Sotheby’s recently announced that its marquee fall Evening Sales of Contemporary and Impressionist & Modern Art will be held in New York and live-streamed to the world on Wednesday, 28 October.
The sales will be highlighted by Mark Rothko’s Untitled (Black On Maroon) from 1958, estimated to achieve $25/35 million in the Contemporary Art Evening Sale, and Vincent Van Gogh’s Fleurs dans un verre from 1890, estimated to sell for $14/18 million in the Impressionist & Modern Art Evening Sale.
The October sales will be presented in the dynamic, innovative digital format pioneered during Sotheby’s marquee summer sales in June and July. The auctions will be broadcast globally from the New York salesroom to enable viewers to follow the bidding live, in high-definition through real-time video streams, while bidders will be able to place bids with Sotheby’s specialists in New York, Hong Kong and London via phone, or via Sotheby’s interactive online bidding platform.
The Evening Sales will be exhibited in Sotheby’s New York galleries beginning 21 October, open by appointment only.
Sotheby’s will hold its Day Sales of Contemporary and Impressionist & Modern Art in mid-November and will present additional marquee sales of Contemporary and Impressionist & Modern Art in New York in early December.
Amy Cappellazzo, Chairman of Sotheby’s Fine Art Division, commented: “Presenting our marquee sales of Contemporary and Impressionist & Modern Art throughout this fall allows us to maximize our sale schedule for the benefit of our clients, and showcases the growing importance and benefits of a more flexible auction calendar and format. We are excited to bring back our dynamic, digital-first sale format in New York, following our inaugural live-stream event in June and subsequent sales in London, Hong Kong, and soon Paris.”
The announcement of the New York sale date coincides with the last of Sotheby’s Hong Kong fall sales. As the final auction draws to a close, the total for the series is set to exceed $420m – having already exceeded both top estimate and the total achieved for the previous sale series held in July. The series has seen many highpoints along the way, not least the sale of Gerhard Richter’s Abstraktes Bild (649-2) for US$29.3m – the highest price ever achieved for any Western artwork sold at auction in Asia. This led the strongest results ever seen for any offering of Western Contemporary Art in Asia ($65m), demonstrating the overall health of the Asian market, which remains key in today’s global arena.
MARK ROTHKO’S UNTITLED (BLACK ON MAROON)
As a highlight of the Contemporary Art Evening Auction, Mark Rothko’s Untitled (Black on Maroon) embodies the apex of the artist’s extraordinary career and will be offered with an estimate of $25/35 million on 28 October. Further highlights of the Evening Sale include Clyfford Still’s 1957-G (estimate $12/18 million) and Brice Marden’s 3 (estimate $10/15 million), which will be offered on behalf of the Baltimore Museum of Art.
David Galperin, Head of Sotheby’s Contemporary Art Evening Auctions in New York, said: “We have had the privilege of presenting a number of important works by Mark Rothko from this pivotal period in his career, such as the important Untitled, 1960 that we were honoured to sell on behalf of SFMOMA last year. During this critical moment, Rothko comes to his full mature powers as a colourist, pushing the bounds of the picture plane and getting ever closer to his objective of realizing the sublime. Untitled (Black on Maroon) demonstrates the artist at the full height of his powers, achieving a similar impact in a single painting to the awe-inspiring experience one has when standing among the famed Seagram Murals at the Tate.”
In colouration, Untitled (Black on Maroon) from 1958 prefaces Rothko’s seminal Seagram Mural cycle, which the artist considered to be amongst his greatest artistic achievements. Begun later the same year, the rich crimson, burgundy, and charcoal hues of the Seagram Murals directly echo the palette of the present work, with one painting even referencing the present work in title: Black on Maroon from 1958, one of the selection of Seagram Mural paintings that is on permanent display in the Tate Modern in London. The dark beauty of Untitled (Black and Maroon) invokes the same hushed grace as those legendary works, crystallizing the transformative shift towards a deeper, more contemplative emotive experience that has come to characterize Rothko’s greatest masterworks.
The scale of Untitled (Black on Maroon) – which stands 72 inches tall – is proportioned directly to the human body, and invites the viewer to experientially enter the painting. Suspended above the crimson ground, the four alternating zones of charcoal and scarlet hue are perfectly balanced within the present work, creating an exceptionally elegant abstract composition. The composition of the present work relates closely to such works as No. 16 (Red, Brown and Black) in the Museum of Modern Art, New York, and Four Darks in Red, 1958, in the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, both painted this same year.
In total, Rothko produced 36 works in 1958 that measure over 50 inches in either direction. Of these, 19 are in institutional collections including the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, the Whitney Museum of American Art, the Museum of Modern Art, New York, the National Gallery of Art in Washington D.C., the Kawamura Memorial Museum of Art in Sakura, Japan, and the Tate Collection in London. The remainders are in prominent private collections.
The present work represents the first Rothko canvas from 1958 to appear at auction since 2015.
VINCENT VAN GOGH’S FLEURS DANS UN VERRE
The Impressionist & Modern Art Evening Sale on 28 October will be highlighted by Vincent Van Gogh’s Fleurs dans un verre, which carries an estimate of $14/18 million. The work was painted by Van Gogh in June 1890 shortly after his arrival in the village of Auvers and represents one of the approximately 70 canvases completed by the artist in the 70 days before his death in the village on July 29.
Julian Dawes, Head of Sotheby’s Impressionist & Modern Art Evening Auctions in New York, commented: “Van Gogh remains one of the most beloved, iconic, and revered artists of all time, and there is always cause for fanfare and celebration when his paintings come to market. A work such as Fleurs dans un verre is particularly exceptional since it captures Van Gogh at the height of his artistic powers, painted in a fever of activity only days before his untimely death. He produced several masterpieces during this period at Auvers, including his famous portrait of Dr Gachet, and Fleurs dans un verre echoes the quotidian and domestic stillness of the country village. Flower paintings were extremely important to the development of Van Gogh’s signature painting technique, and through his experiments with the subject, he mastered the brushwork and colour palette that would define his style and capture countless imaginations.”
After spending a year in the asylum at Saint-Rémy, van Gogh left Paris on May 20, 1890, with a letter of introduction from his brother Theo van Gogh to Dr Paul Ferdinand Gachet, an eccentric homoeopathic doctor with a strong interest in the visual arts whom Theo thought might be able to provide innovative treatment for his brother.
After his first day in Auvers on May 20, van Gogh wrote to Theo saying that “Auvers is very beautiful, among other things a lot of old thatched roofs, which are getting rare. So I would hope that by getting down to do some canvases of this there will be a chance of recovering the expenses of my stay—for really it is profoundly beautiful; it is the real country, characteristic and picturesque.” Many of the approximately 70 canvases that Van Gogh painted in the 70 days before his death on July 29 represent the village of Auvers itself and its immediate surroundings. Along with Fleurs dans un verre and other still lifes, Van Gogh’s work from this time also includes major portraits, including those of Dr Gachet and Gachet’s daughter at the piano.
Fleurs dans un verre connects directly with Van Gogh’s practice of flower painting, which he began to take seriously during his first year in Paris in 1886. When Van Gogh arrived in Paris he had a penchant for dark, murky colours, but upon viewing the works of the Impressionists and Post-Impressionists, Van Gogh developed a taste for personalized brushwork and brilliant, unmixed colours, which he would refine throughout his flower paintings and is on full display in the present work. Van Gogh’s floral arrangements are notable for their use of common garden flowers or wayside flowers in surprising juxtapositions. Fleurs dans un verre depicts a spray of foxglove, an ear or wheat, and leaves of the vine, which are placed casually in a sturdy glass silhouetted against a round white tabletop, creating a vibrant, understated yet intricate play of form and hue. The painting was recovered from the Gallery Fischer in Lucerne in 1946 and was restituted to the family of Alfred Lindon shortly thereafter—as confirmed to Sotheby’s by Lindon’s son Jacques at the time Sotheby’s offered the work in 2000. The work was sold by Jacques Lindon to the Florida collector Sylvester Hope Labrot in the 1950s and has remained in private collections since.