Has Christmas come early for Phillips? That might be the case when the auction house offers up a Joan Mitchell painting titled Noël (1961–62) at its rescheduled 20th Century and Contemporary Art Evening Sale, which has moved from the end of June and is now slated to take place on July 2. The work is expected to sell for $9.5–$12.5 million.
The abstract canvas, with large swaths of hunter green paint and expressive brushstrokes in orange and gold, is part of a series that Mitchell painted shortly after moving to Paris in 1959. Though Mitchell was still showing with the famed Stable Gallery at the time, Noël and the other works were first shown in a solo exhibition at Galerie Klipstein und Kornfeld in Bern, Switzerland, in October 1962.
Only one work from this era sold from the show to fellow artist Sam Francis and the rest stayed in storage in Switzerland for some 20 years. (The great collector of American art Barney A. Ebsworth would later acquire that piece, titled 12 Hawks at 3 O’Clock, which sold at Christie’s New York in 2018 for $14 million.)
It was not until New York’s Xavier Fourcade Gallery began working with Mitchell that the gallery would learn about the existence of these works and then mount a show of them in 1985, where they were a hit. Noël sold shortly after the Fourcade exhibition and changed hands a few times, but has been in a California private collection since 1995.
“It’s an extraordinary painting—and exactly what you’d want,” said Robert Manley, Phillips’s deputy chairman and worldwide co-head of 20th-century and contemporary art. “It’s fresh to the market, and it’s a stunning example from a very sought-after period. There’s that feeling that you’re witnessing a first.”Continue Reading