Christie’s Private Sale Explores the Human Figure in Contemporary Art

Priyanka Patil
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“Framing the Figure” by Christie’s is an attempt to commemorate contemporary arts and boost its private sales platform. The sale highlights the prominence of human figures in contemporary work. The online sale will be live until 12th March, with auction lots on view at Christie’s headquarters in New York.

Image source: Christie’s
Image source: Christie’s

Christie’s private sale will showcase 35 artworks from contemporary masters to 20th-century icons, including Willem de Kooning, Kehinde Wiley, Alex Katz, Pablo Picasso, and Salman Toor. The lots carry estimates from USD85,000 to $7 million.

Christie’s private sales channel aims towards buying and selling artworks apart from their regular auctions. To source collectibles and find the right buyers, the auction house makes use of its global network.

The upcoming sale is Christie’s third private auction since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic. It aims to offer continuous momentum to Christie’s private sales held in 2020.

Revue Girl by (1963) by Wayne Thiebaud
Image Source: Christie’s
Revue Girl by (1963) by Wayne Thiebaud
Image Source: Christie’s

One highlight from “Framing the Figure” is the 1937 painting Moving Day by the African American artist Jacob Lawrence. Lawrence made this painting at the young age of 20. The artwork last appeared for sale in the 1950s. It was a part of the private collection of Leah Salisbury- a NY literary agent and wife of famous publisher Philip Salisbury. 

The auction will also offer Revue Girl (1963) by Wayne Thiebaud depicting a full-length image of a girl in costume. It has been a part of Claudia Stone’s collection since 2012. Lucien Freud’s Man and Town (1940–1941) is another piece available here from a private collection.

Le Rappel (1968–71) by Marc Chagall
Image source: Christie’s
Le Rappel (1968–71) by Marc Chagall
Image source: Christie’s

The online saleroom also showcases high-valued artworks that have recently emerged in auctions. Tête de femme (1940) by Pablo Picasso was acquired just in Christie’s May 2015 sale for $3.7 million. The portrait of Dora Maar was earlier a part of the Museum of Modern Art’s collection. It was also acquired by German collectors Marianne and Victor Langen. Marc Chagall’s Le Rappel (1968–71), the dreamy artwork of a circus scene, had garnered the price of $4.4 million at an auction in November 2013.

Rooftop Party With Ghosts 2 (2015) by Salman Toor
Image source: Christie’s
Rooftop Party With Ghosts 2 (2015) by Salman Toor
Image source: Christie’s

Apart from these famous names, the sale will also feature new practitioners like Salman Toor and Jonathan Lyndon Chase, whose artworks now garner high demand in the art market. Salman Toor’s Rooftop Party With Ghosts 2 (2015), for example, was sold at the Christie’s December 2020 auction for $822,000 with a $100,000 estimate.

Featuring loaned artworks is another prominent strategy by Christie’s to boost their private sales. According to Christie’s global head of private sales Adrien Meyer, the strategy to incorporate loaned works to auctions can gauge customer’s interest in hand-picked artists. Meyer said, “We want to diversify the private sales menu.”

Private auctions have become advantageous as galleries shut down due to the pandemic. Christie’s 2020 financial report suggested that the auction house made $1.5 billion alone in private sales despite facing an overall decline in sales of 25%. The 2020 private sales surpassed the auction house’s 2019 revenue by 84%. “The new environment created by the pandemic has favored private sales. Buyers were still out there, keen to transact, and they didn’t have many alternatives,” said Adrien Meyer.

Want to learn more about how auction houses fared in 2020? Auction Daily wrote about the preliminary auction house results from the previous year. 

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James Ardis
James Ardis
Senior Writer and Editor

James Ardis is a writer, editor, and content strategist focused on the auction industry. His company, James Ardis Writing, has partnered with auction houses, galleries, and many clients outside the art world.

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