greatest of Basquiat’s short career (he died 7 years after he painted this work, only 28 years old). Estimated at $2-3 million, this canvas is one of the star lots in the sale.

Following the next day is Sotheby’s with their Impressionist and Modern Evening Sale (62 lots) on May 9th. One of the top pieces in the sale is a beautifully executed André Derain, Les Voiles Rouges (lot 24), painted in 1906 in London at the height of the Fauve movement. The work is estimated at $15-20 million. Its provenance goes all the way back to Ambroise Vollard, the 19th Century French dealer responsible for providing exposure to many now well-known artists (Derain, Cézanne, Gauguin, Renoir, to name a few). As a result, this lot is likely to attract a lot of interest.

On May 10th, Christie’s leads its 61-lot Post-War and Contemporary Evening Sale with a seminal Rothko. No. 17 (1957) estimated at $30-40 million. This vibrant, radiant work was exhibited at one of Rothko’s first solo exhibitions in Europe, at the Whitechapel Art Gallery in London in 1961. Painted shortly before Rothko would start working on the Seagrams Murals, his magnum opus, No. 17 encompasses all of the characteristics of Rothko’s later, mature work.

Sotheby’s then holds its Contemporary Evening Auction (44 lots) on May 11th. Lot 8, Two Studies for a Self-Portrait by Francis Bacon, is the main attraction at $22-30 million. Dated 1970, this diptych is considered the icon of Bacon’s self-portraiture. It is a rare work, as it is one of only three Self-Portraits executed in Bacon’s famed 14 x 12 -inch format. In 1970, the year before Bacon’s lover George Dyer would commit suicide, Bacon was experiencing much emotional turmoil caused by his torrid relationship with Dyer which is relayed in the intensity of these two studies.

On May 12th, Christie’s Impressionist and Modern Evening Sale will take place, offering 52 lots. Amedeo Modigliani’s Jeune femme à la rose (Margherita), painted in 1916, is considered one of the highlights and carries an estimate of $12-18 million. Modigliani is best known for his elongated, stylized portraiture. This work, produced in one of the most productive years of the artist’s short life, is an early example of his later, mature style.