Da Vinci, Ferrari star attractions at auction

This article first appeared in The Edge Financial Daily, on November 14, 2017.

Michael Schumacher’s red Ferrari.

by Peter Doig.

Da Vinci’s Christ as Salvator Mundi.

Van Gogh’s 1889 landscape, Laboureur dans un champ.

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Call it the art market’s Disneyland.

With a rediscovered Leonardo Da Vinci and racing driver Michael Schumacher’s red Ferrari, this week’s art auctions in New York are shaping up to be a spectacle.

Traditionally, the sales at Christie’s, Sotheby’s and Phillips each May and November focus on impressionist, modern, post-war and contemporary works. In recent years, as new buyers from Asia and other emerging economies poured into the market, the auction houses have expanded those boundaries.

This week, they’re going even further. Christie’s is offering Da Vinci’s 500-year-old Christ as Salvator Mundi in its evening sale of post-war and contemporary art, while Sotheby’s will debut the Grand Prix winning Ferrari amid paintings by Francis Bacon and Andy Warhol. Not everyone is thrilled.

“There used to be some sophistication and elegance as to how these sales were assembled,” said Todd Levin, who runs his own art advisory firm. “Now it’s just whatever is expensive, let’s sell it.”

With auctions that began yesterday, works with a total estimated value of US$1.6 billion (RM6.7 billion), about 45% more than last year’s sales, will be offered.


Here are the highlights:

The Da Vinci is being sold by Russian billionaire Dmitry Rybolovlev’s family trust. He purchased it for US$127.5 million in 2013 and it’s been at the heart of an international legal battle. The work, which belonged to King Charles I, disappeared around 1900. Then in 2005 it was purchased at an estate sale and, after six years of research and restoration, attributed to Da Vinci, the first such rediscovery in more than 100 years.

It’s estimated to sell for US$100 million. Christie’s will auction it tomorrow and the work already has an irrevocable bid by an anonymous investor, which means it’s sure to sell.

Another Da Vinci, The Last Supper, was the inspiration for Warhol’s 32 ft (9.75m)-wide canvas depicting the famous scene 60 times as a massive black and white grid. The 1986 work is estimated at US$50 million for the Christie’s sale tomorrow.

Vincent Van Gogh’s 1889 landscape, Laboureur dans un champ, would be starred in Christie’s impressionist and modern art auction yesterday. Estimated at about US$50 million, it’s part of a collection assembled by Texas billionaires Nancy Lee Bass and Perry Bass.

Francis Bacon’s Three Studies of George Dyer appears in public for the first time in 50 years. Estimated at US$35 million to US$45 million, the 1966 triptych carries the highest estimate of Sotheby’s auction week. It’s being offered on Thursday.

Peter Doig’s Red House will lead sales at Phillips on Thursday, just six months after the auction house achieved a US$28.8 million record for the Scottish-born artist. This work is estimated at US$18 million to US$22 million.

Schumacher’s Ferrari will mark the first time a collector car will be offered at a Sotheby’s art auction. Estimated at US$4 million to US$5.5 million, the Ferrari F2001, Chassis No 211, was driven by the racing legend to win the Grand Prix de Monaco. The sale is on Thursday.

Georgia O’Keeffe’s Yellow Sweet Peas is among a group of paintings being sold by billionaire Microsoft Corp co-founder Paul Allen. It’s estimated at US$2.5 million to US$3.5 million and will be offered today at Sotheby’s. — Bloomberg