Sotheby’s and Christie’s Add Freud, Rothko, and Van Gogh to Blockbuster Spring Line-Up

Freud masterpiece is poised to break artist's previous $33.6 million auction record.

Three drawings and one painting from Van Gogh's years living in the Hague and in Nuenen are coming to auction in February. Courtesy of Getty Images for Sotheby's.
Sothebys-515- van Gogh

Vincent Van Gogh’s L’Allée des Alyscamps (1888) will be offered at Sotheby’s on May 5 and is expected to achieve in excess of $40 million.
Photo: Courtesy Sotheby’s.

Paintings by market sensations Lucian Freud, Mark Rothko, and Vincent van Gogh will go to the block next month at Sotheby’s and Christie’s New York, with three canvases expected to bring as much as $100 million among them.

These include a Vincent van Gogh painting from the artist’s pivotal Arles period, a Mark Rothko color block canvas that was once in the Bunny Mellon collection at Sotheby’s (though the consignor this time is a different collector), and a large Lucian Freud nude at Christie’s (see Do Riches Await in the Van Gogh Market? and Why Is Christie’s Shaking Up Its Spring Auction Schedule?).

The Lucian Freud canvas is set to beat the artist’s auction record. Christie’s will offer the artist’s portrait Benefits Supervisor Resting (1994), which carries a presale estimate of up to $50 million, at its contemporary art evening sale on May 13. That price would exceed the $33.6 million fetched  in 2008 with a portrait of the same sitter, Benefits Supervisor Sleeping. At the time, the price represented a record for any living artist (see artnet News’ 10 Most Expensive Living Artists). The painting has been included in exhibitions at Tate Britain, the Museum of Modern Art in New York, and the National Portrait Gallery in London.

As the auctions approach, the houses have announced some of the highlights of each sale (see Sotheby’s Unveils Blockbuster Monet Consignments That Could Fetch $78 Million).

Tagged at $40 million is Van Gogh’s L’Allée des Alyscamps, painted in 1888, when the artist and his then close friend Paul Gauguin were in the South of France and aimed at creating a “studio of the south.” This turbulent time in Van Gogh’s life was captured in the 1956 film Lust for Life, starring Kirk Douglas and Anthony Quinn. Mounting tensions between the two artists drove Van Gogh to his violent breakdown later that year, following Gauguin’s abrupt departure for the South Seas.

Van Gogh’s auction record has been unbroken since 1990, when Japanese paper magnate Ryoei Saito laid down $82.5 million for the artist’s Portrait of Dr. Gachet. L’Allée des Alyscamps last appeared at auction at Christie’s New York in November 2003, where it sold for $11.8 million, falling short of the low end of the $12-18 million estimate.

The current painting was also created during the same celebrated period in which Van Gogh created Sunflowers and The Night Café. It hung for a while in the house the Dutch artist shared with Gauguin and later remained with Mme. Ginoux, the famous innkeeper whose portrait Van Gogh also painted after a stay there in 1888–1889.

Mark Rothko, Untitled (Yellow and Blue) (1954), is estimated at $40—60 million. Photo: Courtesy Sotheby's.

Mark Rothko, Untitled (Yellow and Blue) (1954), is estimated at $40—60 million.
Photo: Courtesy Sotheby’s.

On May 12, at its evening postwar and contemporary art sale, Sotheby’s will offer Rothko’s Untitled (Yellow and Blue), which was executed in 1954, and is expected to bring up to $60 million. Rothko’s current auction high stands at just shy of $87 million, set at Christie’s New York in 2012. The current work was formerly in the collection of Mr. and Mrs. Paul Mellon, who owned it for nearly 30 years, having bought it shortly after the artist’s death in 1970. The painting had been exhibited for many years, on loan to the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C.

Sotheby’s saw great success with the sale earlier this year of works from Bunny Mellon’s collection (see Bunny Mellon Collection More Than Doubles Expectations at $218 Million, $159 Million Bunny Mellon Auction at Sotheby’s Sells Out Amid Bidding Frenzy and What Are Top Dealers Bringing to TEFAF Maastricht?.

Christies-Freud Benefits Supervisor resting

Lucian Freud, Benefits Supervisor Resting (1994) is estimated at $30 million–$50 million.
Photo: Courtesy Christie’s Images Ltd.


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