Auction Thriller: Michael Crichton's Private Art Collection at Christie's

Michael Crichton, Flag painting, Jasper Johns
An encaustic Stars and Stripes painting entitled Flag made between 1960-1966 by U.S. artist Jasper Johns. From the private collection of late American author Michael Crichton. [Credit: AP/Lefteris Pitarakis]
LONDON — American author Michael Crichton was well-known for his best-selling novels and popular television shows, but he was also a private and passionate art collector. Crichton, the man behind Jurassic Park and ER, died of cancer in November 2008 at the age of 66. He left behind an impressive art collection of 20th century masterworks worth an estimated $32 million. The lot will be up for auction at Christie's New York on May 11.

Crichton's collection includes works by Pablo Picasso, Robert Rauschenberg, Roy Lichtenstein and Andy Warhol. Four of the pieces went on display at Christie's London on Friday and will be on view until February 12.

The star of the show is the iconic Flag of 1960-1966, one of a series of paintings by American Abstract Expressionist artist Jasper Johns. The piece once hung in Crichton's Beverly Hills bedroom and hasn't been seen publicly since he purchased it directly from the artist in 1974. Crichton was considered such an authority on Johns that the artist asked him to write the catalog for a 1977 retrospective. The last Johns flag painting sold at auction fetched $12.1 million in 1989.

"I never really cared whether a particular piece was major or minor, typical or atypical of the artist's work, or whether the artist was fully or thinly represented in my collection," Crichton wrote of his art collecting philosophy. "I just bought images that I enjoyed looking at."

[Source: AP]

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