NEW YORK — A controversial sculpture of a kneeling Hitler by the edgy Italian artist Maurizio Cattelan is among the highlights of a special sale at Christie’s auction house in New York.
When viewed from the rear, “Him” appears as a child-like figure in a gray suit kneeling in prayer. But as viewers come around to the front, they come face-to-face with an unmistakable likeness of Hitler. It will be offered May 8 as part of Christie’s “Bound to Fail,” a curated sale where it is estimated to bring $10 million to $15 million.
The 2001 work, made with human hair, wax and polyester resin, is the artist’s proof from an edition of three. It was included in the artist’s retrospective at the Guggenheim in 2011.
Another major work in the sale is Jeff Koons’ “One Ball Total Equilibrium Tank.” The 1985 sculpture depicts a basketball suspended inside a vitrine of distilled water. It could sell for over $12 million. Both works are coming to auction for the first time.
The “Bound to Fail” auction is curated by Loic Gouzer, Christie’s deputy chairman of post-war and contemporary art. The concept originated with a work by Bruce Nauman titled “Henry Moore Bound to Fail,” a cast of Nauman’s own hands bound behind his back. The sculpture is estimated to bring $6 million to $8 million.
The themed auction “shines a spotlight on works that have purposefully pushed the envelope of what the art market would be willing to call ‘successful’ in the pursuit of creating something new and ground-breaking,” said Gouzer.
In the case of Cattelan, the artist “defied the taboos of representation by disguising evil incarnate under a cloak of innocence,” he added.
Among the other 39 works in the sale is a silkscreen by Glenn Ligon of Malcolm X with rouged cheeks and pink lips and Marcel Duchamp’s lithograph of a masculinized Mona Lisa with a moustache and goatee.
Gouzer has curated two other successful auctions at Christie’s, including “Looking Forward to the Past” last May where Pablo Picasso’s 1955 “Women of Algiers (Version O)” sold for $179 million, setting a world record for artwork at auction.
“Bound to Fail” is being held on a Sunday in advance of Christie’s weeklong spring auctions of 20th century art that runs through May 13.