Wayne Thiebaud masterpiece to fetch US$25 mil at Christie’s

Wayne Thiebaud, ‘Four Pinball Machines’ (1962). © Image Courtesy of Christie’s

NEW YORK: Wayne Thiebaud’s “Four Pinball Machines” will be offered during Christie’s “ONE: a Global Auction of the 20th Century,” which will be conducted on July 10 in four international cities across the globe.

“Four Pinball Machines” is one of the largest canvases painted by Thiebaud in the early 1960s period, during which the American artist started showing with revered New York dealer Allan Stone.

Thiebaud started depicting the arcade games in 1956, a time during which the seemingly innocuous pinball game was steeped in controversy and had been banned in many cities throughout the United States.

Described by Christie’s as one of Thiebaud’s “most aesthetically and conceptually complex” arcade game paintings, this masterpiece is emblematic of the artist’s desire to depict everyday objects “that have been overlooked.”

“‘Four Pinball Machines’ is a painting that combines all of the qualities that people treasure about Thiebaud’s work: an iconic subject imbued with American nostalgia, the joyful palette and the masterly quality of the expressionistic brushstrokes,” Alex Rotter, Chairman of Post-War and Contemporary Art at Christie’s, said in a statement.

“Four Pinball Machines” is now going under the hammer for the first time in nearly 40 years at Christie’s New York, where it is expected to fetch between US$18 million and US$25 million.

Last time it appeared on the market, the masterpiece was acquired at Christie’s for just US$143,000 by American businessman and owner of the Irvine Company, Donald Bren.

“Four Pinball Machine” is now expected to more than double Thiebaud’s current auction record price of US$8.5 million, which was set in November 2019 when “Encased Cakes” surpassed its high pre-sale estimate of US$8 million at Sotheby’s Contemporary Art Evening Sale.

Out of the public eye in nearly two decades, the colourful canvas will make its return at auction during Christie’s “ONE: A Global Sale of the 20th Century” sale.

The “relay-style” global auction will be conducted live and streamed around the world, with bidding taking place online, over the phone and in person in those cities where social distancing rules allow it.

Launching in Hong Kong, the hybrid sale will then transition to auctioneers in Paris and London, concluding in New York.

Aside from Thiebaud’s “Four Pinball Machines,” highlights include Roy Lichtenstein’s “Nude with Joyous Painting” and Pablo Picasso’s “Version F” of his “Les femmes d’Alger” series, which are respectively expected to fetch in the region of US$30 million and US$25 million.