Giacometti Chariot Leads $500 Million Trophy Art at Sales

08:41 | 11/10/2014

In what is shaping up to be another blockbuster auction season in New York, 10 artworks that are heading to Sotheby’s and Christie’s next month are valued at almost $500 million combined.

Among the trophies is Alberto Giacometti’s chariot sculpture, estimated at more than $100 million at Sotheby’s, and a pair of Andy Warhol’s paintings of Elvis Presley and Marlon Brando that are expected to fetch $130 million at Christie’s.

The high-end art market is showing no sign of slowing down as collectors see paintings and sculptures as a good investment. New York’s major spring Impressionism, modern and contemporary-art auctions in May tallied $2.2 billion, 22 percent higher than last November, when $1.8 billion of art was sold. Estimates for 10 works offered by Sotheby’s and Christie’s total $478 million.

“It’s beyond belief,” said Suzanne Gyorgy, head of art advisory and finance at New York-based Citigroup Inc.’s Citi Private Bank. “We are still in the same cycle where tremendous wealth is being generated around the world and people are looking for hard assets like art and real estate.”

Asian collectors have played a big role in boosting prices, Gyorgy said, by expanding their interest in Asian art to include blue-chip Western art.

“I was at a lunch and the conversation was in Mandarin but I heard the words Cezanne, Monet, Giacometti,” she said. “A mainland Chinese collector told me that he was very modest compared to his peers because he only had a $30 million budget” to purchase art annually.

Art Center

The auction houses said they haven’t sent their doorstop-heavy catalogs to printers yet and more last-minute consignments could be added. Hundreds of works will be sold during the first two weeks of November in New York, when the city becomes the center of global art trade.

So far, the highest-priced work is Giacometti’s painted bronze sculpture, “Chariot,” which was cast in 1951-1952. The work depicts a stick-like female figure, representing a goddess, on a platform framed by two large wheels. The work spent four decades in the same private collection, according to Sotheby’s. It will lead the auction house’s Impressionist and modern art sale on Nov. 4.

Giacometti’s “Walking Man” bronze sculpture sold for $103.4 million at Sotheby’s in London in February 2010, which was a record at the time for any artwork at auction. “Chariot” could surpass Giacometti’s personal record. A Francis Bacon triptych is the most expensive artwork sold at auction, fetching $142.4 million last November.

Goddess Sculpture

The same Sotheby’s sale on Nov. 4 will include Amedeo Modigliani’s “Tete,” a 1911-1912 sculpture carved in stone and also depicting a goddess. The work is expected to sell for more than $45 million, Sotheby’s said.

The piece was carved out of a single block of limestone quarried in eastern France. Modigliani would find such blocks on construction sites around Paris and cart them in a wheelbarrow back to the Montparnasse studio he shared with sculptor Constantin Brancusi, according to Sotheby’s. Another limestone “Tete” sculpture by Modigliani sold for $52.3 million at Christie’s in Paris in 2010.

Sotheby’s also scored the consignment of Vincent van Gogh’s 1890 painting, “Still Life, Vase with Daisies and Poppies,” estimated at $30 million to $50 million.

Same Collection

Across town, Christie’s Impressionist and modern art sale on Nov. 5 will include Edouard Manet’s “Le Printemps,” a jewel-like 1881 portrait of a woman holding a parasol. The painting remained in the same collection for more than a century and had been on loan for the last two decades at the National Gallery of Art in Washington. Estimated at $25 million to $35 million, it is being sold to benefit a private American foundation supporting environmental, public health and other charitable causes, Christie’s said.

Christie’s contemporary art sale on Nov. 12 will include Warhol’s two silkscreen paintings -- “Triple Elvis [Ferus Type]” from 1963 and “Four Marlons” from 1966 -- valued jointly at $130 million. The works were bought in the 1970s by the German company Westdeutsche Spielbanken GMBH & Co. to decorate a casino in Aachen, according to Christie’s. The company said in a statement it’s selling the works to take advantage of the strength of the current art market, especially for works by Warhol.

Monkey Sculpture

Multimillionaire British collector Frank Cohen is selling his Jeff Koons sculpture “Balloon Monkey (Orange)” in the same auction. The 2006-2013 stainless steel work is estimated at $20 million to $30 million.

Damien Hirst will be parting with his Koons sculpture “Moon (Yellow)” at Sotheby’s at its Nov. 11 sale of postwar and contemporary art. The stainless-steel sculpture of a mylar balloon that can be mounted on a wall is estimated at $12 million to $18 million.

Mark Rothko’s 1951 canvas “No. 21 (Red, Brown, Black and Orange),” consigned by the Schlumberger oil family, will star at the same sale at Sotheby’s. The 8-foot-tall canvas could bring more than $50 million, Sotheby’s said. It was exhibited at the Museum of Modern Art in 1952 as part of influential “15 Americans” show. In 1972, the work was acquired by Pierre and Sao Schlumberger.

Another highlight is a small 1983 “Flag” painting by Jasper Johns, estimated at $15 million to $20 million. Acquired directly from the artist the year it was made, the work has been on loan at the Philadelphia Museum of Art from 2007 to earlier this year.