Sotheby’s to Auction Select Works from the Collection of RICHARD E. LANG AND JANE LANG DAVIS
NNEW YORK, 29 March 2019 – Sotheby’s is honored to announce the sale of select works from the Richard E. Lang and Jane Lang Davis Collection across our May 2019 auctions of Contemporary and Impressionist & Modern Art.
Assembled in the 1970s and ‘80s, the Richard E. Lang and Jane Lang Davis Collection now belongs to the Friday Foundation, a private charitable organization committed to working with its cultural partners to ensure that the great works remaining in the collection will be enjoyed by the public, while also supporting key arts initiatives that were important to the Langs with proceeds from the sales.
Sotheby’s offering of works from the Lang Collection will be led by one of the most important paintings by Francis Bacon remaining in private hands: Study for a Head from 1952. An outstanding example of Bacon’s most celebrated and recognizable iconography, the work powerfully captures the silent scream of his iconic Popes. Study for a Head will highlight Sotheby’s Contemporary Art Evening Auction on 16 May 2019, carrying an estimate of $20/30 million.
Study for a Head will travel to Hong Kong (March 29 – April 2), Paris (April 8 & 9) and Los Angeles (April 16 & 17), before returning to New York in advance of the official opening of Sotheby’s newly-reimagined galleries on York Avenue, on 3 May. All works on offer from the Lang Collection will be on public view at that time.
Grégoire Billault, Head of Sotheby’s Contemporary Art Department in New York and former researcher for the Francis Bacon Estate, commented: “I feel blessed to work with what I consider to be one of the greatest paintings we have ever offered in my 20 years at Sotheby’s. Study for a Head is the very best of six portrait heads completed by Francis Bacon in 1952, and one of only two of the artist’s iconic ‘screaming Popes’ executed in this head-and-shoulders format. The painting contains all the elements of the artist’s best-known works from this period – broken pince-nez glasses, a purple mozzetta, and of course the reverberating scream – and draws inspiration from the works of Velázquez, Munch and Poussin, as well as Bacon’s lifelong exploration of the human condition. We greatly look forward to presenting the painting to collectors and admirers of Bacon’s genius around the world this spring.”
RICHARD E. LANG AND JANE LANG DAVIS
Married from 1966 until Richard’s passing in 1982, Jane Lang Davis and Richard E. Lang together assembled what is indisputably one of the most important private collections of art of the 20th century, spanning from Cubism through Abstract Expressionism. While based in Richard’s native Seattle, the couple enthusiastically joined the burgeoning New York art world of the 1970s and ‘80s, collecting with determination, confidence and an unwavering dedication to works of art that profoundly moved them. In pursuing these masterworks, the Langs did not restrict themselves to size, medium or time period; rather they surrounded themselves with objects they loved, filling their Seattle home floor-to-ceiling with pieces that brought them unbridled joy.
In Seattle, the couple embraced both the performing and visual arts. As a founding member of the Pacific Northwest Ballet, Jane instilled in others her passion for dance, and convinced choreographers and artistic directors Kent Stowell and Francia Russell to come to Seattle and create a world-renowned ballet company. Together, she and Richard enriched the local ballet, opera, symphony – as well as both the Henry Art Gallery at the University of Washington and the Seattle Art Museum (SAM).
Jane served as part of SAM’s Contemporary Art Council (CAC), which cultivated and supported many of the institution’s early shows of Contemporary art – including the 1976 exhibition Andy Warhol Portraits for which Warhol painted a double portrait of Jane. Richard and Jane were also instrumental in supporting the expansion of SAM to its current downtown location.
CONTEMPORARY ART EVENING AUCTION 16 MAY 2019
In 1952, Francis Bacon embarked on what would be an increasingly significant category in his output: the head-and-shoulders portrait. That year he painted six small paintings in this format, which demonstrate the advancement of his suited businessmen as well as the Papal imagery that he began in the late 1940s. Other works in the series of six seminal heads from 1952 now reside at Tate Britain, London and the Yale Center for British Art, New Haven. Today, Study for a Head from the Lang Collection represents one of the most important works by the artist remaining in private hands (estimate $20/30 million).
Study for a Head draws inspiration from Diego Velázquez’s Portrait of Pope Innocent X, a painting dating circa 1650 that captivated Bacon for decades, as is clear from his own words: “I became obsessed by this painting and I bought photograph after photograph of it. I think really that was my first subject.” While Bacon never saw the original painting in Rome, a smaller rendering hung at Apsley House in London, which opened to the public in 1952, and was just a short walk from Bacon’s studio at the Royal College of Art. Study for a Head is closely related to Bacon’s Study after Velázquez’s Portrait of Pope Innocent X – the seminal masterpiece that is now housed in the Des Moines Art Center in Iowa – as well as Head VI from 1949, which resides in the Arts Council Collection in London.
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