Each fall, highly collectible artworks go up for sale at New York’s elite auction houses. Collectors bid millions on coveted pieces, such as the $90 million that was spent in November 2018 on a David Hockney. Next month, however, among this season’s investment-grade collectibles, are three pieces that have people talking for all the wrong reasons.
New Yorker Keith Haring, one of the most beloved artists of the 1980’s, gained fame for splashing his iconic characters (the barking dog, the radiant baby) in public spaces across Manhattan. One was Grace House, a Catholic youth center on the Upper West Side, where Haring created a stairwell mural for free, aiming to bring inspiration to kids.
Now, with the building ready to be sold, Ascension Church, which owns Grace House, had the Haring-augmented walls carefully removed. Currently in 15 sections, the art will be auctioned off by Bonhams New York, on Nov. 13, with an estimate of $3- to $5-million for the single lot.
And not everyone is happy about it.
“It’s a little disappointing,” Gil Vazquez, acting director and president of the Haring Foundation, told The Post. “[The work] was not meant to be collected. It was meant to be something that the children in the building enjoyed.” He had hoped the five-story, circa-1910 edifice would be sold with the walls remaining intact.
But “[Haring] would welcome the work not being destroyed,” argued Lisa De Simone, a senior specialist of postwar and contemporary art for Bonhams, to whom Ascension referred The Post’s interview request. De Simone added that it would be best if the art went to “a place where it is viewed [by the public].”
But, she added, “if [a collector] buys it, what can we say but congratulations?”
A ‘fake’ Da Vinci?
It’s the rarest of occasions when a work by the Renaissance master Leonardo da Vinci hits the auction block, and the event is guaranteed to set the art world abuzz.
But the recent announcement that a bronze sculpture, headlined by Guernsey’s auction house as “Leonardo da Vinci/Horse and Rider,” will be put up for sale has caused some connoisseurs to scratch their heads in confusion.
Guernsey’s will auction the work on Nov. 3, at The Pierre hotel, with a $30 million estimate.
But the fact remains that da Vinci did not create the bronze sculpture. It was made using a mold derived from a wax model that was authenticated as a da Vinci by late scholar Carlo Pedretti.
“The bronze makes permanent the wax that will inevitably disintegrate to nothing. One may say, ‘Why make the bronze?’ ” said Arlan Ettinger, the founder of Guernsey’s. ”But if it is the only thing that survives Leonardo, who wouldn’t make it?”
However, one blue-chip New York dealer, who asked to remain anonymous, remains unconvinced of even the wax model’s provenance: “There is no basis to anything that has to do with Leonardo.”
Francesco Caglioti, an expert on medieval sculpture, agrees. “I can’t imagine it was done before the late 19th century,” he told Bloomberg Businessweek of the rendering.
“The top person [Pedretti] looked at the wax sculpture and gave it his blessing,” Ettinger said of the authenticity dispute.
As for the seemingly ambitious $30 million Guernsey’s hopes the bronze statue will attract, Ettinger said, “Will it bring that? God only knows.”
Hated by the artist
When the Francis Bacon painting “Pope” hits the auction block at Sotheby’s on Nov. 14, it is estimated to fetch $6 million.
But the late painter didn’t even want the 1958 work to be seen. According to text furnished by The Estate of Francis Bacon, the artist, whose similarly sized work has gone for as much as $82 million, gave “Pope” to his pal Nicholas Brusilowski under the notion Brusilowksi would paint on the opposite side of the canvas. Instead, he kept it as is.
It made its way to collector Olga H. Knoepke, who gifted “Pope” to the Brooklyn Museum in 1981. The next year, Bacon wrote to the museum and called the painting “a throw-out . . . I would prefer if it were not exhibited.”
But Grégoire Billault, the NYC head of Sotheby’s Contemporary Art department, insists it’s OK to go against Bacon’s presumed wishes. “This is an amazing discovery. It has not been much exhibited by the Brooklyn Museum. A lot of artists do not like their early period . . . But it does not work that way.”