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Artwork from Michael Crichton's personal collection going on sale

March 4, 2010 |  4:48 pm

Michaelcrichton

In such bestselling novels as "Jurassic Park," "The Andromeda Strain" and "Disclosure," Michael Crichton demonstrated a fascination with the glimmering, shiny complexities of the contemporary high-tech world.

As it turns out, the late author's taste in art also embraced the cutting-edge, the stylish and the modern.

Close to 100 items from Crichton's personal collection are set to go on sale at a major Christie's auction in May. The artwork includes rare and little-seen works by many of the 20th century's best-known innovators -- Jasper Johns, Robert Rauschenberg, Ed Ruscha, Jeff Koons, Claes Oldenburg and many more.

A selection of the works to be auctioned is set to go on public display for one week starting Friday at Christie's in Beverly Hills. The display will then move to New York in early April, and the auctions will take place in New York around May 11-12, Christie's said.

The auction house said that the items for sale represent approximately 80% of Crichton's art collection. It said the artwork is being offered by the author's estate, which includes his wife and other family members.

Crichton, who also created the hit NBC series "ER," passed away in November 2008 in L.A. after a battle with cancer.

Crichton1 Those close to the author have described him as a collecting novice who kept a low profile in the art scene. Nevertheless, in 2006, Crichton joined the board of the Los Angeles County Museum of Art in 2006 and has even loaned the museum some his artwork to go on display in the Broad Contemporary Art Museum.

Among the most notable items of the Christie's auction is Johns' "Flag" (1960-66), an encaustic rendering of the U.S. stars and stripes that has never been on the public market, according to the auction house. Crichton purchased the painting (right) more than 30 years ago from the artist's own collection.

The author apparently admired the work so much that he kept it above a fireplace in his bedroom, said Brett Gorvy, deputy chairman of Christie's Americas.

Crichton2 Another Johns work, "Study for a Painting" (2002), is also part of the Crichton sale. The author and artist became close friends during the '70s, and Crichton wrote a catalog for a Johns retrospective at the Whitney Museum of Art in 1977.

Among the other items from Crichton's collection that will go on sale are: Oldenburg's "Three Way Plug Soft Sculpture"; Andreas Gursky's photograph "Chicago Board of Trade"; Ed Ruscha's "Voltage"; and two large-scale works by the late Rauschenberg -- "Studio Painting" (1960-61) and "Trapeze" (1964).

The Oldenburg work, which dates from 1970, was commissioned by Crichton and purchased directly from the artist.

Gorvy said he expects the Crichton auction to bring in about $100 million. He said museums have already expressed interest in the auction -- including some institutions in the U.S. -- but added that private collectors are likely to snap up a significant portion of the work.

"Crichton himself actually enjoyed the auction process very much," said Gorvy.

Other Crichton-owned art that will be included in the auction are Roy Lichtenstein's "Figures in a Landscape" (1977); an Andy Warhol "Mao" portrait; a few works by Pablo Picasso -- including "Femme a la Robe Rose" (1917) and "Femme et fillettes" (1961) (just above) -- as well as three works by Koons including "Vase of Flowers" from the series "Banality."

One of the more contemporary pieces from the Crichton collection is Mark Tansey's large-scale "Push/Pull" (2005), a painting that merges imagery of an arctic landscape and sandy desert.

The Christie's display of Crichton-owned artwork takes place at 360 N. Camden Drive in Beverly Hills. The showing is free and open to the public.

-- David Ng

Photo (top): Michael Crichton. Credit: Los Angeles Times

Photo (middle): Johns' "Flag" (1960-66). Credit: Associated Press

Photo (bottom): Picasso's "Femme et fillettes" (1961). Credit: Christie's / EPA

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