The New York Auction May Giga-Week 2018 - What to Expect?

May 8, 2018

We're pleased to say that it's that time of the year again.

New York City is preparing to enter the frenzied art selling state of its May auctions week and, as usual, nothing short of record-breaking, earth-shattering bids will satisfy the hungry masses. Big-ticket pieces from major collections will be available to bidders willing to take sizable bites out of their bank accounts, while the rest of us mere mortals will have to be limited to keeping tabs on which artwork was sold for how much.

This upcoming New York auction week will take place between the 14th and the 18th of May.

Naturally, all eyes are on Christie’s and Sotheby’s, two powerhouses that prepared hundreds of Impressionist, Modern and Contemporary artworks about to be auctioned off this month. Just like the case was during the last auction giga-week that happened in November, the political and economic backdrop of the international art scene is in an exceptional state, so chances are we're about to witness a real spectacle in terms of art purchases.

As it is the tradition by now, WideWalls is here to highlight the artworks and auctions worth keeping an eye on. Hopefully, this article will help you make sense of what will probably be the art world's most turbulent week of 2018 - at least until November comes knocking on our doors.

Christie’s Impressionist and Modern Art Sales

To no one's surprise, Christie’s selection of Impressionist and modern artworks is yet again going to shake the art world to its core. This year, there are three different Christie's Impressionist and modern art auctions worth keeping an eye on.

Scheduled to take place on the 15th of May, the Impressionist and Modern Art Evening Sale will probably be the week's highlight in terms of Christie's auctions. The audience of art collectors will have a shot at acquiring works like Joan Miró's Femme entendant de la musique (estimated to be worth between USD 10,000,000 - USD 15,000,000), Fernand Léger's Le grand déjeuner (USD 15,000,000 - USD 25,000,000), Pablo Picasso's Femme au chat assise dans un fauteuil (USD 22,000,000 - USD 28,000,000) and Vincent Van Gogh's Vue de l’asile et de la Chapelle Saint-Paul de Mausole (Saint-Rémy) (USD 35,000,000 - USD 55,000,000).

The second Christie's auction worth keeping in mind will take place on the 16th of May. Impressionist and Modern Art Works on Paper Sale will, as the event's name perfectly illustrates, artworks drawn on paper. A lot more affordable that canvas pieces, bidders will have a shot of acquiring artworks like René Magritte's L'amour de la nature (USD 1,000,000 - USD 1,500,000) or Marc Chagall's Nu allongé (USD 300,000 - USD 500,000).

Impressionist and Modern Art Day Sale will also transpire on the 16th of May. While big buyers with deep pockets may be more interested in what happens during the Evening Sale, those with more limited budgets will be more drawn towards the Impressionist and Modern Art Day Sale's selection of artworks. This event will feature works like Raoul Dufy's La plage du Havre (USD 700,000 - USD 900,000), Claude Monet's Mauves (USD 600,000 - USD 800,000) and Paul Klee's Versprengter Reiter (USD 500,000 - USD 700,000).

Joan Miró - Femme entendant de la musique, 2018 collection
Joan Miró - Femme entendant de la musique, 1945. Oil on canvas, 51 x 63 5/8 in. (129.5 x 161.6 cm.), via Christie's

Christie’s Post-War and Contemporary Art Auctions

From Warhol’s iconic image of America’s most famous rock-and-roll singer Double Elvis to Picasso’s revealing wartime self-portrait Le Marin, the works offered in Christie’s Post-war and Contemporary art auctions are by some of the greatest icons in recent art history.

There will be three different Christie’s auctions offering post-war and contemporary artworks.

Post-War and Contemporary Art Evening Sale, scheduled to occur on the 17th of May, will present and offer up a lot of works, many of which with no pre-estimated prices. This does not mean that these pieces will not attract a plethora of buyers - aforementioned Andy Warhol's Double Elvis, Jeff Koons' Play-Doh, and Pablo Picasso’s Le Marin are both expected to go for sizable amounts of money. Among the known estimates, there are two pieces by Joan Mitchell, going between $5 million and $9 million.

Post-War and Contemporary Art Morning and Afternoon sessions, both scheduled to take place on the 18th of May, will be offering less valuable works of art than the Evening Sale, but are nonetheless worthy of your attention. In the Morning, abstract masters Robert Motherwell and Kenneth Noland are both going for somewhere between $800,000 and $1.2 million for instance, while the Afternoon will offer  works by Anish Kapoor, Cecily Brown and Jean-Michel Basquiat, among others.

Jeff Koons - Play-Doh, 1994-2018
Jeff Koons - Play-Doh, 1994-2014. Polychromed aluminum, 124 x 152 1/4 x 137 in. (315 x 386.7 x 348 cm.), via Christie's

Sotheby’s Impressionist and Modern Art Sales

As it was expected, Sotheby’s will present buyers an array of paintings, works on paper and sculptures by leading artists of the late nineteenth and early twentieth century. The two auctions should be on your radar this May if you are interested in modern artworks - Impressionist & Modern Art Evening Sale and Impressionist and Modern Art Day Sale.

Planned to transpire on the 14th of May, the Impressionist & Modern Art Evening Sale will be a chance to buy Amedeo Modigliani’s stunning Nu couché, a piece estimated to be worth in excess of $150 million. This is the highest estimate ever placed on a work of art at auction[1]. Other notable artworks expected to make a "splash" are Alberto Giacometti's Le Chat (USD 20,000,000 - USD 30,000,000), Pablo Picasso's Le Repos (USD 25,000,000 - USD 35,000,000) and Claude Monet's Matinée sur la Seine (USD 18,000,000 - USD 25,000,000).

On the other hand, Sotheby’s Impressionist & Modern Art Day Sale on May 15th promises a compelling selection of oils, sculptures and works on paper, all with outstanding provenance. Pieces expected to lead the way are Pablo Picasso's Tete de femme (USD 2,000,000 - USD 3,000,000), Max Ernst's Les asperges de la lune (USD 1,200,000 - USD 1,800,000) and Marc Chagall's Les Amoureux aux trois bouquets (USD 1,000,000 - USD 1,500,000).

Amedeo Modigliani - Nu couché, 20th century collection in 2018
Amedeo Modigliani - Nu couché, 1917. Oil on canvas, 35 1/4 x 57 3/4 in. (89.5 x 146.7 cm), via Sotheby's

Sotheby’s Contemporary Art Auction Events

In terms of contemporary art, Sotheby’s is pleased to offer a selection of superb examples by some of the most exciting and innovative artists of the late 20th and 21st centuries. The entirety of artworks will be spread across two auctions, Contemporary Art Evening Auction and Contemporary Art Day Auction, both of which will be of high interest to spectators and potential buyers alike.

Contemporary Art Evening Auction on May 16 will have a rich selection of marvelous contemporary artworks, but two particular pieces will take the majority of the spotlight. The first is Jackson Pollock's masterpiece Number 32, 1949, a rare drip painting on paper which you can closely examine in the video below; the other is Kerry James Marshall’s 1997 painting Past Times, a work with an estimate of $8 million to $12 million[2]. We'd also like to mention Marshall was WideWalls' artist of the year in 2017.

On May 17, Sotheby’s Contemporary Art Day Auction will also offer a strong selection of works from the post-war period to the present. While these artworks are not as highly estimated as the ones chosen to be a part of Sotheby's Evening Sale, the day session does include highly sought after pieces by the likes of David Hockney, Kenneth Noland, Helen Frankenthaler, George Condo, Gerhard Richter, Christopher Wool and Jean-Michel Basquiat.

First Look: An Iridescent Masterpiece by Jackson Pollock available at Sotheby's Contemporary Art Evening Auction


  1. Anonymous, 2018, Modigliani masterpiece to lead Sotheby's May auctions with estimate of $150 million, Art Daily [Apr 27, 2018]
  2. Armstrong, A., April 25, 2018, Kerry James Marshall Painting Could Set Artist Record at Sotheby’s, Art News [Apr 17, 2018]


Featured images: Vincent Van Gogh - Vue de l’asile et de la Chapelle Saint-Paul de Mausole (Saint-Rémy), oil on canvas, Painted in Saint-Rémy, autumn 1889; Pablo Picasso - Nature morte Tête de taureau, signed and dated 'Picasso 15.1.39.' (lower center) oil on canvas, Painted on 15 January 1939; Marc Chagall - Les Amoureux aux trois bouquets, Signed Marc Chagall (lower right); signed Marc Chagall and dated 1980 (on the reverse) Oil on canvas, Painted in 1980. All images via Sotheby’s and Christie’s.

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