NFT News

our pick of the highlights from May’s sales

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Codex Sassoon, 10th century

Sotheby’s, New York, 17 May

Estimate: $30m-$50m

One of the most complete Hebrew Bibles in existence is coming to the market later this month with the highest auction estimate of any book or manuscript ever—one that rivals those of top Impressionist and Modern works. The Sassoon Codex is named after the Judaica and Hebraica collector David Solomon Sassoon, born in Baghdad in 1880, who over his lifetime attempted to build a complete religious library. He purchased this codex—an ancient manuscript text in book form—in the 1920s. It had pride of place in his collection and is the last entry in Sassoon’s 1932 collection catalogue, known as Ohel Dawid. It has been consigned by the Swiss investor and film producer Jacqui (Jacob) Eli Safra, under whose ownership the manuscript was certified as originating in the 10th century. It is the earliest surviving example of a single codex containing all the books of the Hebrew Bible with their punctuation, vowels and accents, according to Sotheby’s. K.J.

Courtesy of Whitford Fine Art

Cissie Kean, Pins and Needles (1925)

Eye of the Collector, London, 17-20 May

£12,000

The Eye of the Collector fair in London continues its mission of ensuring that at least half its floor space is taken up by women—many of them historically overlooked—with a small presentation of paintings by the little-known British artist Cissie Kean (1871-1961). Born in London to a wealthy family of German coffee merchants. Kean developed an interest in painting from a young age, but her family discouraged her from pursuing art. Nonetheless, she became a central figure in the London and Paris art scenes, and was one of the founding members of the historic, London-based Three Arts Club. The flat, semi-abstract and highly geometric composition of Pins and Needles exemplifies Kean’s later and most distinct period, which she developed under the influence of André Lhôte, Fernand Léger and Amédée Ozenfant in Paris. It has been consigned from the artist’s estate and is being sold alongside two others for the same price at Whitford Fine Art. K.J.

Marcel Broodthaers, Pense-Bête (1964)

Marie-Puck Broodthaers Collection Sale, Artcurial, Paris, 25 May

Estimate: €4,000-€10,000

Written in 1964 by the Belgian poet, filmmaker and artist Marcel Broodthaers, Pense-Bête was originally a collection of poems. However, given the limited success of his work, he decided to cast his last copies in plaster and transform them into sculptures. This marked one of the first times Broodthaers was able to enter the world of art, allowing him to move from the status of poet to that of artist. Three copies of Pense-Bête, including Janvier 1964 (pictured right), are being offered as part of a dedicated sale by Artcurial of the collection of his daughter, the gallerist Marie-Puck Broodthaers. K.J.

Andy Warhol, O.J. Simpson, 1977

20th Century & Contemporary Art Day Sale, Phillips, New York, 16 May

Estimate: $300,000-$500,000

The American football star O.J. Simpson—whose role in the widely publicised trial for the 1994 murder of his ex-wife Nicole Brown Simpson became a defining moment in 20th-century popular culture—is one of several athletes who were captured by Warhol for a series of photographs and subsequent prints. Eleven prints of Simpson embracing a football exist, with one recently selling at Christie’s in 2021 for $500,000 (with fees); that work was signed by Warhol, as is the one offered at Phillips. “What Warhol could never have imagined is how the image would later be viewed and the fact that it would be the subject of so much controversy today,” says Annie Dolan, the co-head of Phillips’s 20th-century and contemporary art day sales. “Almost five decades after its creation, those who view the image of Simpson staring directly at the camera are likely to immediately recall the other notorious picture of the celebrity—his mugshot.”C.J-N.

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