New York


Looking Forward to the Past

 “To me there is no past or future in my art. If a work of art cannot live always in the present it must not be considered at all. The art of the Greeks, of the Egyptians, of the great painters who lived in other times, is not an art of the past; perhaps it is more alive today than it ever was...’  Pablo Picasso, 1923 











New York – In keeping with the current strong global market for Impressionist, Modern, Post-War and Contemporary works at auction, Christie’s announces an exciting addition to its spring calendar of auctions this May: a curated Evening Sale entitled Looking Forward to the Past, scheduled for Monday, May 11.


Through a concept devised by Loic Gouzer, International Specialist, Post-War and Contemporary Art, working with the global team of specialists, Looking Forward to the Past provides a distinct and dynamic perspective on some of the greatest and most revolutionary artists of the 20th century. Gouzer explains, “Looking Forward to the Past will illustrate enduring dynamics at the root of artistic creation. 20th Century artists were heavily influenced by their predecessors, and through an exploration of the past, they were able to create new and exciting territory of their own. It is remarkable that a work by Mondrian painted nearly a century ago has lost none of its visual impact or novelty. It would be just as strong and relevant in a cutting-edge contemporary collection as when it hung previously in renowned blue-chip collections. It is clear that the art of yesterday informs the art of today, while the art of now is an endorsement of that of the past.


Jussi Pylkkanen, Global President, Christie’s noted: “From the auctioneer’s rostrum it has become apparent that we live in a new era of great collectors who are chasing major objects across all of our evening sales, particularly of Impressionist and Post War Art. Their appetite to buy the best and to explore the advent of modernism has led us to curate a sale that describes the very best of 20th Century art by the geniuses of the last century. The sale will span the century and will include exceptional works of the early 1900s by Claude Monet and major works by Pablo Picasso and Mark Rothko which define Post-War Modernism. We are delighted to have created a concept that will allow our senior specialists and leading collectors to explore the major themes, ideas and artistic breakthroughs of the 20th century.  Christie’s specialists, led by Brett Gorvy and Giovanna Bertazzoni in their respective fields, have worked together for many years creating great curated sales, from our auctions of German and Austrian Art, to Surrealist Art and more recently Loic’s fascinating ‘If I Live’ auction. ‘Looking Forward to the Past’ is another historic step in that journey and we are delighted that so many leading collectors have responded with exceptional consignments to this special auction. This will be a sale to remember.”


Brett Gorvy, Chairman and Head of Post-War and Contemporary Art, Christie’s, added: “Today our most powerful clients globally are assembling collections that are characterized by the outstanding quality of individual objects rather than specific periods or national movements. We have deliberately curated this sale to mirror how our collectors are inspired by the dialogues and juxtapositions of art over the last century and a half, where an extraordinary Monet will speak to a seminal Picasso or a Rothko or a Warhol or a Kippenberger. We want this sale to feel like one of the great collections of our time.”



Looking Forward to the Past will be led by one of Picasso’s most significant 1950s canvases, Les femmes d’Alger (Version “O”), previously in the celebrated Collection of Victor and Sally Ganz, which was sold at Christie’s in 1997. This iconic work promises to cause a sensation within the global art market this spring and is expected to realize in the region of US$140 million.


This majestic, vibrantly-hued painting is the final and most highly finished work from the artist’s mid-1950s series in which he looked back to 19th century French master Eugene Delacroix for inspiration, and in the process created a new and singular style of painting that combines elements of Cubism, Fauvism and Neo-Impressionism (see related press release).


Picasso painted a series of fifteen variations on Delacroix’s Les femmes d'Alger between December 1954 and February 1955, designated as versions A through O. Throughout his series, Picasso references Delacroix’s two versions of the shared subject, intermingling their elements.  Picasso is quoted as having an imaginary conversation with Delacroix, You had Rubens in mind, and painted a Delacroix. I paint [the Les femmes d’Alger series] with you in mind, and make something different again,” (ed. M. McCully, A Picasso Anthology: Documents, Criticism, Reminiscences, London, 1997, p. 251). Picasso had been fascinated by Delacroix all his adult life, and by Les femmes d'Alger in particular. Picasso proclaimed, “I have a feeling that Delacroix, Giotto, Tintoretto, El Greco, and the rest, as well as all the modern painters, the good and the bad, the abstract and the non-abstract, are all standing behind me watching me at work.” (H. Parmelin, Picasso Plain, New York, 1959, p. 77).


Picasso also conceived the series as a eulogy to his greatest rival in the 20th century, Henri Matisse. Matisse had died in November 1954, five weeks before Picasso began the series. Matisse had viewed Delacroix as his immediate forebear in terms of color and Orientalist subject matter. Carrying this legacy forward, Picasso stated, “When Matisse died, he left his odalisques to me as a legacy,” (R. Penrose, Picasso: His Life and Art, Berkeley, 1985 (3rd ed.), p. 396).



Looking Forward to the Past will include approximately 25 lots created between 1902 and the end of the century. Additional highlights of the sale will be announced in coming weeks and include paintings, drawings, and sculpture by artists including Claude Monet, Piet Mondrian, Egon Schiele, Marcel Duchamp, René Magritte, Pablo Picasso, Jean Dubuffet, Mark Rothko, Alexander Calder, Martin Kippenberger, and John Currin, among others. All of the works featured will be chosen as a reflection of the sale’s overarching theme of artists using inspiration from the past to create something entirely innovative and new.


Looking Forward to the Past continues in the spirit of Christie’s recent successful themed auction of contemporary art, entitled “If I Live I’ll See You Tuesday” also organized by Gouzer. The highly successful 35-lot sale reflected a desire within the art world for fresh takes and points of view. Over the past five years, the number of clients who bid on works in both Evening Sales of Impressionist & Modern and Post-War & Contemporary Art at Christie’s in New York and London has increased 80%, while the overall sales volume increased from $1.4 to $4 billion for these two categories combined.


“This sale puts the spotlight on how interconnected the contemporary art category is with modern art – a truth that is sometimes overlooked in the current market. By presenting works to the market in this new context we hope to ignite dialogue about artists and their influences, inspire discussion and debate about artistic innovations, and demonstrate how great contemporary collections can evolve forward by looking to the past,” said Brooke Lampley, International Director and Head of Impressionist and Modern Art, Christie’s New York.


Additional highlights of Looking Forward to the Past will be announced in the coming weeks, prior to the start of an international highlights tour, which will further celebrate 20th century art and its legacy through a program of events and exhibitions designed to inspire engagement and discussion among collectors and art enthusiasts.

Full collection catalogue available in mid-April

About Christie’s

Founded in 1766, Christie’s is a world-leading art and luxury business. Renowned and trusted for its expert live and online auctions, as well as its bespoke private sales, Christie’s offers a full portfolio of global services to its clients, including art appraisal, art financing, international real estate and education. Christie’s has a physical presence in 46 countries, throughout the Americas, Europe, Middle East, and Asia Pacific, with flagship international sales hubs in New York, London, Hong Kong, Paris and Geneva. It also is the only international auction house authorized to hold sales in mainland China (Shanghai).

Christie’s auctions span more than 80 art and luxury categories, at price points ranging from $200 to over $100 million. In recent years, Christie’s has achieved the world record price for an artwork at auction (Leonardo da Vinci’s Salvador Mundi, 2017), for a single collection sale (the Collection of Peggy and David Rockefeller, 2018), and for a work by a living artist (Jeff Koons’ Rabbit, 2019).

Christie’s Private Sales offers a seamless service for buying and selling art, jewellery and watches outside of the auction calendar, working exclusively with Christie’s specialists at a client’s individual pace.

Recent innovations at Christie’s include the groundbreaking sale of the first NFT for a digital work of art ever offered at a major auction house (Beeple’s Everydays, March 2021), with the unprecedented acceptance of cryptocurrency as a means of payment. As an industry leader in digital innovation, Christie’s also continues to pioneer new technologies that are redefining the business of art, including the creation of viewing and bidding experiences that integrate augmented reality, global livestreaming, buy-now channels, and hybrid sales formats. 

Christie’s is dedicated to advancing responsible culture throughout its business and communities worldwide, including achieving sustainability through net zero carbon emissions by 2030, and actively using its platform in the art world to amplify under-represented voices and support positive change.

Browse, bid, discover, and join us for the best of art and luxury at: or by downloading Christie’s apps. The COVID-related re-opening status of our global locations is available here.