Christie’s Unveils Ab-Ex Titans for October Sale, Led by $35 M. Twombly Bolsena

Cy Twombly, Untitled (Bolsena), 1969. Courtesy Christie’s.

Christie’s has unveiled another group of leading lots to highlight its modern and contemporary evening sale on October 6. Alongside works by Paul Cezanne, Salvador Dali and Jean-Michel Basquiat, three high caliber works by postwar American abstract expressionists Mark Rothko, Willem de Kooning and Cy Twombly will lead the sale. The pre-sale low estimate of the evening sale is $300 million.

Among the highest valued lots is Cy Twombly’s 1969 Untitled (Bolsena). Bolsena is expected to sell for a price between $35 million and $50 million. Bloomberg reported it comes from the collection of billionaire Ron Perelman, along with a deep-red untitled Rothko from 1967 estimated at $30-50 million, which Perelman purchased privately in 2002. It last sold at auction for $1.2 million in 1998. Amid plans to restructure his financial portfolio, Perelman is liquidating a large portion of his art holdings, another group of which will be sold at Sotheby’s via private sale.

Twombly made the present work from the “Bolsena” series while living in Italy at the Palazzo del Drago in the summer of 1969. He developed the suite of 14 large-scale works after completing his Orion paintings from 1968. The series marks Twombly’s move from away from his Blackboard paintings, recognized for their subdued minimal scheme. Twombly’s current record of $70.5 million was established at Sotheby’s New York in 2015 with the sale of a 1968 blackboard painting.

The present work has been to auction twice before. Perelman purchased Bolsena from Gagosian in 1992 after it came up for sale at Sotheby’s in May that year from London’s Saatchi Collection. Prior to that it sold at Sotheby’s London in 1974. The museum-quality work has been widely exhibited. Most recently it was included in Twombly’s 2008 retrospective that opened at the Tate Modern and traveled to the Guggenheim Museum Bilbao and the Galleria Nazionale d’Arte Moderna e Contemporanea in Rome. Four others from the Bolsena series reside in museum collections. One at the The Art Institute of Chicago was gifted by Stefan Edlis, another at the the National Gallery of Art was donated by Robert Mnuchin. Others are held at the Pinakothek der Moderne in Munich and The Broad in Los Angeles. The remaining 10 are in private hands.

In recent years, Twombly’s works have sold for high prices in evenings sales. In 2017, Christie’s sold his 1962 Leda and the Swan for $52.8 million. Another Bolsena work sold at Christie’s in 2015 for $42.7 million. It landed within its estimate of $35-55 million. In May 2013, another from the series sold at Sotheby’s for $13.6 million.

Alongside the Twombly and Rothko, a $20 million de Kooning from his “Women” series will be offered in the sale. The three works will come to auction without guarantees.

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