1. It is possible to purchase works by established masters
Lucian Freud, Boy Posing, 1941. Ink and oil on paper. Estimate: £30,000-40,000. This work and all the others on this page are offered in the Post-War and Contemporary Art Day Auction in London on 1 July.
With Freud’s large-scale paintings standing as highlights in the Evening Auctions in London and New York, you would be forgiven for believing that the artist was out of reach for the collections of mere mortals — but the artist’s early drawings remain accessible, and represent a fantastic starting point for anyone wishing to own a work by the British master.
This highly finished example dates from 1941, and stands out from other works from the period, featuring delicate highlights in oil paint that bring the young figure to life.
2. Go for an established artist’s earlier period
Lucio Fontana, Ritratto, circa 1950-1955. Glazed ceramic. Estimate: £15,000-20,000
While Fontana’s slashes have been consistent Evening Auction staples, collectors are now turning their attention to his earlier ceramic period — with investment in these earlier works already showing strong return. In the February Evening Auction, a ceramic work from 1962 sold at over three times its high estimate. The Day Auction will be offering three ceramic works from across the artist’s career, from a set of figures from the Fontana’s earlier baroque period (above) to works representing his spatialist concepts of the tagli (cuts) and buchi (holes).
3. Look out for key motifs
Georg Baselitz, Adler (Eagle), 1979. Ink and watercolour on paper. Estimate: £10,000-15,000
Certain motifs remain incredibly important to artists, recurring throughout their careers and becoming an essential part of their visual vocabulary. When buying, consider going for works that capture some of the most distinct elements of an artist’s practice. Three strong examples are given below:
Adler (Eagle) presents an iconic symbol in Baselitz’s practice of the eagle: bird of prey and symbol of German national pride. Painted upside-down, the bird appears to perch at the top of the drawings, the ready predator whose world has been turned on its head. Over time, Baselitz has returned to the Adler as a central motif in his oeuvre: an emblematic creature loaded with cultural resonance.
Peter Doig’s Untitled (Boiler House) features elements that appear in many of the artist’s most important and celebrated works — in this case, the cabin in the snow. Highly finished, it is a work that encapsulates both Doig’s technical ability, and the imagery that has become a hallmark of his practice.
Cute and naughty, Yoshitomo Nara’s Attack the Rotten World depicts one of his charming but cheeky characters that have become iconic. Coupled with graffiti-like text, the imagery moves beyond cartoon and becomes instantly recognizable as the artist’s signature style.
4. Influencers are always desirable
Bernd & Hilla Becher, Typology of Four: ‘Water Towers’, 1960s-70s, 1978. Gelatin silver print, in four parts. Estimate: £8,000-12,000
Look out for works by the artists who have shaped art history. Bernd and Hilla Becher’s photographs of the past five decades document the industrial architecture of the Western world. Together, the German husband and wife team have photographed hundreds of structures, including water towers, winding towers, cooling towers and gasometers. Their approach — representing a single theme through an accumulation of diverse images — has gone on to influence an entire generation of German photographers and Conceptual artists — the artist’s influence in postwar art history undeniable.
5. Follow the trajectory of rising stars
Günther Förg, Untitled, 1993. Acrylic on lead on wood. Estimate: £50,000-70,000
Don’t be afraid to look beyond the big names to rising stars. Many of the emerging artists whose works are initially sold in our First Open auctions fast become big names in contemporary day and evening auctions.
Günther Förg’s minimal paintings on lead first found their following amongst collectors in Christie’s First Open auctions in the late 2000s. Since then, the artist has gained wider acceptance in the larger art market, with important solo exhibitions held most recently at White Cube and Almine Rech in London. Förg stands as a prime example of how the ‘hidden gem’ opportunities in First Open and Day Auctions can become larger trends in the art market.
6. Consider works that document history
Danh Vo, Untitled, 2009. Japanese imari octogonal ceramic plates. Estimate: £10,000-15,000
Certain works are remarkable, not only for their artistic significance, but because they mark major moments in history. Look out for works that are ‘historic’ in every sense.
Throughout his practice, Danh Vo deftly weaves his own experiences with the histories of others. These Japanese imari ceramic plates were once owned by of Lyman Lemnitzer, a United States Army general who was notably involved in the early years of the Vietnam War. In these found objects, Vo establishes a connection with his own biography — referencing the experience of fleeing his native, war-torn, Vietnam as a child. Currently representing Denmark in Venice Biennale, Vo hasn’t rested on his laurels; he is also the curator of Slip of the Tongue at the city’s Punta della Dogana.
Matthew Day Jackson’s large scale wall piece August 6, 1945 documents the date that the US dropped the ‘Little Boy’ atomic bomb on Hiroshima. However the charred topographical map depicted by the artist is that of Hamburg, ‘the Hiroshima of Germany’, which underwent its own large-scale bombing campaign in 1943. By overlaying these two World War II events, one in text and the other in image, Jackson recalls both individually but overlays them in such a way that their destruction becomes synonymous.
7. Use art to curate your home
Kenneth Noland (1924-2010), Amend, 1979. Acrylic on shaped canvas. Estimate: £150,000-200,000
A well-curated art collection can be used to promote a single aesthetic in your home — whether you’re aiming for opulent drama, or show-stopping brights. If they follow your chosen style, any artworks can comfortably sit side by side — allowing you to forge a collection that spans artists and decades.
Like an elegant little black dress or a crisp white shirt, there is nothing more sophisticated than the fashion runway’s perennial dress code of black and white. Artists, like designers, know: the minimal aesthetic never fails.
David Ostrowski, F (A thing is a thing in a whole which it’s not), 2014. Acrylic and lacquer on canvas. Estimate: £30,000-50,000
After a terrible fire that had destroyed his life’s work, David Ostrowski went back to the foundations of painting and reduced his colour palette. Letting his canvases reflect the environment of their making, Ostrowski bases his practice on the proliferation of chance — allowing ‘errors’ and ‘imperfections’ to stick to fresh paint.
8. Don’t be afraid to follow the crowd
Jeff Elrod, Pilot, 2012. Acrylic, enamel and tape on canvas. Estimate: £40,000-60,000
A number of contemporary artists have quickly attracted a global audience — and for good reason. Don’t be afraid of following a trend. Andy Warhol is good proof that 15 minutes of fame can last a lot longer.
Jeff Elrod was able to develop and define his own style, moving his painting into the realm of digital. Similar to Albert Oehlen’s recent series, Elrod uses computer software to draw his imagery that he then renders onto the canvas and often by hand, using acrylic paints and airbrush, reworking into a final composition.
Jonas Wood is a prime example of how the market can constantly grow in support of young talent. Last season, the market looked kindly on those collectors who had believed in the young modernist painter four years ago. After some groundbreaking results, Wood has become a widely desired name — though estimates for his works remain, for the moment, tantalisingly accessible: a savvy buy for any contemporary collector.
9. Use your art to holiday
Tim Noble & Sue Webster, Vicious, 1999. 98 fuchsia SIRIO type reflector caps, lamps with holders, foamex and electronic sequencer. Estimate: £70,000-100,000
A good work of art can transport you — temporarily removing you from the daily grind of the city to more distance, exotic climes.
Inspired by the glitzy lights of the Las Vegas strip, Tim Noble and Sue Webster’s Vicious communicates the experience of the neon-lit procession among the desert-wasteland of Nevada.
From one of the artist’s key early series, Jean Dubuffet’s Trois Palmiers was realised following the artist’s travels in the Sahara desert. The charming gouache is a perfect for those looking to capture the mood of holidays past.
Similarly, Sherrie Levine’s tropical bird in Loulou references more exotic climes — and is also an endearing reference to Loulou from Gustave Flaubert’s Un Coeur Simple. Along with works works as David Hockney’s My Mother with a Parrot, 1973-74, or Julian Barnes’s iconic novel Flaubert’s Parrot, 1984, Levine’s Loulou pays homage to Flaubert’s legacy.
When Friedrich Kunath moved to the beach-filled Los Angeles from his native Germany, he became inspired by the psychedelic soul sounds of summer music. In Almost Summer, droplets of rain in the air clear to reveal the cheerful promise of better weather.
10. Think off the wall
Alexander Calder (1898-1976), Untitled, circa 1954. Sheet metal, brass, wire and paint. Estimate: £100,000-150,000
Art isn’t just about painting. Sculpture can provide an exciting alternative to painting, taking art from the walls to create a statement that fills a room.
Produced from the beginning of the 20th century, Alexander Calder’s iconic mobiles were hugely influential in the development of kinetic art. Today, these delicate works hang across the world — from Paris’s UNESCO headquarters to the former reception room of Peggy Guggenheim’s Venice residence. Moved by the most delicate of air currents, they are pieces that — unlike a painting — have the capacity to constantly evolve, filling a space with an ever-changing event.
11. Classical remix
Tom Wesselmann, Study for Still Life with Blonde, 1999. Oil on canvas. Estimate: £120,000-180,000
Consider buying contemporary art as a way to update old masters — whilst still referencing some of the forms of production that have been important throughout art history. Contemporary artists love revisiting traditional art historical subjects, offering a cool new twist to our favourite classics. From Greco-Roman statuary to an old master reclining nude through to the time-honoured still-life, contemporary artists have modernized centuries-old themes.
For more features, interviews and videos, visit Christie’s Daily