This May, Christie’s New York will present 11 extraordinary works from the renowned collection of S.I. Newhouse, expected to fetch in excess of US$130m. The group will be led by the iconic Rabbit sculpture by Jeff Koons, which could beat the artist’s auction record of US$58.4m.
S.I. Newhouse (1927-2017) owned Condé Nast, the publisher of magazines such as The New Yorker, Vogue, Vanity Fair, Architectural Digest and many other leading publications. The late American media mogul was one of the most important art collectors of the 20th century and well into the 21st. Each of the selected works represents his renowned taste and instinct for quality and historical significance.
S.I. Newhouse’s residence, New York, 1969
S.I. Newhouse’s residence, New York, 1969
No work is more emblematic of Mr. Newhouse’s unerring eye for the revolutionary and the sublime than Jeff Koons’ 1986 sculpture, Rabbit. Standing at just over 3ft high, this stainless-steel sculpture is at once cute and imposing, melding a Minimalist sheen with a cartoonish sense of play.
The sculpture was cast in 1986 in an edition of three, plus an artist’s proof. In addition to this example, one is now in the Broad Foundation, Los Angeles, and the other has been promised to the Museum of Contemporary Art in Chicago by its owners. This example of Rabbit from the Newhouse collection has not been exhibited in public since the 1988 group show, Schlaf der Vernunft, or The Sleep of Reason, at the Museum Fredericianum in Kassel.
This example of Rabbit was last exhibited in public at the 1988 group show, Schlaf der Vernunft
Newhouse bought it in 1992 for US$1m, a whopping amount at the time. Rabbit, now estimated at US$50m-70m, could break Jeff Koons' auction record which is currently held by the US$58.4m Balloon Dog (Orange).
Paul Cézanne’s Bouilloire et fruits, 1888-1890, represents another milestone in modern art history. A sensual profusion of still-life objects positioned on a table according to relationships Cézanne detected among their shapes, colours, and textures.
Bouilloire et fruits is one of a type of still-life compositions in which there is only one stabilizing vertical element—the kettle—around which the various groupings of 1, 3, 4, and 5 fruits are set within valleys of “white” drapery. The painting will be offered at Christie’s Impressionist and Modern Art Evening Sale with an estimate of around US$40m.
Another masterpiece to be offered at the sale is Arbres dans le jardin de l’asile (estimated at US$25m), created by Vincent van Gogh in October 1889. The work depicts a garden path in the grounds of the asylum of Saint-Paul-de-Mausole where the artist had been a voluntary patient for over four months. He had already painted many notable canvases during his stay at the converted monastery in Saint-Rémy, including, on 18 June, The Starry Night, the iconic work that’s on display at The Museum of Modern Art in New York.
Van Gogh shipped Arbres dans le jardin de l’asile to his brother in Paris on 6 December. Two months later, he suffered another severe relapse, before leaving the asylum in May 1890 in order to be nearer to Theo. On 29 July, aged 37, a mentally exhausted Van Gogh fatally shot himself in the chest.
Another highlight from the collection is Andy Warhol’s Little Electric Chair (1964-1965), carrying an estimate of US$6m-8m. The electric chair first appeared as a subject in Warhol’s painting in 1963, the image taken from a black-and-white wire photograph of the notorious Sing Sing Correctional Facility in Ossining, New York.
In Little Electric Chair, the artist intensifies the contrast of the image to spectacular effect, highlighting the unoccupied chair while allowing dark shadows to pool in the corners of the empty room like gathering storm clouds. Poignant and provocative, Little Electric Chair is one of the most resonant in the artist’s entire oeuvre.
Selected highlights from the Collection of S.I. Newhouse
Paul Cézanne (1839-1906). Bouilloire et fruits
Lot no.: 18A
Painted in: 1888-1890
Size: 48.6 x 60 cm
- Baron Denys Cochin, Paris.
- Galerie Durand-Ruel et Cie., Paris (acquired from the above, 11 March 1902).
- Paul Cassirer, Berlin (acquired from the above, 5 February 1903).
- Hugo Cassirer, Berlin (acquired from the above).
- Lotte Cassirer-Fürstenberg, Berlin (by descent from the above by 1933; on deposit at the Gemeentemuseum, The Hague, from 1933 and until 1939; then on extended loan to the Municipal Art Gallery, Johannesburg, circa 1939-1952).
- Justin K. Thannhauser, New York (acquired from the above, 1952).
- Drs. Harry and Ruth Bakwin, New York (by 1955).
- Michael Bakwin, Stockbridge, Massachusetts (by descent from the above; stolen in May 1978 and recovered in 1999); sale, Sotheby's, London, 7 December 1999, lot 31.
- Acquired at the above sale by the present owner.
Estimate on request (in the region of US$40m)
Vincent van Gogh (1853-1890). Arbres dans le jardin de l'asile
Lot no.: 15A
Painted in: October 1889
- Theo van Gogh, Paris (acquired from the artist).
- Johanna van Gogh-Bonger, Paris (by descent from the above).
- Johannes Hendricus de Bois, The Hague (acquired from the above, March 1909).
- Fritz Meyer-Fierz, Zürich (probably acquired from the above, circa 1914).
- Robert Franz Meyer, Zürich (by descent from the above, by 1917).
- Galerien Thannhauser, Munich (acquired from the above, 10 July 1936).
- Wildenstein et Cie., Paris (acquired from the above, 11 July 1936).
- Mr. and Mrs. Anderson, London (acquired from the above).
- George Embiricos, Lausanne (by 1964).
- Gagosian Gallery, New York (acquired from the above).
- Acquired from the above by the present owner, 10 June 2004.
Estimate on request (US$25m)
Jeff Koons (b.1955). Rabbit
Lot no.: 15B
Executed in: 1986
Size: 104.1 x 48.3 x 30.5 cm
- Sonnabend Gallery, New York
- Private collection, New York
- Gagosian Gallery, New York
- Acquired from the above by the present owner, 1992
Andy Warhol (1928-1987). Little Electric Chair
Lot no.: 16B
Size: 55.9 x 71.1 cm
Painted in: 1964-1965
- Leo Castelli Gallery, New York
- Galerie Ileana Sonnabend, Paris
- Galleria Gian Enzo Sperone, Turin
- Remo Morone, Turin
- Anon. sale; Sotheby’s, London, 27 June 2001, lot 17
- Acquired at the above sale by the present owner
Auction house: Christie’s New York
Sale: Impressionist and Modern Art Evening Sale
Sale date: 13 May 2019
Sale: Post-War and Contemporary Art Evening Sale
Sale date: 15 May 2019