The global appeal for art keeps growing and continues to encourage new collectors to acquire works.
Christie’s reports that its worldwide art sales in 2012 totaled $6.27 billion, up 10 percent over 2011, and that the average number of registered bidders per auction in 2012 was 53 percent higher than a decade ago.
Bidders at last year’s global auctions were from 136 countries and 19 percent of all registered bidders were new clients.
The spring art auctions are underway this month with collectors vying for such works as Jackson Pollock’s “The Blue Unconscious,” an important highlight of Sotheby’s Contemporary Art Evening Sale on Tuesday, and Edward Hopper’s “Blackwell’s Island,” which leads Christie’s May 23 American Art Sale.
Pollock (1912-56) painted the monumental 84-by-56-inch oil on canvas in 1946 in his East Hampton, Long Island, barn just before the establishment of his celebrated drip paintings. Estimated to bring $20 million-$30 million, the painting has remained in the same private collection since it was purchased at a Parke-Bernet auction in New York in 1965 for $45,000.
It was one of seven paintings from the artist’s “Sounds in the Grass” series. Besides the painting being auctioned, only one other painting from the series is in private hands. The five others are in museum collections from New York to Tel Aviv to Venice.
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Hopper’s “Blackwell’s Island,” painted in 1928, has never before been offered at auction, but it has been exhibited at major museums, including the Museum of Fine Arts.
More recently the 35-by-60-inch painting was included in the first major retrospective of the artist’s work at the Grand Palais in Paris, held last October through February 2013. Its estimate at Christie’s is $15 million-$20 million.
Hopper (1882-1967), a native of Nyack, N.Y., who from the early 1930s had a summer home in Truro, was drawn to the East River, using its banks and bridges as his subject between 1911 and 1935. Blackwell’s Island, a 2-mile long, 800-foot-wide island in the river, has an interesting history.
It was purchased in 1637 from the Indians by the newly-arrived Dutch, who named it Varkens Eylandt (Hog Island ) for the hogs who grazed there. It later was named Blackwell’s Island for the family who owned the island from the late 17th century until 1828 when it was purchased by the City of New York. Renamed Welfare Island in 1921, it was renamed again in 1971, Roosevelt Island, in honor of Franklin Delano Roosevelt.
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“The River Epte, Giverny,” an 1887 oil by the Boston artist John Leslie Breck (1860-99), considered by many the father of American Impressionism, highlights Skinner’s auction of American and European paintings and prints Friday at its Boston gallery.
The son of a US Navy captain, Breck was born aboard a US clipper ship in the South Pacific, and after growing up in Boston, he went at age 17 to Europe to study art, first in Germany and later in France, where he discovered Giverny, the French rural village where Claude Monet, a key figure in the Impressionist movement, lived and painted.
Breck became one of the few Americans to enter Monet’s inner circle, but after a failed romance with Monet’s stepdaughter, he returned in 1890 to Boston, where in his one-man exhibition at the St. Botolph Club he introduced the art world to the Impressionist style of painting.
His home and studio in Newton were on Oakland Avenue, which later came to be known as Studio Road.
Breck’s painting of the river that meets the River Seine at Giverny is expected to bring $100,000-$150,000, the highest estimate of Skinner’s 602-lot auction.
It is followed by “Rainy Night,” a dark and rain-drenched street scene by the German artist Lesser Ury (1861-1931), which has an $80,000-$120,000 estimate.
Other important offerings include paintings of warships at anchor by the British marine artist Peter Monamy (1689-1749); an 1862 Hudson River landscape by the Charleston, S.C., artist Louis Remy Mignot (1831-70); , a storefront scene by Reginald Marsh (1898-1954), best known for his depictions of New York city life in the 1920s; and a Deer Isle, Maine, hilltop scene by the New Jersey-born artist John Marin (1870-1953). Each painting has a $30,000-$50,000 estimate.
The paintings will be auctioned at
4 p.m., following the noon auction of prints, which have estimates from under $500 to $15,000-$25,000 for Toulouse-Lautrec’s 1895 color lithograph of May Belfort.
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The demand for Asian works of art, especially Chinese works, remains strong as was seen at Skinner’s Asian Works of Art Auction last month, where all of the 29 five-figure lots sold above their estimates.
The top lot of the 575-lot auction, which grossed $1.5 million, was a 17th-/18th-century rhinoceros horn “Lily” cup that sold for $96,000 against an $8,000-$12,000 estimate.
The rhinoceros horn cups were usually made for ceremonial purposes. This cup carved to depict a lily and a lotus blossom was likely to have been made for a wedding ceremony as the lily and the lotus are Chinese symbols of togetherness, harmony, and unity.
A Qing dynasty (1644-1912) dragon robe, an archaic bronze wine vessel possibly late Shang dynasty (around 1000 B.C.), and a 20th-century cloisonné landscape plaque were among the top sellers that soared above their estimates. The robe sold for $43,050, more than 14 times its $3,000 estimate, the wine vessel 21 times its $2,000 estimate, and the plaque more than 22 times its $1,000 estimate.
All but one of the top 10 sellers were Chinese. The exception was “Le Printemps” (Spring), an oil painting of a young woman holding a child by Vu Cao Dam (1908-2000), one of the most important Vietnamese painters of the 20th century. It sold for $30,750, more than tripling the high of its $8,000-