Late Lichtenstein Nude Estimated at $30m to Lead Christie’s Global 20th Century Sale

Lichtenstein, Nude with Joyous Painting. Image Courtesy Christie’s.

Last week, Christie’s announced a new date and format for the marquee modern and contemporary sales with a Global Sale of the 20th Century to take places across four sessions hosted in different international headquarters on July 10th, where Roy Lichtenstein’s large scale 1994 canvas Nude with Joyous Painting, carrying a value of $30 million will star in the New York session.

Hailing from an American collection, Nude with Joyous Painting is from Lichtenstein’s renowned nudes series completed at the end of this career. The artist’s depiction of female heroines throughout his practice originated with an early fixation on images of women from popular comic books and stills of distressed actresses. These women became the central figures around which Lichtenstein constructed romantic fantasies. In the work on offer, the image is a reproduction from Girls’ Romances, a romantic comic series published by DC Comics from 1960-70.

The work on offer at Christie’s represents signature elements from different periods of Lichtenstein’s career. “Nude with Joyous Painting is an iconic example of Lichtenstein’s series of Nudes,” says Ana Maria Celis, Head of Evening Sale, Post-War and Contemporary Art. “This tour-de-force of Pop Art marks his return to the comic book heroines that launched his career in the early 60s. In this work, the beautiful heroine is caught in dramatic moment of suspense in stark contrast to a jubilant interior scene”

The late career works are notable also for their absence of the leading male trope that centered in the artist’s earlier period,” Celis said. The 1990s nudes lack the quintessential longing for male presence but, in their cropping and closed-up format, replace it with a voyeuristic element.

The artist produced the Nudes series following a retrospective at the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum retrospective in 1993. In 1994, Nude with Joyous Painting was first showcased at Leo Castelli’s SoHo gallery alongside a group of seven paintings including Nude at Vanity, 1994, now in the permanent collection of San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (from the the Doris and Donald Fisher Collection), and Nude with Pyramid which is on view at The Broad, Los Angeles.

Lichtenstein’s work has been a mainstay of the art market. The highest price paid for a Lichtenstein was in a when Nurse sold for $95 million in Christie’s evening sale in 2015. That sale had been an anomaly in the Lichtenstein market until Agnes Gund sold her 1962 work, Masterpiece, two years later.  Steven Cohen paid $165m for Masterpiece in a private sale. The most active setting of auction prices for Lichtenstein’s work had come a few years earlier when 1964’s Oh … Alright sold in 2010 for $42.6m; I Can See the Whole Room from Here … and There’s Nobody In It, 1961, made $43.2m in 2011; and 1964’s Sleeping Girl made $44.8m in 2012. Woman with Flowered Hat from 1963, a work after an image by Picasso, pushed the top of the Lichtenstein market further to $56.1m a year later when jeweler Laurence Graff bought it.

In previous years at Christie’s, two pictures from the 1990s series brought records among the top ten most expensive works to sell at auction, with Seductive Girl from 1996 realizing $31.5 million in 2013, and the 1995 Nude with Red Shirt reaching $28 million in 2012.

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