Following the recent announcement of their plans to stage a new relay-style auction format for their marquee modern and contemporary sales on July 10, Christie’s has unveiled German painter Georg Baselitz’s Gebeugte Trinker from 1982 to lead the London session of its international auction. The work is expected to fetch $6 million–$8 million.
Held in private hands since 1983, Gebeugte Trinker, which translates to Bent Drinkercomes from the artist’s seminal Drinker Series in the 1980s. It depicts a vague figure bent over a white table emblematic of Baselitz’s merging of figurative and expressionistic painting styles. Widely known as a leading figure of postwar Neo-Expressionism along with contemporaries like A.R. Penck and Sigmar Polke, Baselitz had a brief and prolific period that produced the formative Drinkers and Orange Eaters series—where his signature positioning of subjects upside down began.
The work “is laden with the psychological tension of Art Brut and is at the same time a paean to the artist’s German Expressionist forebears, Die Brücke and the American school of Abstract Expressionism,” says Katherine Arnold, co-head of Post-War & Contemporary Art, Europe.
Baselitz’s current auction record was set in a Sotheby’s contemporary art evening sale in March 2017, when Mit Roter Fahne (with red flag) from 1965 sold for $9 million. The painting on offer at Christie’s, if it reaches the high estimate of $8 million, will set the second-highest price for the artist to date, just above the $7.4 million reached by The Brücke Chorus (1983) that sold at Christie’s in November 2014.
His work has gained acclaim both for upending traditional painterly schemes and confronting issues of German political identity. A pivotal moment in the artist’s career preceding the seminal Drinker’s series, in 1980, Baselitz represented Germany along with painter Anselm Kiefer in the Venice Biennale in a controversial exhibition that featured a wooden sculpture and photographs bearing references to the Nazi regime.