Eye on Auctions

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By Caroline Birenbaum

Many incredible works of art are on view at New York auction houses in the next few weeks as the spring season shifts into high gear. The traditional contest between the two mega-houses begins with auctions of Impressionist and Modern Art, where works from important private collections are the name of the game. Check the websites for preview schedules, e-catalogues, videos and blogs, as well as soon-to-be-posted information about late May sales of American and Latin American art.

Sotheby's (sothebys.com)

The May 7 and 8 auction of Impressionist and Modern Art features highlights from the collection of the late Elisabeth and Alex Lewyt, (think vacuum cleaner), with proceeds to benefit a foundation for animal welfare. Their notable paintings include a Cezanne Still Life and Modigliani's provocative "Amazon"; among their superb works on paper is a treasure-trove of illustrated artist's letters. The academic 19th Century European Art to be sold on May 9 can't compete for my attention with the exciting selection of Contemporary Art in the May 14 and 15 auction that contains wonderful works by Pollock, Still, Newman, Bacon, Serra and numerous others; many pieces have been donated to benefit the Whitney Museum of the Future, the Rauschenberg Foundation, and a number of other philanthropic endeavors. An important carved wood Eket Ogbom headdress from Nigeria is featured in the May 16 sale of African, Oceanic and Pre-Columbian Art. One of the big surprises of the spring season is the range and quality of collections amassed over many years by the late performer Andy Williams, whose Navajo blankets comprise a single-owner sale on May 21. On May 22, a large inaugural sale of Arts of the American West consists of American Indian art and Western paintings, with many fine examples of Native American pottery and basketry and Northwest Coast artifacts.

Christie's (christies.com)

A video on the website provides an excellent introduction to some of the works of Impressionist and Modern Art in the May 8 and 9 sale. Among highlights are Soutine's "occupational" painting, "Le Petit Patissier," Derain's 1905 portrait of Amélie Matisse wearing the blue and white kimono in which she frequently posed for her husband and artist-friends, a Picasso still life and an Arp sculpture from the estate of psychologist and philanthropist Mona Ackerman. The evening auction of Post-War and Contemporary Art on May 15 features highlights from the collections of Andy Williams and Celeste and Armand Bartos, and other marvelous pieces presented in a must-have catalogue containing lengthy illustrated essays on the wide-ranging art-historical influences and interrelationships inherent in many of the works. The same spirit continues in the daytime sessions on May 16, which include 24 works from the collection of Chicago contemporary art dealer Donald Young, 14 works being sold to benefit Human Rights Watch, and pieces being sold to benefit the Brooklyn Museum and the Bard College Center for Curatorial Studies. This auction preview deserves several visits.

Bonhams (bonhams.com)

Garry Winogrand's 1959 shot of a couple and their pet monkey in a convertible on Park Avenue, NY is a highlight of the May 7 Photographs sale; an Emil Nolde watercolor of peonies and black-eyed Susans is among the stars of the Impressionist and Modern Art auction later that day. The European Paintings to be sold on May 8 are represented by a charming oil sketch by J-B-C. Corot of his friend Constant Dutilleux painting outdoors in Douais, 1854. An attractive selection of Contemporary Art on May 14 leads with Mel Ramos's large 1962 painting of D.C. Comics supervillain, "The Trickster." A large sale of African, Oceanic and Pre-Columbian Art to be sold May 15 offers wonderful pieces from many cultures, including a rare wooden standing female figure from Angola.

Swann (swanngalleries.com)

A strong selection of Art, Press and Illustrated Books on May 9 features works on graphic design from the inventory of the late New York specialist bookdealer Irving Oaklander (see printmag.com/imprint/farewell-irving-oaklander-bookseller.) The annual sale of Modernist Posters on May 13 continues the theme, with masterpieces of typography, well-known and less familiar examples by famed poster artists, highlights from the personal collection of designer F. H. K. Henrion, and even a section of psychedelia. In addition to top-notch prints and editioned sculptures, the May 16 auction of Contemporary Art offers unique works on paper, such as Sam Francis's untitled gouache and ink composition of 1981 from the "Ten Puffs" series, and a late 1960s oil painting of a horse by M. F. Husain.

Phillips (phillips.com)

Up-to-the-minute Contemporary Art is the focus in the May 16 and 17 auction. The sale of Latin American Art on May 23 features works from the second half of the 20th century.

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