Five auctions to watch in June 2017

Kicking off the summer auction season is an art-filled month. Masterpieces of Impressionism and Modern Art – including stunning pieces of Miró and Kandinsky – dot the auctions taking place all month long. In between, there are smaller sales with no less intrigue or mystique, including art that once sailed on one of the greatest luxury cruise ships of all time, an emerald worn as a ring by the Rockefeller family and a piece of Disney animation history.

1. 5 June, Bonhams, New York

Auctions: TCM presents… an important animation art collection, the property of a gentleman
Highlight: A Gustaf Tenggren original concept painting from Pinocchio

Long before computer graphics, all animation was hand-drawn. In tribute to this, Bonhams and Turner Classic Movies (TCM) presents an extraordinary collection of Walt Disney animation drawings, storyboards, posters, concept art and celluloids. Lovingly collected over 25 years by a single man, the 290 lots cover over 60 years of Disney animation, from the early days of Steamboat Willie to the second Golden Age in the 1990s. Stills from Snow White and drawings from Bambi remain supremely charming, with the highest price expected to go to an original concept painting from Pinocchio (US$30-40,000/RM130-170,000). Painted by Gustaf Tenggren, hired as part of the wave of European artists to establish the early Disney style, the boy puppet is trapped in a birdcage with eerie shadows of other marionettes in the background.

TCM presents… an important animation art collection, the property of a gentleman

2. 8 June, Sotheby’s, New York

Auction: Important Design
Highlight: Jean-Théodore Dupas, eight panels from The Birth of Aphrodite mural from the S.S Normandie

It might seem like a mish-mash of items, but there is a common thread anchoring this sale. From shrub-festooned sculpture of a Dimetrodon by Claude Lalanne to the Religieuse floor lamp by Pierre Chareau to a Der Stijl chair by Gerrit Thomas Rietveld, these are all important and exceptional works from the last century, with a focus on Art Deco and contemporary design. Leading the sale is an extraordinary offering – eight panels from the Birth of Aphrodite mural by Jean-Théodore Dupas. Originally placed in the Grand Salon of the S.S Normandie, the grandest ocean liner of its time, the gleaming panels were the centrepiece of the Forbes Gallery in New York for three decades. And now they could be yours.

Important Design

3. 15 June, Christie’s, New York

Auction: The Ornithological Library of Gerald Dorros, MD
Highlight: John Gould, The Birds of Australia

Amid all the fuss about gems and modern art masterpieces this month is this charming, lower-key sale that focuses on feathered friends. Dedicated to the 18th century depictions of birds as the world was still being discovered, the highlight of the sale is English painter John Gould’s eight volume ‘The Birds of Australia’ collection. Produced during an 1838 trip to Australia, it depicts cockatoos, emus and birds of paradise – the first comprehensive tome on the subject. Of the 681 species catalogued in the book, 328 were new to science. Which makes this part of zoological history, with an estimate of US$250-350,000 (RM1.07-1.49 million). For those that aren’t partial to avians, other animals are represented as well, including Audobon’s survey of American mammals and Daniel Giraud Elliot’s lithographs of big cats.

The Ornithological Library of Gerald Dorros, MD

4. 20 June, Christie’s, New York

Auction: Magnificent Jewels and the Rockefeller Emerald
Highlight: The Rockefeller Emerald

A glittering constellation of jewels and jewellery are on offer at this auction. And one sparkles more than the rest, in shades of green. The Rockefeller Emerald (US$4-6 million/RM17.2-25.7 million) is a mesmerising 18.04 carat stone with impeccable clarity that was once owned by the mighty Rockefeller family. Set into a ring by brilliant American jeweller Raymond Carter Yard (with the Rockefellers as his patrons), the Rockefeller Emerald came from a brooch once owned by Abby Aldrich Rockefeller, which was disassembled upon her death and distributed to her children. It was one of Yard’s most important ever private commissions and still bears the grandeur of the Rockefeller name till today.

Magnificent Jewels and the Rockefeller Emerald

5. 21 June, Sotheby’s, London

Auction: Impressionist & Modern Art Evening Sale
Highlight: Joan Miró, Femme et oiseaux

When a lot is labelled as ‘estimate upon request’, it is a sign that the auction house is expecting a blockbuster sale. Two lots in this Sotheby’s sale of Impressionist and Modern Art bear this tag – Joan Miró’s Femme et oiseaux (1940, from the Constellation series) and Wassily Kandinsky’s stunning Bild mit weissen Linien. The former is a fantastic example of Miró’s brand of surrealism – the ‘sandbox for the subconscious mind’ – a childlike depiction of fantasy characters and monsters. The latter is a tour de force, a storm of colours and swirls that is less rigid or linear as Kandinsky’s other works. Other lots in this auction cover German Expressionism and Surrealism, with another Kandinsky – Murnau–Landschaft mit grünen Haus, this time with an estimate of £15-25 million/RM82.75-138 million) – drawing the eye with ravishing colours.

Impressionist & Modern Art Evening Sale

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Published June 3, 2017
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