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New York/Los Angeles — Christie’s is honored to announce the sale of works from the Collection of the late Michael Crichton at its highly anticipated Post-War & Contemporary Art Evening Sale on May 11 in New York.  Best-selling author and screenwriter, film director and producer, Crichton is renowned for his terrifying and sometimes controversial scientific thrillers such as The Andromeda Strain, Jurassic Park, Timeline, The Lost World, Rising Sun, and State of Fear, and for creating the television series ER. Crichton is also acknowledged as a leading authority on the American artist Jasper Johns.

 Christie’s will unveil the major works from the Collection in Los Angeles with a public exhibition of 50 highlights with key works by Andreas Gursky, David Hockney, Jasper Johns, Jeff Koons, Claes Oldenburg, Pablo Picasso, Robert Rauschenberg, Roy Lichtenstein, Mark Tansey, Wayne Thiebaud, and Andy Warhol.  On public view together for the first time ever, the works will be on exhibition from Friday 5 March to Friday 12 March at Christie’s Los Angeles Galleries.

“It is a unique opportunity for collectors and institutions to have access to these works from such an extraordinary private collection,” said Brett Gorvy, Deputy Chairman of Christie's Americas.  “Michael was the rarest breed of collector: a Renaissance man in every sense, whose passion for art was fueled by his search for answers to the basic tenets of art. In the same way Michael challenged accepted scientific dogma, he continually challenged his own understanding of an artist or work of art. He became intimate friends with artists and responded as a creative equal to their own searches and challenges. He was able to assemble an amazing range of rare works, acquired over thirty years with passion and quiet dedication. He collected artists in depth to truly know them.  These works were chosen with an intense intellect and instinct, and understood through direct relationships with some of the greatest artists of the 20th century.”  

 Crichton’s collection of works by Jasper Johns (b.1930) is the most significant and complete to ever come to the market and contains examples that span the artist’s entire career.  The top highlight of the collection is Jasper Johns’ Flag, 1960-66, (pictured right) a painstakingly beautiful rendition of the American flag in encaustic, has never been on the public market. It was acquired by Michael Crichton over thirty years ago directly from the artist’s own collection, and was last seen in public 18 years ago as part of a major Pop Art survey organized originally by the Royal Academy of Arts in London. 

 Jasper Johns’ Flag paintings are credited as the first icons of Pop Art, ending the supremacy of the Abstract Expressionism of Jackson Pollock, Mark Rothko and Willem de Kooning, and opening the gates to the everyday consumer images of Warhol and Lichtenstein.  The work is painted in encaustic, a difficult, seldom-used technique that dates back to Ancient Egypt in which pigment and collage elements such as newspaper are mixed with hot wax and applied to a surface. The fast-setting medium of encaustic enabled Johns to make each brushstroke distinct, while the forty-eight-star, red, white and blue flag design – contiguous with the perimeters of the canvas – provided a structure for the richly varied surface, which ranges from translucent to opaque.

 Jasper Johns’ Study for a Painting (2002), pictured right, is an integral component in his breakthrough “Catenary” series, which he began upon the completion of his 1996 Retrospective at the Museum of Modern Art in New York. A very significant departure for Johns, this series was named for the catenary curve generated when Johns draped a string across the canvas of the series’ first painting.  The sensual curve created by this string ultimately became the fundamental muse for this complex and autobiographical body of work. The string, as it is used in Study for a Painting, possesses the commanding ambiguity of this series, while simultaneously existing as a contemporary reference to the very foundations of art history.  Study for a Painting is awash with both vague and palpable allusions, its surface possessing a dimensional tranquility new to Johns’ visual vocabulary, and the emblematic wordplay, found in his earliest and most eminent works. The work was prominently displayed in the 2008 Jasper Johns: Gray exhibition at the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

 The Collection contains three works by Pablo Picasso (1881-1973) with prime examples of paintings from the early and late spectrum of his career.  Femme à la Robe Rose (pictured right), a 1917 portrait of a woman portrayed in delicate pink and tawny hues, marks a stylistic departure from Picasso’s cubist period and a return to the classical principals of painting.  Femme et fillettes is a work from 1961, the year of Picasso’s marriage to Jacqueline, and is a rare, large-scale family portrait that demonstrates Picasso’s predilection for a stronger palette during his more mature period.  This appearance of Femme et fillettes at auction follows recent strong sales results achieved at Christie's for a number of late Picasso portraits, including Tête de femme (Jacqueline), 1963, which recently sold for $12.8 million in London this February, and Mousquetaire à la pipe from 1968, which sold for $14.6 million in New York spring 2008.

 Three of the greatest Pop artists are well represented in the sale across a range of media and subject matter.  Roy Lichtenstein’s (1923-1997), Figures in Landscape, 1977 (pictured right), is an example of his surrealist series from the late 1970’s.  In this ‘Conversation’ painting, Lichtenstein asserts his place in art history by combining his own signature style of benday dots and stripes while referencing modern masters Picasso, de Chirico, Dali and Leger.  Also by Lichtenstein is a classic Pop work on paper, Girl in Water, from 1965.   Girl in Water was executed within the same timeframe as his most emblematic works including, the similarly themed Drowning Girl, which currently hangs in New York’s MoMA.  Girl in Water features one of Lichtenstein’s most celebrated subjects: a woman in distress. His use of women, such as the one featured in Girl in Water, was largely responsible for placing him on the forefront of the 1960’s New York art scene, and ultimately as a central player of the of the American Pop Art movement.

 As with Johns and other artists in his collection, Crichton forged a friendship and closely followed the development of Claes Oldenburg’s (b. 1929) creative output.  He purchased Oldenburg’s Three Way Plug Soft Sculpture, executed in 1970, directly from the artist.  In this work Oldenburg elevates the everyday common object to the sublime by incorporating humor and color.  Crichton also commissioned Alphabet/Good Humor Edition, 1975 for his collection and served as inspiration for Oldenburg’s iconic Typewriter sculpture.  A work from one the most important and iconic series by Andy Warhol (1928-1987), Mao, is also being offered.  Painted in 1973, Mao is a fine example of Warhol’s greatest and most sensational portrait series of the 1970s.

 Two magnificent early 1960’s works by Robert Rauschenberg (1925-2008) are notable highlights of the sale.  Studio Painting (formerly titled Untitled and Calendar), 1960-61 is an extraordinary combine painting made up of two large canvases and mixed media.  Trapeze, a work that dates from 1964, (pictured right) is a complex vertical format painting that incorporates Rauschenberg’s famous silkscreen technique.  Trapeze resonates with references to art history, and echoes notions of beauty and space-age modernity from the mid 1960s, gorgeously capturing the zeitgeist that defined a generation. 

 Among the contemporary offerings in the collection is a seminal work by Andreas Gursky (b. 1955), Chicago Board of Trade, (pictured right) which belongs to the artist’s coveted series of major financial centers.  The color-saturated, large-scale photograph epitomizes the chaotic and frenzied activity that occurs on the trading room floors.

 Ed Ruscha’s (b. 1937) Voltage 1964, (pictured right) is an outstanding example from Ruscha’s formative period and is emblematic of the beginning of his love affair with words, a passionate rapport that would ultimately drive him to become one of the most influential artists of our time. Just six years before executing Voltage, Ruscha worked for six months as an apprentice with Saul Marks at the Plantin Press. It was here that he learned to set type, and where he became engrossed with book printing, layout and the tactile qualities of paper. However, the most momentous outcome of his time at Plantin Press was his development of what he has called "a respect for pages." Voltage is indicative of where this new found respect would ultimately lead him. In this work Ruscha manages to build a tension in the composition that is as acute as it is alluring.  Ruscha’s devotion to the word as a central element in his artistic vision presents a conceptual challenge which makes Voltage both intellectually and visually captivating. This challenge is one of the reasons why this particular painting was on long term loan to the Los Angeles Museum of Contemporary Art.

 Additional highlights include works by Jeff Koons and Mark Tansey. Of the three works by Jeff Koons (b. 1955) featured in the sale, Vase of Flowers is from his best known series, Banality.  The exuberant Rococo-like work is among Koons’s finest mirror pieces and was inspired by the artist’s fascination with old masters and immortality.

 Raised by a family of Art Historians, Mark Tansey’s (b. 1949) paintings are very indicative of his deep-seated understanding of art. Push/Pull, 2005, brilliantly illustrates Tansey’s ability to generate intricate allegories about the meaning of art. Upon first glance, this picture depicts a tension ridden image of an adventurous troop crossing a gorge in the frozen tundra. However, if studied closer this work becomes a phenomenally complex image which doubles as the Egyptian desert, and a flattened woman mid step. Tansey utilizes historical paintings in combination with photographs found in newspapers and magazines to inspire his paintings. Executed in the artist’s signature monochromatic palate, Push/Pull demonstrates Tansey’s exceptional capacity for incorporating scores of visual and literary references to create one cohesive narrative.

 The Collection also includes works by David Hockney, Agnes Martin, Richard Prince, and Frank Stella, and Wayne Thiebaud among others.         

 Michael Crichton

Crichton’s novels have sold more than 150 million copies worldwide; they have been translated into 36 languages, and many have been made into blockbuster movies. He wrote and directed classic films such as The Great Train Robbery with Sean Connery and Donald Sutherland. In 1994, Crichton became the only creative artist ever to have works simultaneously charting at # 1 in television, film, and book sales (with ER, Jurassic Park and Disclosure, respectively).  

 Early in his career, Crichton developed a keen interest in contemporary art and friendships with David Hockney (who made a portrait of Crichton in 1976), Roy Lichtenstein, Robert Rauschenberg and Claes Oldenburg.  In the 1970s, Crichton also became a close friend and an avid collector of Jasper Johns. He was asked by Johns to write the catalogue for his major retrospective at the Whitney Museum of American Art in New York in 1977. This publication and its revised and expanded edition are considered one of the preeminent studies on America’s foremost living artist.

 In 2006 Crichton was appointed to the board of the Los Angeles County Museum of Art.

 Crichton had an unerring instinct for art and always bought what he liked.  In the early 1980s he wrote: “I never really cared whether a particular piece was major or minor, typical or atypical of the artist’s work, or whether the artist was fully or thinly represented in my collection.  I just bought images that I enjoyed looking at, and in the end, that is the only significance that I attach to them. I feel fortunate to have been able to live with the works.” (University Gallery of San Diego State University, Selections from the Michael Crichton Collection, 1980)

 Auction: Works from the Collection of Michael Crichton - Christie's Post-War & Contemporary Art Evening Sale - New York, 11 ­May 2010

Viewing: Christie's Los Angeles Galleries, 360 North Camden Drive, Beverly Hills

Friday 5 March – Friday 12 March

March 5th 10am - 5pm

March 6th 10am - 5pm

March 7th by appointment only

March 8th 10am - 5pm

March 9th 10am - 3pm

March 10th 10am - 5pm

March 11th 10am - 5pm

March 12th 10 am - 5 pm


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