Live Blog: 20th Century at Christie’s
Regular updates on everything you need to know about the sales, the views and the extraordinary art being offered in London, 28 February to 10 March
9:30am, Friday 10 March
We're counting down to Handpicked: 100 Works Selected by Saatchi Gallery, which kicks off at Christie's South Kensington at 1pm today. Here, one of our specialists takes a final moment to inspect Michael Schulz's Hairdryer
2:05pm, Thursday 9 March
A leading light
At Christie's South Kensington, Conrad Shawcross's Perpetual Light is casting it's beam around our galleries ahead of tomorrow's sale. Find out more about the science-inspired work
11am, Thursday 9 March
A glimpse of West Africa in London
Ivorian painter Aboudia is behind one of the most eye-catching works of our South Kensington display — a piece that evokes the energy and danger of West African urban life through paint and crayon. The artist’s home city of Abidjan has been the site of ongoing violence and unrest since 2011, and the crazed expression and frenzied paintwork of Untitled Tête create a vision of a man surrounded by chaos. Read more
9:30am, Thursday 9 March
Our South Kensington view is open!
Christie's galleries in London's South Kensington are showing works from Handpicked: 100 Works Selected by the Saatchi Gallery, a two-part sale taking place in London on 10 March and New York on 22 March. Entry is free, and we're open from 9am-5pm.
Proceeds from the auctions at Christie’s will support The Saatchi Gallery's ongoing policy of offering free admission to all gallery-curated exhibitions, and its free education programme. Featuring the best emerging work from around the globe, our exhibition pays homage to a pioneering institution, that was the first to show a host of artists who are now household names, including Bruce Nauman, Andreas Gursky, Sigmar Polke, Tracey Emin and Damien Hirst.
10:09pm, Tuesday 7 March
Combined total for 20th Century at Christie’s passes the £250 million mark
Competitive and sustained bidding at the Post-War and Contemporary Art Evening Auction resulted in 56 of the 59 lots offered being sold (98 per cent by value), three works realising in excess of £10 million (including buyer’s premium), and a final total of £96,384,000 / $117,781,248. The top lot in the sale was Peter Doig’s mesmerising Cobourg 3 + 1 More, which realised £12,709,000 / $15,530,398. Read more
5:30pm, Tuesday 7 March
Watch our Evening Auction live
We’re counting down to our Post War & Contemporary Art Evening Auction, which takes place this evening at 7pm. Anyone not in London can watch along live here
Set to be among tonight’s highlights is this work by Keith Haring, who began his career as a street artist in New York, using the city’s billboards and subways as his canvas — much like his contemporary Jean-Michel Basquiat. Find out more here
11:25am, Tuesday 7 March
‘A little jewel’
At our London headquarters, one four-legged visitor was spotted eyeing up a work that he might almost have modelled for. Offered in our Post War & Contemporary Art Day Auction tomorrow, Elizabeth Peyton’s (Dark) Harry boldly contradicts the idea that contemporary art has to push boundaries to feel new. For specialist Leonie Grainger, the painting is ‘a little jewel’, offering a unique take on the centuries-old tradition of portrait painting. Find out more about the work (and the dog behind it) here
9:40am, Tuesday 7 March
Our Post War & Contemporary Art Evening Auction takes place today
There’s still time to catch our London view before tonight’s Post-War & Contemporary Art Evening Auction gets underway at 7pm — featuring American greats including Robert Rauschenberg, Andy Warhol and Jean-Michel Basquiat, alongside international stars ranging from Peter Doig to Jean Dubuffet.
Set to be a highlight of this evening’s sale, Rothko’s No.1 (1949) is a seminal work, painted as the artist abandoned figuration to paint the large, ordered blocks of colour that became his trademark. Specialist Edmond Francey explains: ‘We are in front of a very precise moment in the history of art: in 1949, Rothko was discovering his artistic vocabulary. In 1948, his mother had died, and he looked to find a new way of expressing himself.
‘There’s almost an anthropomorphic quality to this — a head, torso and legs,’ he continues. ‘I like the way the colours shine: the yellow and orange, and this beautiful vermilion blue in the middle.’ First exhibited at New York’s prestigious Betty Parsons gallery, the painting is one of 12 that went on to be exhibited at major institutions including MoMA, the Walker Art Center and MOCA Los Angeles. Find out more
1:03pm, Monday 6 March
An artwork made of nails
One of the most visually arresting works at Christie’s London headquarters is Gunther Uecker’s Spirale I, Spirale II (Doppelspirale) — a work composed almost entirely from nails, whose precise spirals have been compared to ‘whorls of hair’ and ‘whirlpools in the sea’.
Curator Kazuhiro Yamamoto explains: ‘He [Uecker] began each work by hammering a nail into the centre of the panel, after which he placed successive nails around the first one, moving slowly around the square as he progressed working. Thus the pattern of the spiral and the subtle inclination of each nail trace the movements of his body precisely.’ See the work in full here
11:52am, Monday 6 March
A trick of the eye
Almost three decades before Bridget Riley first produced her dizzying black and white compositions, Victor Vasarely had embarked on his own series of landmark black and white studies, transforming figurative subjects into bold optical illusions.
For the artist, this monochrome palette was rich in symbolic meaning. ‘I am opting for a world-view according to which “good and evil”, “beautiful and ugly” and “physical and psychological” are inseparable, complimentary opposites, two sides of the same coin,’ he explained. ‘Black and white, yes and no; black and white, dot and dash: binary units.’ Take a closer look
9:45am, Monday 6 March
An ‘electric’ homage to a Hollywood icon
Made at the peak of Andy Warhol’s fame, Marilyn (Reversal) pays homage to one of the artist’s best-loved muses, the Hollywood icon Marilyn Monroe. The work is considered to be one of the most successful in the ‘Reversal Series’, which saw Warhol take portraits of the famous — from Mao to the Mona Lisa — and reverse their tonal values, creating an electric glow.
Following her tragic death in 1962, Warhol became preoccupied by the idea of Marilyn as a prefabricated media product, repeating her image across works that came to define both his career and the actress’s legacy. Read more here
10:16am, Friday 3 March
A work by ‘the Jimi Hendrix of painting’
Painted in 1982, this stark self-portrait by Jean-Michel Basquiat is one of very few compositions to feature the artist alone. A highlight of our Post War and Contemporary Art Evening Sale, it comes to Christie’s from the collection of U2 bassist Adam Clayton.
‘This work stood out because it had a very tragic image,’ Clayton told Francis Outred, Head of Post-War and Contemporary Art, of his first encounter with it. ‘It’s clearly an unobscured self-portrait, with what looks like a teardrop coming from the eye. It seems to me it’s not just about Jean-Michel — it’s about being African American.’
The work holds great personal significance for Clayton. ‘The idea that these young painters without any gallery experience could make their mark on the streets of New York — could go to the hippest nightclubs, could mix with musical culture — was very exciting to me. It was where I came from — I always thought music and art went hand in hand together.’
Read our full interview with Adam Clayton here
11.30am, Thursday 2 March
We're getting ready for our Post War & Contemporary Art auctions on Tuesday and Wednesday next week
Our art handlers are busy installing highlights from our upcoming Post War and Contemporary Art Auctions at our London headquarters, following our record-breaking Impressionist & Modern and Art of the Surreal sales on Tuesday.
Follow this blog for a sneak preview of the full exhibition, which opens at our King Street headquarters in London tomorrow. Admission is free, and opening times are: 3 March, 10am–5pm; 4 March, 11am–6pm; 5 March, 12pm–5pm; 6 March, 9am–7pm; 7 March, 8:30am–4pm.
12.03pm, Wednesday 1 March
A painting that’s ‘incredible’ in the flesh
Keith Gill, Specialist in Impressionist & Modern Art at Christie's in London: ‘This work by Pierre Bonnard is unusual. It’s one of very few seascapes that the artist painted, and what’s impressive about it is the variation in colour — in both the sky and the sea, as well as in the nude figures. In the flesh it’s incredible, with a palette that resembles the work of Matisse.’ Read more
9:30am, Wednesday 1 March
Our day sales begin!
After last night’s record-breaking sales, 20th Century at Christie's continues today with our Impressionist and Modern Works on Paper sale at 10.30am, and, at 2pm, the Impressionist and Modern Art Day Sale.
Featured in our morning sale, this work by Henry Moore was executed in 1943, and shows a close link between the artist’s drawing and sculptural practice. ‘During the Second World War Moore had no access to bronze, and became known for his works on paper. This drawing features inscriptions indicating possible materials, and has never before been seen at auction,’ says specialist Keith Gill. Find out more
10:30pm, Tuesday 28 February
Gauguin and Magritte lead the way as 20th Century at Christie’s gets off to a flying start in London
The 20th Century at Christie’s season in London got off to a flying start this evening as Paul Gauguin’s Te Fare (La Maison) sold for more than £20 million in the Impressionist & Modern Art Evening Sale, and the world auction record was smashed for René Magritte, as La corde sensible (1960) realised £14,441,348 in The Art of the Surreal sale. Read more
4:35pm, Tuesday 28 February
A record-breaking Magritte?
Painted as a gift to his wife Georgette, La corde sensible (1960) is among the largest oil paintings that Magritte created. The Belgian Surrealist carefully planned his unique images, later stating, ‘I think as though no one had ever thought before me’. It is said that the curving form of the shallow-bowled crystal coupe was inspired by Marie Antoinette’s breast. La corde sensible is strongly tipped to set a new world auction record for the artist when it is offered in The Art of the Surreal sale this evening. Find out more
And for more on the artist and his career, read 10 things to know about René Magritte
11.42am, Tuesday 28 February
A portrait of bohemian Paris
‘I love anything that glitters, precious stones that sparkle, beautiful women who arouse carnal desire… Painting lets me possess all this most fully’ — Kees van Dongen
A highlight of tonight’s sale, Kees van Dongen’s Deux anges (Two angels) captures the intoxicating atmosphere of life in Paris’s bohemian Montmartre at the turn of the 20th century. Emerging from an electric blue cloud, its two nudes might have been inspired by two of Van Dongen’s greatest muses of the period: the dancers Nini la Parisienne and Anita la Bohémienne, whom he met during one of his many trips to the clubs of Montmartre. Find out more
10:06am, Tuesday 28 February
Countdown to the first sales!
We’re warming up for the first sales of 20th Century at Christie’s, which kick off in London at 7pm with the Impressionist & Modern Art Evening Sale and The Art of the Surreal.
4:45pm, Monday 27 February
Who painted these men?
The figures in this painting became a trademark for an artist Christie’s specialist Olivier Camu describes as ‘the father of Surrealism’. Executed in a style that verges on the comic, their eyes look out in different directions, as though they are lost — a satire, Camu suggests, of the art-world bourgeoisie in the mid-1920s.
Consigned by the Art Institute of Chicago, this work is in exceptional condition, and has been chosen for the cover of a new book on the artist — but can you guess who he is? Click here to find out
3:10pm, Monday 27 February
How to look at a Chagall
Painted in 1964, the vibrant Tête de cheval features some of Marc Chagall’s most recognisable motifs, each of which held profound personal significance for the artist. So how should the work be read?
The head of a horse: horses and other farm animals recall Chagall’s early life in Vitebsk, a rural, remote village in what is now Belarus. In 1955, the artist commented: ‘In my pictures, there is not one centimetre free from nostalgia for my native land.’ The horse also came to embody a sense of freedom and escapism.
The bride: appearing to float in a white veil, the bride can be seen as Chagall’s great love, his first wife, Bella.
The male figure: this is considered to be a self-portrait, showing Chagall himself presenting his love with a bouquet of blossoming flowers — a symbol of their romance.
12:29pm, Monday 27 February
Women of the moment
Described by artist Paul Delvaux as ‘a faithful reproduction’ of one of his dreams, this otherworldly painting is set to be a highlight of The Art of the Surreal sale on 28 February.
‘Le village des sirènes was painted in 1942, in a six-year period that saw Delvaux produce some of his best works,’ says Olivier Camu, Christie’s Deputy Chairman of Impressionist and Modern Art. ‘It depicts a surreal cityscape, in which a group of women sit still along a gently curving street, as though guarding the houses behind them.’
The material of the women’s dresses pools at their feet, implying the presence of a hidden fin suggested by the work’s title: The village of the mermaids. In the distance, a lone male figure is a recurrent motif in Delvaux’s art of the period, inspired by a passer-by he saw from his studio window — plucked from the ordinary to heighten the scene’s sense of strangeness. Find out more
10.34am, Monday 27 February
Happy birthday Renoir!
This explosion of flowers was painted by pioneering French artist Pierre-Auguste Renoir (1851-1919), whose birthday was on Saturday.
‘Unusually for Renoir, this painting combines two floral compositions,’ explains specialist Keith Gill. ‘Renoir sketched constantly, working on the same canvas at different angles. Typically, these canvases were cut up into smaller works, to be sold individually by his dealer, Ambroise Vollard. This painting, however, remains exactly as it was in Renoir's studio. It's a much more faithful view of his practice, and the strength of colour and scale make it quite special.’ Find out more
Come and see Deux études de fleurs at Christie’s King Street, alongside other works from our Impressionist & Modern Art Day Sale on 1 March.
9:26am, Monday 27 February
A very rare early work by Berthe Morisot
Jay Vincze, Head of Department, Impressionist & Modern Art at Christie’s London: ‘This is a very early work by Berthe Morisot, dating from 1872. In Femme et enfant au balcon you see the cityscape of Paris in the background, with the very recognisable dome of Les Invalides, and the beautiful evocation of the mother and child staring through the balcony, which was such a constant motif in Impressionist cityscapes. One of the amazing things about this work is its rarity — this particular piece has never before been seen at auction. There is a study for the work in the Art Institute of Chicago, and it has been widely exhibited but rarely seen at a public sale.’ Find out more
This work comes from the Personal Collection of Barbara Lambrecht and its sale will benefit the Rubens Prize Collection held in the Museum of Contemporary Art in Siegen. Find out more
Today is the last full day to view the works on sale in the Impressionist & Modern Art Evening Sale and The Art of the Surreal auction at our King Street galleries in London. Admission is free to the public.
5:15pm, Friday 24 February
Meanwhile, in New York...
Visitors to Christie’s Rockefeller Center have been able to catch an advanced preview of works from our London Post-War and Contemporary Art Evening Sale on 7 March, which were on tour in New York until the weekend.
Click here to find out more about Peter Doig’s captivating snowscape Cobourg 3+1 More (pictured above) from the artist’s former teacher, and read our special feature 10 things to know about Peter Doig.
4pm, Friday 24 February
Exceptional works by Le Corbusier are up
Painted over a number of years, in 1927, 1938, and 1944, when it was completed, Nature morte et figure is a monumental work by Le Corbusier, which comes to Christie’s from the Heidi Weber Museum Collection. ‘Weber was Le Corbusier’s dealer, supporter, friend and confidante,’ explains Jay Vincze, Head of Impressionist & Modern Art. ‘We’re very fortunate to have three oil paintings from Weber’s museum collection, which really span Le Corbusier’s career.’
Renowned as one of the 20th century’s most influential architects and designers, Le Corbusier was, Vincze explains, ‘so much more than that: he was a fabulous artist whose use of colour and line is really exceptional. These three works really epitomise that.’ Read more
3.30pm, Friday 24 February
Our Picasso Ceramics online auction is live!
Not able to visit our salesrooms in London or New York? Our Picasso Ceramics online auction features 90 original works by the artist, with estimates from £1,000. Browse the complete sale here — and, if you are in London, catch all works from the sale at Christie’s South Kensington, until 2 March.
Over the course of his career, Picasso used ceramics to explore some of his most enduring motifs — including owls, bullfights, and his last great lover and muse, Jacqueline Roque. Specialist Sarah El Tamer observes: ‘With Picasso remaining one of the highest grossing artists at auction today, the range of his ceramics means it’s easy to choose a work that is both an investment and something you’ll love.’ Read her guide for collectors here
3.20pm, Friday 24 February
Which great master painted this?
Hanging in the main gallery of Christie’s London headquarters, the work from which this detail is taken was painted at the birth of Impressionism in 1874, in the wake of the very first Impressionist exhibition. To those familiar with the period, its florid brushstrokes can be the work of only one of the period’s great masters — but who? Click here to find out and view a work that Jay Vincze, Head of Impressionist & Modern Art, describes as ‘wonderful, spontaneously executed’ and ‘incredibly fresh and vibrant’.
1:39pm, Friday 24 February
Francis Bacon’s first ever portrait of his great muse
Painted in 1963, Three Studies for a Portrait of George Dyer marks the beginning of Francis Bacon’s relationship with his greatest source of inspiration. This triptych is the very first portrait Bacon made of his long-time muse, who came to feature in many of the artist’s most arresting and sought-after works. It will be offered for the first time at auction in Christie’s Post-War and Contemporary Art Evening Sale (estimate: $50-70 million) on 17 May in New York. Three Studies for a Portrait of George Dyer is on show at our King Street galleries until 8 March — admission is free to the public. Find out more
1:02pm, Friday 24 February
A magical Surrealist masterpiece (and auction first!)
Now on display in our London galleries La magie noire (1942) is a highlight of The Art of the Surreal sale on 28 February, and returns to one of Magritte’s most recognisable themes, first explored in a 1934 painting of the same name. Framed by an opulent curtain, a beautiful nude woman stands in front of a tranquil seascape, holding a white rose in her hand as she stares impassively out of the picture plane. Statuesque and motionless, her body has metamorphosed from flesh to sky, the pale pink skin tones of her upper arms and torso transforming into the same pastel blue hue of the heavens that stretch endlessly behind her.
Magritte commented: ‘It is an act of black magic to turn woman’s flesh into sky’. Reinventing the classical nude, La magie noire (1942) has never previously been offered at auction. Find out more
10:43am, Friday 24 February
Our expert reveals the secret code in this work by Paul Klee
Keith Gill, Specialist in Impressionist & Modern Art at Christie's London: ‘If you look carefully at the bottom of Paul Klee’s Fragment Nr. 67 (Engel), you’ll see the inscription S.Cl — a mark that stands for ‘Sonderklasse’ (a special class of their own), which Klee used to indicate his top works. It was a way for the artist to remind himself that a piece was one he never really wanted to sell; our sale on 1 March will see it auctioned for the first time in its history.
‘This work was held by Klee’s estate for many years, and comes to Christie’s from the personal collection of Barbara Lambrecht, which also spans our evening and day sales. It was the only Klee that Mrs Lambrecht owned, and she bought it because she thought it would be a great, fun addition to her apartment. It’s one of a series of angels that Klee made and is in fantastic condition; it’s a work we were very keen to have in the sale, and we’ve given it a prime spot in our galleries.’ Read more
4:23pm, Thursday 23 February
Follow Alastair Sooke’s tour of the view on Facebook Live
Video: Live at Christie’s in London with broadcaster Alastair Sooke
3:20pm, Thursday 23 February
Let our experts show you the art
Ordinarily hidden from view, the back of this painting by Lionel Feininger offers a fascinating insight into the work — for those who know what to look for. ‘When trying to learn more about a painting, chalk marks and gallery labels form an integral part of the jigsaw puzzle,’ explains our specialist Tom Rooth.
If you’re visiting our London view, our experts are on hand to talk you through the hidden details of works on display. If you can’t make it down, Tom’s guide to 5 key things to look for can be read here
3:18pm, Thursday 23 February
A Monet from the birth of Impressionism
Jay Vincze, Head of Department, Impressionist & Modern Art at Christie’s London: ‘This is an early painting by Claude Monet that dates from 1876 — right at the very beginning of Impressionism. It’s a wonderful river landscape, concerned with depicting foliage and the reflections in the water. It’s almost a painting where the horizon line has disappeared in the reflections on the surface of the river, meaning the bottom of the picture is extremely similar to the top half. Monet is playing with our ideas of perception and reflection, but anchors the whole composition with this quickly painted image of the two figures in the boat.’ Find out more
For more, read our feature Monet, Morisot, Renoir and the birth of Impressionism.
12:55pm, Thursday 23 February
Come and visit Christie’s King Street headquarters in London to see highlights from our 20th Century sales — we’re open from 9am-4.30pm, and entry is free. Highlights include this miniature masterpiece by Joan Miró, Femme devant le soleil — the third in a series of works featuring hallucinatory visions of women. Appearing monstrous and omnipotent, beautiful, hopeful and optimistic, or vulnerable and terrified, these figures, painted against the backdrop of impending war, are some of the most vivid and powerful of the artist’s career. Find out more
12:01pm, Thursday 23 February
Welcome to Christie’s
Visitors to our King Street headquarters can expect a friendly greeting from Colin — our legendary London doorman, who’s been with Christie’s for almost 20 years. ‘I always encourage people in the street to come in, look around and enjoy themselves — and of course, have a free coffee!’ he says. Colin is renowned for his remarkable ability to remember returning visitors to Christie’s: 'A client came in a few years ago, and was shocked when I greeted her by name — the last time she’d been to Christie’s London was almost a decade previously.’ Read our interview with Colin
11:52am, Thursday 23 February
Hanging Picasso’s prized plates
One of the most eye-catching lots from our 28 February Impressionist & Modern Art Evening Sale is this group of 19 silver plates, conceived by Pablo Picasso in 1956. Each plate was designed by the artist himself and, together, they represent some of the subjects that would come to be his most iconic: his lover, Jacqueline; mythological figures including a faun, centaur and a flute player; and a bull, a symbol of Picasso’s Spanish heritage.
The playful, inventive designs in the series capture Picasso's great happiness during this period: in 1952, aged 72, he had met the 27-year-old Jacqueline Roque, who became his second wife and his final great love and muse. His last years are defined by a joyous outpouring of creation and experimentation — nowhere more evident than in this unique group of plates. The plates were treasured by Picasso who, for many years, kept them hidden from visitors and collectors, valuing them among his most precious possessions. Read more
4:32pm, Wednesday 22 February
The view is almost ready at King Street, London
Our team of expert art handlers has been extremely busy for the last two days (click on the symbol to enlarge the images). On Thursday 23 February, their work will be on display for all to see as the view for four sales of Impressionist & Modern Art, including The Art of the Surreal, opens to the public (9am-4.30pm). Come and see the superb art on display at our King Street headquarters in St James’s, London — and speak to some of the specialists whose insights will be published on this blog. For a flavour of what will be on show, see our Evening Sale highlights story at the bottom of this blog roll, or click on the sales links at the foot of this page. Admission is free.
Make sure you tune in at 4.15pm (GMT) on Thursday to see art critic Alastair Sooke presenting a Facebook Live tour of the view.
4:26pm, Wednesday 22 February
Jay Vincze, Head of Department, Impressionist & Modern Art at Christie's London: ‘Raoul Dufy was part of a groundbreaking movement which really freed colour from its descriptive use within art. You see here his incredible juxtaposition of colours and this amazingly vibrant canvas. This is 14 juillet, a public holiday in France, and all these flags and people give Dufy the opportunity to create a composition that’s busy and full of movement.’ Find out more
This work is offered from the personal collection of Barbara Lambrecht and its sale will benefit the Rubens Prize Collection held in the Museum of Contemporary Art in Siegen. More about the collection
2:10pm, Wednesday 22 February
‘Everything you want from a Chagall’
Keith Gill, Specialist in Impressionist & Modern Art at Christie’s London: ‘This is everything you want from a Chagall — it’s the perfect size for many collectors, and features a lot of imagery that’s typical of the artist, from the flowers to the young couple. But what makes this so special is its strong colour, whether that’s in the figures or the flowers, which have been painted in rich impasto. In addition to that, it’s never been at auction before and is in excellent condition.’ Find out more
See the art and speak to our specialists at Christie’s King Street, from Thursday 23 February. Admission is free to the public
12:02pm, Wednesday 22 February
A gift to Picasso on his birthday
This work is signed, dated and dedicated ‘a Pablo a Jacqueline con amore Renato 25.10.65’. According to the Archivo Guttuso it was given by the Sicilian painter Renato Gattuso to Picasso as a present on his birthday. Find out more