New York Artscape: Weekend Wrap-up

Umberto Boccioni (1882-1916): “Forme uniche della continuità nello spazio” (Unique Forms of Continuity in Space)

Here’s my wrap-up of several art events in New York City that I attended this past weekend: the International Art Festival in Tribeca; Yayoi Kusama’s exhibition at the launch of Mucciaccia Gallery in Chelsea; and finally, the Impressionist and Modern Art Evening Sale at Christie’s in Midtown.

Last Thursday evening (Nov. 7), I went to the opening of the International Art Festival, whichran the entire weekend in Tribeca. This young fair is organized by the indefatigable New York dynamo and impresario, Margo Grant.

“The International Art Festival is an opportunity to exhibit works by talented artists, both established and not established, who aren’t represented by local galleries,” said Ms Grant. “New York City is home to an estimated 56,000 professional artists, giving the city the largest population of artists worldwide; but only a small percentage have the chance to exhibit.”

Paintings by two artists grabbed my attention and are worthy of special mention. Take for example, Sasha Levin’s acrylic on canvas — “Day One: Let There Be Light.” (30×48 inches, 2019). 

Mr. Levin says that “the works of the great impressionist masters inspire me the most. I’m a visual person and I enjoy the challenge of painting the images that I have in my head. I also see my paintings as a running experiment of how close I can get to the best balance of shapes and colors.”

Mr Levin has been painting all his life, but his long career as a business executive consumed most of his time. Now he has the chance to focus on what he has always loved doing most — painting.

Sasha Levin, “Day One: Let There Be Light.” (30×48 inches, 2019)

My eye was easily captured by two sensual oil on canvas works by Ukrainian-born Marina Krutko. Her “Gradient” (40×40 inches, 2018) express her feelings about her new life under the southern Florida sun. Ms Krutko mixes classical portraiture techniques with a modern sexualised vision of women.

“Living in my ‘paradise’ I want to show a woman’s body and what I feel through colors in an abstract manner. My color palette symbolizes the versatility of the human soul and the changeability of one’s mood,” said Ms Krutko.

Marina Krutko, “Gradient” (40×40 inches, 2018)

Mucciaccia Gallery and Yayoi Kusama

On Friday night (Nov 8) I was invited to the launch of Mucciaccia Gallery in Chelsea, which featured a retrospective of artworks by Japanese legend, Yayoi Kusama. Mucciaccia already has galleries in Rome, Singapore and London.

On display are Kusama’s signature Infinity polka dot paintings, as well as her iconic sculpture pieces from the series “Hi, Konnichiwa (Hello)!” The artist once said: “In the universe there is the sun, the moon, the earth, and hundreds of millions of stars,” and she describes her life as one dot among thousands of others.

The selection of 28 paintings, sculptures and works on paper date from 1951 to 2008, and will be on display until Jan. 30, 2020.

Yayoi Kusama “Hi, Konnichiwa (Hello)!”

Christie’s auction of Impressionist and Modern Masters

Finally, on Monday (Nov 11) I attended the Impressionist and Modern Art Evening Sale at Christie’s where 52 of the 58 lots were sold, (a 90% success rate), earning a total of $191.9 million. Nearly 25% of that amount was accounted for by the sale of artworks from the James and Marilynn Alsdorf collection; it achieved a sale total of $42.6 million.

Mr Alsdorf was a Chicago business executive and philanthropist who died in 1990. His wife passed away this past August, which is why the collection, one of the finest in private hands in the midwestern capital, came to market just now. The heirs decided to sell the collection for reasons that are not known.

For more information about that Alsdorf collection, go to this link: 

https://www.christies.com/features/The-Collection-of-James-and-Marilynn-Alsdorf-10107-3.aspx

The top lot selling was a large painting by Belgian Surrealist artist René Magritte (1898-1967), “Le seize septembre”. The presale estimate was $7-10 million, but it sold for $19.57 million in a protracted 3-minute battle between bidders in the room and on the phones. (All final prices here include the seller’s commission).

The second most expensive art work, and the top surprise of the night, was a sculpture by Italian futurist Umberto Boccioni (1882-1916): “Forme uniche della continuità nello spazio” (Unique Forms of Continuity in Space). While the plaster cast of this statue was made just two years before the artist’s death, this statue at Christie’s was in fact cast in bronze only in 1972. (See photo at top of page).

With a presale estimate of $3.8-4.5 million, the Boccioni sold for $16.16 million in another 3-minute bidding battle, setting a world auction price for Boccioni.

Why would anyone pay so much for a Boccioni? I don’t know his art well, but Max Carter, head of Impressionist and Modern Art at Christie’s New York, had this to say: 

“Boccioni’s brainwave was to break down blocks of movement and convert them into curves that extended past the shape of a human body, before reassembling them as a forward-marching figure. As the artist himself stated, Unique Forms of Continuity in Space  was a ‘synthetic continuity’ of motion; an abstract image of man striding boldly and continuously towards a brave new world, in every direction at once.”

Other important Christie’s highlights: four Picassos finished in the evening’s top 10, led by the delightful 1949 painting, “Femme dans un fauteuil (Françoise)”, which had a presale estimate of $12-18 million, but that sold for $13.32 million

Another big surprise was Camille Pissarro’s 1892 masterpiece, “Jardin et poulailler chez Octave Mirbeau, Les Damps,” which sold for $10.26 million on a presale estimate of $4-6 million.

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