Private eye #4 selected highlights from our Private Sales

Private eye #4: selected highlights from our Private Sales

Hongmiao Shi talks to our specialists about Chinese armchairs, a limited-edition Greubel Forsey and works by Andy Warhol and Amelia Peláez — all available for immediate purchase

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  • Andy Warhol’s ‘ultimate self-reflective gesture’ Four Marilyns (Reversal Series), 1979-86

Andy Warhol (1928-1987), Four Marilyns (Reversal Series), 1979-86. Acrylic and silkscreen ink on canvas, 36 x 28 in (91.4 x 71.1 cm). Price on request. View Post-War & Contemporary Art currently offered for private sale at Christie’s
Andy Warhol (1928-1987), Four Marilyns (Reversal Series), 1979-86. Acrylic and silkscreen ink on canvas, 36 x 28 in (91.4 x 71.1 cm). Price on request. View Post-War & Contemporary Art currently offered for private sale at Christie’s

In 1979, after almost two decades of reproducing images of celebrities and pop culture, Andy Warhol inverted his own artistic practice with his Reversal series. Revisiting iconic subjects — Marilyn Monroe, Chairman Maoelectric chairs and a self-portrait — the artist flipped the colours, turning the light areas dark and brightening the shadows.

‘As an appropriation of an appropriation, Warhol’s Reversal series is the ultimate self-reflective gesture,’ says Tessa Lord, head of Post-War and Contemporary Art Evening Sales in London.

Warhol made his first silkscreen painting of Monroe in 1962, and in the Reversal  Marilyns, he was ‘simultaneously subverting yet continuing his own legacy,’ says Lord.

‘For me, part of the complexity and intrigue of the Reversal  Marilyns is the interplay between the intense darkness and the veils of colour,’ she continues. ‘In this example, the pale lilac, pink and blue are highlighted to electrifying effect, making Marilyn’s iconic image almost glow from within.’

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  • A pair of rare horseshoe-back chairs from 17th-century China

‘The horseshoe-back armchair is one of the most classic forms of Chinese chair,’ says Pola Antebi, deputy chairman of Asian Art in Hong Kong. ‘All serious collections of Chinese furniture should include at least one pair.’

A pair of huanghuali horseshoe-back armchairs. Late-Ming to early-Qing dynasty, 17th century. 99.1 cm high, 66 cm wide, 71.2 cm deep. Price on request. View Asian and World Art currently offered for private sale at Christie’s
A pair of huanghuali horseshoe-back armchairs. Late-Ming to early-Qing dynasty, 17th century. 99.1 cm high, 66 cm wide, 71.2 cm deep. Price on request. View Asian and World Art currently offered for private sale at Christie’s

This set is notable for its gentle curves and ornamental details, as well as the rarity of the material. ‘The precious huanghuali  wood has a golden patina with a lovely glow and an elegant grain,’ says Antebi. ‘In the central panel is a stylised ruyi  motif — an auspicious fungus homonymous in Chinese with “as you wish”, suggesting that the wishes of anyone fortunate enough to sit in these chairs will come true. Objects decorated ruyis were often given as birthday gifts, suggesting these chairs were made to celebrate a birthday.’

The craftsmanship is also remarkable, says Antebi. ‘Like much classical Chinese furniture, these armchairs were assembled without glue or nails. If, for any reason, they have to be stored or moved elsewhere, they can easily be disassembled and transported.’

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  • A sublime still life from the avant-garde Cuban artist Amelia Peláez Untitled, 1950

Amelia Peláez (1896-1968), Untitled, 1950. Oil on canvas, 44⅞ x 34⅝ in (113.7 x 88 cm). Price on request. View Latin American Art currently offered for private sale at Christie’s
Amelia Peláez (1896-1968), Untitled, 1950. Oil on canvas, 44⅞ x 34⅝ in (113.7 x 88 cm). Price on request. View Latin American Art currently offered for private sale at Christie’s

Born in 1896, painter and ceramicist Amelia Peláez lived in New York and Europe in the 1920s and 30s before returning to Havana. What makes Peláez’s work so special for Kristen France, a Latin American Art specialist, is the way in which she balances European Cubism with colours and symbols inspired by her Caribbean heritage, together with a Baroque flair for the dramatic.

Peláez’s Untitled (1950) is a bold interpretation of a traditional still life painting. ‘It’s like a beautiful stained-glass window whose splendour is revealed in new ways throughout the daylight hours,’ says France. 

‘The artist’s meticulous treatment of form and colour makes the everyday sublime — this is a work that commands quiet contemplation.’

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  • A limited-edition Greubel Forsey watch that shows you the world Greubel Forsey GMT Black

Greubel Forsey GMT Black. Unique edition 22 pieces in black ADLC titanium. Hand-wound movement with three patents. Price on request. View Watches currently offered for private sale at Christie’s
Greubel Forsey GMT Black. Unique edition 22 pieces in black ADLC titanium. Hand-wound movement with three patents. Price on request. View Watches currently offered for private sale at Christie’s

For watch collectors, the Swiss watchmaker Greubel Forsey is considered ‘the height of watchmaking innovation, finish, reliability and exclusivity’, says Stéphane von Bueren, International Business director in Geneva. In the past 20 years, the company has produced just 1,500 timepieces — fewer than 100 watches a year.

Greubel Forsey first launched the GMT model in 2011 in white gold, and it quickly became known for its 3D rotating globe, which illustrates day and night across the world. Since then, the model has been produced in platinum, red gold and black titanium — the latter being one of the rarest and most sought-after models.

‘The GMT Black titanium model was introduced in 2014 in a limited edition of only 22 pieces,’ says Von Bueren. ‘Its titanium case makes it particularly desirable to collectors who enjoy wearing lightweight watches.’