Sale of American art expected to exceed $59 million

NEW YORK Mon Nov 26, 2007 9:02pm GMT

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NEW YORK (Reuters Life!) - A depiction of Santa Claus by Norman Rockwell could fetch up to $3.5 million when it is sold with other works in what is expected to be one of the most valuable sales of American art, Christie's said.

The auction of paintings, drawings and sculpture on Nov 29 in New York will feature 220 lots which could sell for more than $59 million. Apart from Rockwell, it will feature iconic American artists such as Edward Hopper and Frederic Remington.

"We have strong material and extraordinary depth in virtually every category of American art. It's a big deal, and there is a lot of positive buzz out there about the sale," said Eric Widing, the head of the American paintings department.

The collection includes masterworks by American Impressionists, the Ashcan School and Modernist artists.

Rockwell's "Extra Good Boys and Girls" will add a seasonal flavor.

"It's a joyful picture. This is the most celebrated of Rockwell's Christmas pictures," Widing said.

Three works by Remington, an artist who specialized in depictions of the American West, will also be up for sale. They include "The Bronco Buster" and "The Signal (If Skulls Could Speak)," which could sell for up to $6 million.

Other highlights include Georgia O'Keeffe's "Trees at Glorieta, New Mexico," Childe Hassam's "Sunset at Sea" and "Prospect Street, Gloucester" by Hopper.

While there have been concerns about how the sales will fare in the face of recent economic troubles, Widing said the art market is extremely healthy.

The American art sale follows a successful contemporary art auction earlier this month in New York, which achieved the second-best auction result ever.

"I haven't seen any evidence of economic concerns cutting into sales in the other departments. And based on the people that have already come to the exhibition and are keen to buy, I think we will see very strong prices and a very strong sale overall," Widing said.

While the weak dollar may put some of Christie's European and Japanese art aficionados at an advantage, he said, the impact will be limited as most of the buyers are expected to be from the United States.

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