Christie’s Makes Market History With $786 Million Evening Sale Led by Record-Smashing Leonardo da Vinci
It was the highest total for an evening sale since the house’s November 2014 contemporary auction, the priciest ever held.
Christie’s much-hyped sale of postwar and contemporary art at New York’s Rockefeller Center on Wednesday evening exceeded all expectations—at least for the painting that mattered most. The sale raked in $785.9 million. It was the highest total for an evening auction since the house’s record-demolishing November 2014 contemporary sale, which at $852.9 million remains the priciest ever held.
Leonardo da Vinci‘s Salvator Mundi (c. 1500) accounted for more than half of the night’s total—and set a new high-water mark for a work of art sold at auction. All told, the sale soared above the overall presale estimate of $410 million and significantly surpassed last year’s equivalent sale, which made $276.9 million.
The star of the night was, unquestionably, Leonardo. After a relentless bidding war that lasted a full 19 minutes, the last known work by the Renaissance master in private hands sold for $450.3 million, more than four times its estimate of about $100 million. (Final prices include the auction house buyer’s premium; estimates do not.)
80 Years After Hitler’s ‘Degenerate Art’ Show, Two German Museums Confront Its Dark Legacy
The infamous exhibition marked the beginning of Third Reich’s mass censorship of Modernist art.
In 1937, Adolph Hitler initiated one of the most shameful acts of art censorship in modern history: the campaign to confiscate and purge so-called “degenerate art”—works deemed undesirable by the fascist regime—from Germany’s museums. That same year, to mark the beginning of Hitler’s attack on Modernist art, the Nazi party organized the infamous exhibition “Degenerate Art,” which showcased these stolen and unwanted works.
Between 1937 and 1939, about 21,000 objects were removed from German state collections during the purge. Masterpieces of Expressionism, Surrealism, Dada, Cubism, New Objectivity, and Fauvism were systematically taken from dozens of institutions around the country, and stolen from private collections to be burned or sold abroad.
While most of the stolen works may never be fully retrieved, a number of Germany’s museums are mounting dedicated exhibitions to acknowledge Hitler’s campaign and its devastating impact. In Berlin, a new Museum of 20th Century Art will feature a permanent exhibition dedicated to the purge. And to mark the 80th anniversary of the “Degenerate Art” exhibition, two notable German museums will this year mount special exhibitions to commemorate the history of the show and the Modernist treasures that were lost.
“Munich, Summer 1937” at the Haus der Kunst
Interestingly enough, in order for the German people to understand the difference between “degenerate” and “great” art, the Third Reich exhibited two shows that exemplified both artistic currents: the “Great German Art” exhibition at the Haus der Kunst in Munich on July 18, 1937, and the “Degenerate Art” exhibition at the Institute of Archaeology at the Hofgarten on July 19, 1937.
It is no surprise that the “Great German Art” exhibition displayed works that were Nazi-friendly: classical in style, and often idealized presentations of pastoral scenes. On the other hand, the “Degenerate Art” exhibition focused on works that were made by Jewish artists and were claimed to be offensive to women, soldiers, and farmers, and insulting toward religion.
The “Degenerate Art” exhibition presented 650 works confiscated from German museums.These works were publicly displayed to be ridiculed and later destroyed. Some of the artists that were included in this exhibition were Emile Nolde, Franz Marc, George Grosz, Paul Klee, Kurt Schwitters, and many other prominent German artists of the time.
Munich’s Haus der Kunst, which was specifically built to house the annual “Great German Art” exhibition, is now dedicated to dealing with this difficult past. Haus der Kunst does not keep a permanent collection, but in July, the institution opened an archival show titled “Munich, Summer 1937,” featuring items from the original “Degenerate Art Exhibition,” such as historical photos, films, documents, and information on the building’s history.
“Munich, Summer 1937” is on view at Haus der Kunst, Munich, July 8, 2017–April 2, 2018.
“The Sacrifice of Polyxena” by famed French artist Charles Le Brun, was only recently discovered hanging in the Coco Channel Suite of Paris’ Hotel Ritz.
PARIS—A previously unknown painting by celebrated 17th-century French artist Charles Le Brun recently discovered hanging in a grand suite of a Paris hotel will be auctioned by Christie’s in April.
The work, “The Sacrifice of Polyxena,” was discovered in Paris’ Hôtel Ritz in the Coco Channel Suite. The nature of the piece was recognized only recently by the Ritz’s art advisor, Joseph Friedman, and fellow consultant Wanda Tymowska. Leading French museums have since unanimously supported its attribution.
The Ritz archives have not revealed how the painting came to the hotel or when it was first installed, however some speculate the painting was already in the townhouse when César Ritz acquired it in 1898.
Charles Le Brun (1619-1690) is known as Louis XVI’s favored artist and is considered to be one of the most important painters in the history of French art. He was named Chancellor for Life of the Académie Royale and First Painter to the King and contributed to the creation of the royal palace of Versailles.
The painting, which is monogrammed by Le Brun and dated 1647, represents a turning point in Le Brun’s career. He had recently returned to Paris from a three-year sojourn in Rome, where he studied the paintings of Raphael and came under the influence of Nicolas Poussin (1594-1665), whose severe classicism marked a new chapter in European painting.
The “Sacrifice of Polyxena” displays the profound impact of Poussin’s art on Le Brun’s style, as it shows the artist’s fidelity in reproducing the antiquities of Imperial Rome. Details within the piece show bronze vase, tripod and marble sarcophagus that ornament the scene, and the incense casket, which is taken from a drawing made by Le Brun in Rome after an antique prototype.
The painting, valued at $400,000 to $675,000 (€300,000 to €500,000) will come to auction on April 15 at Christie’s Old Masters and 19th Century Art Auction in Paris.
12/2/2012 MILWAUKEE — “Red Nose” just meant a reindeer named Rudolph to Karen Mallet until she bought a print by that name for $12.34 at a Goodwill store in Milwaukee. It turned out to be a lithograph by American artist Alexander Calder worth $9,000.
Mallet’s good fortune is at least the fourth time in six months that valuable art has turned up at Goodwill, where bargain-hunters search for hidden treasure among the coffee cups, jewelry, lamps and other household cast-offs.
Last month a Salvador Dali sketch found at a Goodwill shop in Tacoma, WA, sold for $21,000. Last summer, a North Carolina woman pocketed more than $27,000 for a painting she bought for $9.99 at Goodwill. And last spring, a dusty jug donated in Buffalo, N.Y., was discovered to be a thousands-of-years-old American Indian artifact – it was returned to its tribe instead of being offered for sale.
When told of the Milwaukee woman’s find, a Goodwill spokeswoman said workers at its 2,700 stores try to spot valuables and auction them on the organization’s online auction site to net more money for the charitable group. But things slip through the cracks and the workers aren’t art experts.
“That’s kind of part of shopping at Goodwill – the thrill of the hunt,” said Cheryl Lightholder, communications manager for Goodwill in southeastern Wisconsin. “You never know what you’re going to find.”
Mallet, a media relations specialist for Georgetown University and others, didn’t even like “Red Nose” when she first spotted it during one of her frequent Goodwill shopping trips in May.
“The big find that day was this great set of steel knives, in a block, for $18.99” by Wolfgang Puck, she said.
But the graphic black-and-white picture was striking. In low-browed terms, it might be described as an abstract image of an ape with a hangover, with spiral swirls for eyes like the ones in cartoons when someone gets punched. A large red nose is the only color.
Then she saw the Calder signature.
“I thought, I don’t know if it’s real or not but it’s $12.99. I’ve wasted more on worse things,” she said. A discount for using her Goodwill loyalty card brought the price down to $12.34.
Once home, she searched the Internet and found similar lithographs by Calder, who died in 1976 and is widely known for his mobiles and abstract sculptures at airports, office towers and other public places. Mallet’s piece was No. 55 of 75 lithographs and was made in 1969.
Jacob Fine Art Inc., in suburban Chicago, recently set its replacement value at $9,000.
“This happens very frequently – you can’t imagine,” the company’s owner, Jane Jacob, said of treasures found at thrift stores. “They don’t know what they have. They’re just not set up to understand art history.”
Lauren Lawson-Zilai, a spokeswoman for Goodwill Industries International Inc. in Rockville, Md., gave these examples of art that Goodwill staff spotted and sold through the auction site:
_ In 2009, a painting by Utah artist Maynard Dixon donated in Santa Rosa, Calif., sold for $70,001.
_ In 2008, a Baltimore-area Goodwill store netted $40,600 from a Parisian street scene painted by Impressionist Edouard-Leon Cortes.
_ In 2006, a Frank Weston Benson oil painting donated anonymously in Portland, Ore., brought in $165,002 – Goodwill's top haul so far.