Friday, February 5, 2010

Johns, Picasso to Top $30 Million Sale of Writer Crichton’s Art

Feb. 5 (Bloomberg) -- Christie’s International is to sell four paintings from the collection of the best-selling author Michael Crichton, with a total value of at least $30 million.
A Jasper Johns “Flag” and works by Pablo Picasso, Robert Rauschenberg and Roy Lichtenstein bought by the late Beverly Hills-based novelist will be sold in New York on May 11 and go on show in London today, the auction house said in an e-mail.
Confidence is returning in art sales after record prices, said dealers, such as the 65 million pounds ($103.4 million) paid for an Alberto Giacometti sculpture at Sotheby’s.
“We wanted to capitalize on the marketplace in London,” Brett Gorvy, deputy chairman of Christie’s, Americas, said in an interview. “The new emerging buyers such as Russians are much more present. It’s the perfect time to offer a 1960s Picasso.”
Like all four works in the Crichton group, Picasso’s 1961 painting of a woman and two girls, “Femme et Fillettes” (Woman and Children), has yet to receive an individual valuation. The writer’s family beneficiaries have not been guaranteed a minimum price, said Gorvy.
“We’re waiting to see how the London sales perform next week, then calibrate the estimates from there,” said Gorvy. The Crichton works will be shown next to lots that Christie’s will be offering in its Feb. 11 contemporary sale.
Late paintings by Picasso have been in demand from wealthy collectors. At Christie’s Feb. 2 auction, Picasso’s 1963 painting “Tete de Femme (Jacqueline)” was the top lot with a price of 8.1 million pounds with fees, double the upper estimate.
Graff’s Picasso
The painting was bought by the London-based collector Laurence Graff, chairman of Graff Diamonds Limited, against competition from Russian bidders. The purchase was confirmed yesterday in an e-mail to Bloomberg News from Penny Weatherall, Graff’s personal assistant.
Crichton, who died aged 66 in November 2008, was the author of scientific thrillers that sold more than 150 million copies worldwide, such as “The Andromeda Strain” and “Jurassic Park.” He was also known for the television series “ER.”
The novelist was an authority on -- and friend of -- Johns, writing the catalog for the artist’s retrospective at the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, in 1977.
Johns’s painted newspaper collage “Flag,” dating from 1960 to 1966, is likely to be the most valuable work in the group. The 2-foot-3-inch-wide canvas was acquired by Crichton directly from the artist in 1974 and has never appeared at auction, said Christie’s.
The artist’s ‘Flag’ paintings are recognized as among the first images of Pop Art, challenging the supremacy of Abstract Expressionists such as Jackson Pollock, Mark Rothko and Willem de Kooning. Much prized by museums and private collectors, they rarely appear at auction.
The 1973 example, “Two Flags,” sold for $12.1 million in Sotheby’s, New York, in November 1989. The price is an auction record for a Johns ‘flag,’ according to the Artnet database.
Rauschenberg’s “Studio Painting (Combine)” dating from 1960 to 1961, and Lichtenstein’s 1965 “Girl in Water” complete the quartet. The paintings are on show in London through Feb. 12.

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