April 27, 2006

Picasso, van Gogh head New York spring art sales

By Christopher Michaud

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Paintings by Picasso and van Gogh,
whose works have set world price records, lead the annual
spring art sales at New York auction houses Sotheby's and
Christie's starting next Tuesday.

The highlight of Sotheby's Impressionist and modern-art
sale -- expected to generate overall sales of $142 million to
$197.7 million -- is Picasso's "Dora Maar with Cat," a vibrant
1941 oil depicting the artist's mistress and muse seated in a
chair with a small cat perched on the back.

At Christie's, van Gogh's 1890 portrait of a French cafe
owner in Arles, "L'Arlesienne, Madame Ginoux," an homage to van
Gogh's troubled friend and fellow artist Paul Gauguin, could
well soar beyond its $50 million presale estimate. That is the
same estimate attached to the Picasso.

The total presale estimate for the Christie's auction is
$144 million to $197 million.

Two years ago Picasso's "Boy with a Pipe" sold for
$104,168,000, smashing the auction record for a single work of
$82.5 million that had stood since the 1990 sale of van Gogh's
"Portrait of Dr. Gachet."

But while the top lots of the semiannual sales fall in the
Impressionist and modern arenas, art-world eyes will be trained
on the increasingly hot contemporary art market.

Last fall Sotheby's broke the record for any postwar work
at auction when it sold David Smith's sculpture "Cubi XXVIII"
for $23.8 million, beating a mark set only a day earlier at
Christie's that had broken a 16-year-old record.

"We're seeing ever-increasing strength from season to
season," said Marc Porter, president of Christie's Americas. He
said the pool of buyers was growing.

David Norman, Sotheby's co-chair of Impressionist and
modern art, agreed. "There's so much discretionary money out
there, and also a high percentage of new buyers," he said.


Porter said he had seen "absolutely no movement away from
collectors' willingness to pay significant prices for important

This time around Christie's, which last fall took in $157
million at the biggest ever sale of postwar and contemporary
art, expects sales of $113 million to $160 million in the

The Christie's sale features a group of Donald Judd works
being sold by the late sculptor's foundation which together are
expected to fetch more than $20 million.

Other top paintings include one of Andy Warhol's iconic
soup cans from 1962, "Small Torn Campbell Soup Can (Pepper
Pot)," estimated at $10 million to $15 million, an untitled
1961 Willem de Kooning work and Francis Bacon's 1956 "Man
Carrying a Child," each estimated at $8 million to $12 million.

Leading the way at Sotheby's is Roy Lichtenstein's "Sinking
Sun" painting expected to sell for about $20 million at a
postwar and contemporary art sale pegged to bring in $91
million to $124 million in total. The late pop artist's works
have set records in recent years, the current high being $16.3,

Also on offer are a monumental outdoor sculpture by
Alexander Calder entitled "Flying Dragon" ($6 million to $8
million estimate) and de Kooning's "Untitled XVI," a 1978
abstract painting ($6.5 million to $8.5 million).

Other Impressionist and modern highlights at Sotheby's are
Matisse's "Reclining Nude" from 1927 ($12 million to $15
million), and "Harlequin with a Baton," a late Picasso expected
to fetch $8 million to $10 million.

Christie's has yet another pair of Picasso portraits, one
of his wife Olga Khokhlova from 1932 entitled "The Rest" ($15
million to $20 million estimate), as well as his Blue Period
work "Portrait of Germaine," which is expected to sell for $12
million to $18 million.