Christie's | Fine Art Auction House

Collection Yves Saint Laurent et Pierre Bergé

Special Public Viewing: 3-24 April 2009

“I’m always interested in the new, and don’t understand why everybody isn’t. I like contemporary painting, furniture, architecture. So of course I like contemporary music…I like complexity, challenge, ambiguity, abstraction.” - Betty Freeman, Interview with The New York Times, 1998.

Photos by Visko Hatfield
Betty Freeman’s incessant pursuit of the new, her tireless dedication to the challenging, and her deep love of the artists whom she supported made her a truly unparalleled figure in the history of 20th century patronage of the arts.

Christie’s is pleased to offer the Collection of Betty Freeman in the 13-14 May Post-War & Contemporary Art Evening and Day sales. Leading the Evening sale is one of the most important works to come to the auction market by David Hockney, Beverly Hills Housewife, (Estimate: $6-10 million), 1966-1967, which could break the auction record for any work by the artist. The Evening Sale selection of works from the collection comprises 20 lots and is estimated at $24-37 million. The Day Sale will include 34 lots from the Collection of Betty Freeman.

Laura Paulson, Deputy Chairman and International Director of Post-War and Contemporary Art stated: “Betty Freeman’s deep commitment to the arts was demonstrated by a lifetime of indefatigable dedication and passionate support. David Hockney’s epic Beverly Hills Housewife is one of the artist’s most fascinating and iconic works and remains a perfect, timeless tribute to Freeman, a modern-day Medici, who will be remembered as an influential patron of our contemporary culture.”

Posted At: 11:06AM, 21 April 2009

At Home With Betty Freeman

Beverly Hills Housewife
A diptych measuring twelve feet long and six feet high, David Hockney’s Beverly Hills Housewife depicts a 1960’s California housewife standing on the patio of her well-appointed home. The painting’s modernist setting is testament to the refined and minimalist sensibilities of the subject, who is none other than Freeman herself. Having recently arrived in Los Angeles, the British artist asked Freeman if he could come to her house and paint the swimming pool in her backyard for a series that would become famously representative of his oeuvre, the ‘California Dreaming’ series. Upon arriving, Hockney decided to focus the work on Freeman, immediately finding that she, like many Los Angeles residents he had met, was very much a function of the space that she existed in, and the space that she existed in was very much a function of her.

Infused with pervasive and powerful silence, Beverly Hills Housewife not only captures the artist’s detached fascination with the California landscape, it also demonstrates his predilection for scenes bathed in crisp light and hyper-real colors, a distinct departure from the work being created by Hockney’s Post-War British counterparts at the time. Painted between 1966 -1967, the work depicts a tanned, sculptural Freeman in bright pink dress standing on her covered patio.

Beverly Hills Housewife would become the centerpiece of Betty Freeman’s collection. She was to remain in the same house, memorialized on canvas, for the remainder of her life. The painting not only conveys the essence of the California good life, it also stands as a testament to the remarkable life-long friendship between the subject and the artist.

Patron of Avant-Garde Music and the Visual Arts A much-admired, generous supporter of avant-garde contemporary music, Betty Freeman was also drawn to the work of the contemporary artists of her day who challenged the boundaries of painting and sculpture. She began collecting art in the 1950’s and gathered works by Abstract Expressionist artists. As with the composers she supported such as John Adams, Philip Glass, Steve Reich, Freeman forged friendships with artists David Hockney, Roy Lichtenstein, Dan Flavin, Clyfford Still, and Sam Francis, and followed the development of their careers throughout her lifetime. Freeman was also an accomplished photographer, who published and exhibited portraits of musicians and composers.

In addition to Beverly Hills Housewife, the New York Post-War & Contemporary Art Evening Sale will also feature works from the Collection of Betty Freeman by Roy Lichtenstein, Dan Flavin, Alexander Calder, Sam Francis, Andy Warhol, and Claes Oldenburg.

More Highlights from the Collection
Roy Lichtenstein’s Frolic, 1977, (Estimate: $4-6 million) – was inspired by his own 1962 painting, Girl with Ball, by ads and comic books, and by one of the greatest painters in art history – Pablo Picasso. In Frolic, Picasso is seen through the filter of Pop, as his celebrated 1932 painting Baigneuse au ballon de plage in the collection of New York’s MoMA is interpreted with an unusual and irreverent twist.

Andy Warhol’s Portrait of Man Ray, 1976 (Estimate: $2-4 million) is one of Warhol’s most definitive portraits. His execution of Man Ray is a testament of his adoration of the celebrated artist. Man Ray’s work had a very significant impact on Warhol’s career, but with this portrait it becomes evident that Man Ray’s being had just as much of an influence. This portrait reinforces the larger theme within Warhol’s oeuvre regarding the concept of the artist as celebrity, putting Man Ray among the ranks of the glittering cultural icons by which Warhol defined his life and work, including Marilyn Monroe, Marlon Brando, Mick Jagger and Mohammed Ali.

Typewriter Eraser (Estimate: $1.4-1.8 million) – pictured in this photo gallery, epitomizes Claes Oldenburg's revolutionary approach to sculpture as an objectification of mundane objects. Produced in 1976, this work marks a period of technical expansion for the sculptor, in which he experimented with new materials and an ever-increasing scale.

A rare, early painting by Sam Francis from 1954 entitled Grey (Estimate: $2-3 million) will also be offered. First exhibited in Dorothy Miller’s seminal Twelve Americans show at the MoMA, the work was acquired directly from Francis’ private collection by Betty Freeman, who enjoyed a long and close relationship with the artist.

A selection of works from the Collection of Betty Freeman will also be included in the Post-War & Contemporary Art Day Sale on 14 May.

Posted At: 11:06AM, 21 April 2009