A $9.8 Million Auction of Works by Christo and Jeanne-Claude and Their Artist Friends More Than Doubled Its Estimate at Sotheby’s Paris

The auction offered an eclectic mix of work by the artists and those in their inner circle.

Christo and Jeanne Claude at their 48 Howard Street studio in New York. Photo by Wolfgang Volz © The Estate of Christo V. Javacheff
Christo and Jeanne Claude at their 48 Howard Street studio in New York. Photo by Wolfgang Volz © The Estate of Christo V. Javacheff

A sale of works from the collection of the late artists Christo and Jeanne-Claude was a resounding success at Sotheby’s Paris today. The “white-glove,” or completely sold out, live sale 28 of works—including blue-chip pieces by the artists’ friends as well as their own preparatory works—took in a total of $9.8 million (€8 million), more than double the presale estimate.

Sotheby’s will offer another 350 lots online today in the second part of the sale.

The sale set new auction records for Christo. The Umbrellas, a 1991 drawing by the artist for an installation of yellow umbrellas in California, sold for $2.1 million (€1.7 million), compared with a high estimate of $364,000. Another drawing for a version with blue umbrellas, which was sited in Japan the same year, sold for $1.5 million, also against a high $364,000 estimate. The record for a work at auction by Christo and Jeanne-Claude was just over $596,000, according to the Artnet Price Database.

Lucio Fontana, Concetto Spaziale Attesa (1963) with a dedication to Jeanne-Claude. Image courtesy Sotheby's.

Lucio Fontana, Concetto Spaziale Attesa (1963) with a dedication to Jeanne-Claude. Image courtesy of Sotheby’s.

Meanwhile, another work by the artists, Package, which consisted of fabric and rope mounted on board, sold for $632,255 (€520,700), and a preparatory drawing for the wrapping of Paris’s Pont Neuf bridge sold for $573,486 (€472,300).

A Sotheby’s representative confirmed that preparatory drawings for the artists’ 2005 project in central Park, The Gates, sold privately to a US collector for an undisclosed price.

Christo, who was born in Bulgaria in 1935, died last May. His wife and longtime collaborator, Jeanne-Claude, also born in 1935, died in 2009. The pair gained global recognition for their ambitious large-scale public artworks, which included wrapping the Reichstag in fabric and installing 23 miles of orange “gates” in Central Park. The projects “required the cooperation of dozens, sometimes hundreds, of landowners, government officials, judges, environmental groups, local residents, engineers and workers,” and often faced serious opposition from regulators in the cities where they were planned, read the New York Times obituary of Christo last year. “Again and again, Christo prevailed, through persistence, charm and a childlike belief that eventually everyone would see things the way he did.”

Installation view of Yves Klein, Monochrome bleu sans titre (1958).

Installation view of Yves Klein, Monochrome bleu sans titre (1958).

In the mid-1990s, Jeanne-Claude began sharing equal billing on the artists’ public works.

Another highlight from the sale was a Lucio Fontana slashed canvas, Concetta Spaziale, Atessa (1963), which Jeanne-Claude hand-picked from the Milan studio of Fontana, who inscribed it to her. It sold for $1.1 million (€920,000). Meanwhile, a chair designed by Gerrit Thomas Rietveld, said to be one of the few objects Christo and Jeanne-Claude brought with them on the ocean liner when they moved to New York in 1964, sold for $259,000 (€214,200).

One of French artist Yves Klein’s signature blue monochromes sold for $527,107 (€436,000). Klein gave it to Christo and Jeanne-Claude in 1962, in exchange for a portrait Christo made of Klein and his wife to celebrate their wedding.

Inside Christo and Jeanne-Claude's New York studio. Photo by André Grossman ©The Estate of Christo V. Javacheff.

Inside of Christo and Jeanne-Claude’s New York studio. Photo by André Grossman ©The Estate of Christo V. Javacheff.

Another work with an interesting backstory was a 1964 Andy Warhol silkscreen portrait of Jacqueline Kennedy mourning John F. Kennedy. It had been owned by New York critic David Bourdon, who wanted to sell the work in the 1970s but was less than pleased by the $1,000 estimate he received from auction houses. When Jeanne-Claude upped the offer by $1, he let it go to her for $1,001. At the Paris auction, it tacked on quite a few more zeroes, bringing in a final price of $1.1 million (€920,000).


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