Colin Gleadell gets the scoop on Sotheby’s sale of the Kostalitz collection which will be sold in London in February. The Freud portrait was offered privately at numbers well above the £7-9m estimate range but George Kostalitz’s collection will try to duplicate the success of last year’s Zero sale.
The Bacon triptych is part of a collection of more than 60 modern and contemporary works that could fetch more than £45 million. That, and other highlights, point to a fondness for small but special works that are the product of important artistic relationships, which is perhaps why Sotheby’s has entitled the sale “Looking Closely: A Private Collection”.
Salvador Dalí’s portrait of the poet Paul Eluard, for example, was painted in 1929, the year in which the two pivotal figures of the surrealist movement met. The portrait, in which the poet’s bust hovers in thin air, is a tiny gem of surrealist art measuring just 13in x 10in, and is redolent with Freudian allusions to Eluard’s wife, Gala, soon to become Dalí’s lifelong companion and muse. When Gala died, she left it to her daughter, Cecile Eluard, who sold it at Christie’s in New York in 1989 after Dali’s death. The buyer was Kostalitz, who paid $2.1 million, close to a record at the time, and the painting is now anticipated to fetch a new record for Dalí with an estimate of £3.5 million-£5 million.
At the same sale, he bought a small Giacometti portrait of his wife and frequent model, Annette, for $2 million, which was, briefly, a record for a painting by Giacometti. Since then, much larger paintings by Giacometti have made more than $10 million, so the £2 million-£3 million estimate on this painting does not look excessive.
Other small but by no means unimportant paintings include a 5in x 3in self-portrait of 1952 by Lucian Freud (£600,000-£800,000), which Sotheby’s suggests is a counterpart to Freud’s intense portrait of Bacon from the Tate’s collection, which was stolen in 1988 and has yet to be found, and a refined portrait of the Belgian poet, Frans Hellens, by Modigliani (£2 million-£3 million).