Thursday, May 6, 2010

"Going Once, Going Twice....."

One of the more brilliant things about living in New York is that it is one of the art centers of the world. Now I love Australian artists such as John Olsen, Donald Friend and Brett Whiteley, but there is something incredibly exciting about standing an inch away from a Jasper Johns or a Rothko or Warhol. And it's even more awesome to attend an art auction and witness first hand, the eye popping prices that people are willing to pay for such works.

The Spring Auctions got off to a thrilling start here this week. I went to Christie's auction on Tuesday night. It's a brilliant case study into the "Haves" and "Have Nots". The "Haves" are those who request a bidding paddle in advance of the auction. They get to sit in the main auction room with their millions (or billions in the case of here) and discretely raise their paddle as many times as their bank account allows it. They tend to have Russian, French, English and very New York accents. The "Have Nots" (that's where I fit in) reserve a seat in the "other room" at Christie's and we can watch what's going on in the bidding room across the landing, via large plasma screens. We tend to have Australian, cockney and New Jersey accents. But we also get to drink champagne and nibble on canapes as the proceedings progress - I guess that's like the panacea for the unwashed masses.

In saying that, the "Have Nots" can be a very distinguished looking crowd and it's great fun to watch my fellow screen viewers as we all clap politely when a high price is reached and stifle yawns when a particular sale is lagging. There were even muffled yelps of wonder on Tuesday when records were broken along the way.

So Tuesday was all about Impressionist/Modern art, with particular emphasis on the collection of Mrs Sidney F. Brody. Mrs Brody was an LA philanthropist with one of the most incredible art collections imaginable. She and her husband lived in the super modern, streamlined kind of house that LA is famous for, and which they commissioned in 1949. One of their first art acquisitions was a huge Matisse ceramic mural for their very chic patio. Legend has it Frances Brody rejected Matisse's initial idea and actually persuaded him to redesign alternatives until she was happy! This has now been donated to LACMA, the house is for sale and the art was packed up and sent to New York to disperse.


The best part about these sales are the viewings beforehand. Anybody can walk into Christie's off the street and see pieces of work that only get to be seen in public when they are up for sale. It is like visiting a priceless pop up store; get in now or forever hold your peace. Here are some of the key works from the collection that I drooled over this week and their final sale prices (before taxes etc):

Picassso: Nu au plateau de sculpteur : $95m

Matisse: Nu au coussin bleu: $13.4m

Renoir: Femme Accoudee: $1.2m

Braque: La Treille: $9m

Giacometti: Grand Tete Mince: $47.5

Stay tuned next week at Christie's for the Post War/Contemporary Art sale, with works form the Michael Crichton collection, he of airport thrillers fame. Who would have thought he'd own Jasper Johns' flag!

Images: new York mag, LA curbed, new york times, artadox, artinfo, christie's

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