Christie’s Post-War and Contemporary Art Auction –

Christie’s Post-War and Contemporary Art Auction –

Sale Information:
Sale 2048
post-war and contemporary art evening sale
12 November 2008
New York, Rockefeller Plaza

"Lake Resort Nurse" by Richard Prince

"Lake Resort Nurse" by Richard Prince

Lot Description:
Lot 10
Richard Prince (b. 1949)
Lake Resort Nurse
signed, titled and dated ‘Richard Prince 2003 LAKE RESORT NURSE’ (on the stretcher)
ink-jet print and acrylic on canvas
70 x 48 in. (177.8 x 121.9 cm.)
Painted in 2003.
Estimate: US$5,000,000 – $7,000,000

Although Prince’s “Nurse” series of paintings are the most iconic works by the artist they are not usually regarded as his most important work. The price of Prince’s “Nurse” works has sky rocketed over the past couple of years culminating in the sale of “Overseas Nurse” at Sotheby’s in July of this year for 4.2 million pounds (US$8.4 million) including buyers premium, a record for the artist. Works from the “Nurse” series began appearing at auction in 2005 with “Bachelor Nurse” which sold for US$484,000 including buyers premium. I fear that the extreme and rapid price increase of Prince’s work, especially his “Nurse” series, may be the result of what I like to call the “trophy syndrome” where artist’s work takes on the characteristics of a designer brand and is purchased with the intention of showing how much money they have to spend on designer items where the value is more in the brand than the object it’s self. Funnily enough in 2007 Prince worked with the designer Marc Jacobs to make handbags for Louis Vuitton which were unveiled at a fashion show where the bags were paraded by models dressed in outfits inspired by the “Nurse” paintings.

With the likelihood of more “Nurse” paintings appearing at auction at a lower price point in the near future I think that buyers will struggle to justify purchasing this work at all let alone for US$5,000,000 – $7,000,000.

Lot details here:

Lot Description:
Jean-Michel Basquiat (1960-1988)
Untitled (Boxer)
signed ‘Jean Michel Basquiat’ (on the reverse)
acrylic and oil paintstick on linen
76 x 94 in. (193 x 239 cm.)
Painted in 1982.

Having died in 1988 aged only 27, works by Jean-Michel Basquiat will always be scarce meaning the artist’s very best works such as the monumental “Untitled (Boxer)” will be even more highly coveted by investors and collectors. A highlight of Christie’s Post War and Contemporary Art auction taking place on the 12th and 13th of November, “Untitled (Boxer)” is one of the most important works by the artist ever to come to auction and was one of the featured works of the 2005 Basquiat retrospective which was organised by the Brooklyn Museum and toured around the USA. Basquiat is one of those tortured geniuses who have short but intense careers that result in a profound and intense body of work which, in the case of Basquiat, reflected the fast-paced, spontaneous, passionate yet self-destructive life that he led. Very much an art world hero, Basquiat is the sort of artist whose work appeals to a wide range of people for a variety of reasons which is evident in the the amount of attention that has been given to the sale of “Untitled (Boxer)”.

The desirability of “Untitled (Boxer)” is significantly increased by the following factors:

1. Artist died young leaving small body of work
2. Artist has a dramatic and controversial life story
3. Interesting provenance including ownership by a museum and a celebrity
4. One of the most important works of Basquiat’s oeuvre
5. Art historical significance

“Profit I” (1982), a work closely related to “Untitled (Boxer)”, was sold at Christie’s in 2002 for US$5 million (hammer price) which if multiplied by the average increase in price of Basquiat’s work according to would come to almost US$25 million. “Profit I” is, however, a significantly larger work (220×400 cm compared to 193 x 239 cm) and is considered to be Basquiat’s greatest masterpiece. The current auction record for a Basquiat is $14.6 million for “Untitled,” which sold at Sotheby’s last year. Estimated to fetch between US$12million and $16million, “Untitled (Boxer)” undoubtedly has the potential to be a record-breaker with value still beyond the upper estimate. The provenance, significance of the work as a part of the artist’s oeuvre and the importance of this work in an art historical context is more than enough to justify the purchase of this work at the upper end of the estimate (US$16,000,000) even in the current economic climate.

Lot details here:

**Nicholas Forrest is an art market analyst, art critic and journalist based in Sydney, Australia. He is the founder of, writes the art column for the magazine Antiques and Collectibles for Pleasure and Profit and contributes to many other publications.

One Response

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