NEW YORK – Cy Twombly’s Untitled (Rome), from the artist’s celebrated series of Blackboard paintings, will star in one of Sotheby’s May marquee auctions. Once part of the celebrated Saatchi collection, the Twombly painting has since remained in the same esteemed private collection for nearly 30 years, where it hung alongside many of the artist’s best-known works. Estimated at $35 million to $45 million, it will be offered alongside works by many of the greatest names of the 20th and 21st centuries, including Jean-Michel Basquiat, Willem de Kooning, Robert Colescott, and more in Sotheby’s Evening Sale of Contemporary Art on May 12.
Executed in 1970 at the apex of Cy Twombly’s celebrated Blackboard paintings, Untitled (Rome) is the finest example of the series to come to auction since Sotheby’s set the world auction record for Twombly for Untitled (New York City) in November 2015. It also speaks to the profound inspiration Twombly drew from the culture, history, and aesthetics of Rome – the city where the Blackboards were first conceived, and a place that continued to influence him throughout this career.
The artist first conceived of the sparse iconography of his Blackboards in Rome. Upon his first visit to the city in the early 1950s, Twombly was taken by ancient forms of graffiti that he saw scrawled on the exteriors of historical Roman ruins. Echoed with newfound ferocity in the graffiti-like strokes of the present work, the artist notes the profound influence the iconographic legacy of classical antiquity enacted upon his practice.
The artist’s Blackboard works marked his abrupt abandonment of the richly colorful and expressive compositions from the first half of the 1960s, known as Baroque Paintings. Within this group, this work rises to the forefront: unlike Blackboards restrained to neat rows of tightly coiled reverberations, or those which dissolve into frenetic abandon, the present work sees Twombly express the boundary between control and anarchy, order and chaos, intention and accident.
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