Sotheby’s has revealed two of the major lots of the fall auction season in New York: an “extremely rare” Willem de Kooning painting offered by art dealer Robert Mnuchin, father of US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, on behalf of an undisclosed seller; and Claude Monet’s Charing Cross Bridge, which will lead the house’s Impressionist and Modern art evening sale.
The abstract de Kooning work, titled Untitled XXII, is estimated to sell for between $25 million and $35 million. Although that range lags behind the current de Kooning record, $66.3 million set three years ago for a painting from 1977, it would place the work among the artist’s top-five auction records, according to the artnet Price Database. There is a guarantee on the work, as well as an irrevocable bid from a third party, ensuring that the painting will sell.
In recent years, de Kooning collectors such as Ken Griffin—who paid $300 million for Interchange in 2016—and Steve Cohen have opted to conduct their major transactions privately, suppressing the artist’s auction track record.
The de Kooning painting up for sale next month was purchased by the current owner in 2004 from New York’s Mitchell-Innes and Nash gallery. It was one of roughly 100 de Kooning paintings that the gallery priced between $500,000 and $3 million, while representing the artist’s estate for a few years after his death, in 1997.
Untitled XXII “was one of the best from that period,” gallery co-owner David Nash told Bloomberg. “Now, 15 years later, they are extremely rare. They’ve been dispersed to private collections and museums.”
The Monet estimate is also well below the artist’s auction record, which has shot up in recent years. After holding steady at $80.3 million from 2008 to 2016, a new top price for the Impressionist has been achieved three times in the past three years. A haystack canvas, Meule, sold for $81.4 million at Christie’s New York in November 2016 and Nymphéas en fleur went for $84.7 million at the Peggy and David Rockefeller auction at Christie’s New York in May 2018 before a different haystack painting, Meules, sold for $110.7 million at Sotheby’s New York this May.
But the Charing Cross Bridge remains one of Monet’s most revisited subjects, with 37 paintings in the series completed between 1899 and 1905. Examples belong to institutions including the Art Institute of Chicago, the Thyssen-Bornemisza Museum in Madrid, the Baltimore Museum of Art, and the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston.
The painting was purchased by Andrea Klepetar-Fallek and her fourth husband, Fred Fallek, in 1977 through Basel’s Galerie Beyeler. Charing Cross Bridge was among the gems of their collection, hanging over the living room couch. Fallek died in 1983; Klepetar-Fallek died this past May.
Born Andrea Samek in 1920, Klepetar-Fallek was a survivor of the Holocaust who fled her native Vienna and escaped an Italian concentration camp.
She moved to Israel in 1948 before settling in Argentina. After the death of her third husband, Juan Klepetar, and the rise of the Peronist government, Klepetar-Fallek moved to New York in 1972. There, she met Fallek, a fellow Holocaust survivor who had lost his art collection to his ex-wife in their divorce. The two then established a tradition of giving each other works of art for each birthday and anniversary.
The upcoming sale also includes other works from Klepetar-Fallek’s collection, such as Pierre Bonnard’s Femme se déshabillant, estimated at $1.5 million to $2.5 million; Lyonel Feininger’s Hästende Leute (Hurried People), estimated at $100,000 to $150,000; and Emile Nolde’s Rote Dahlien (Red Dahlias), estimated at $60,000 to $80,000.
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