Written by Staff Writer



‘if we are living in a time without a legend or mythos that can be called sublime… how can we be creating a sublime art?… instead of making cathedrals out of Christ, man, or ‘life’, we are making it out of ourselves, out of our own feelings’

NEW YORK – On July 10, Barnett Newman’s sublime Onement V, 1948 (estimate: $30-40 million) will lead ONE: a Global Sale of the 20th Century. Painted in an ethereal, ink blue palette, dramatically interrupted by a solitary ‘zip’ of aquamarine, Onement V is a sublime masterpiece that perfectly captures Barnett Newman’s abstract aesthetic. Created just four years after his breakthrough painting, Onement I (1948), it represents one of only two paintings from this early, landmark series to remain in a private collection. The other four are currently housed in major American museum collections including: The Museum of Modern Art, New York, Wadsworth Atheneum Museum of Art, Hartford and the Allen Memorial Art Museum, Oberlin.

Ana Maria Celis, Head of Sale, ONEChristie’s, New York, remarked: “It is such an honor to have the opportunity to represent this extraordinary work by Barnett Newman, who was one of the most revolutionary artists of the 20th Century. Onement V is a monumental work that illustrates the transcendental quality of both Newman’s greatest work, and the most powerful examples of the Abstract Expressionist movement. It is particularly fitting that this work was created at such a dramatic cross roads in American History. A time when artists were striving to free themselves from traditional notions of art that had been established by previous generations. With its deeply saturated monochromatic palette, and Newman’s characteristic Zip blazing through the center of the canvas, Onement V, marked a bright new future in the history of art and a pivotal moment in the development of the United States.”

Previously part of the artist’s own personal collection, and later acquired by the artist’s wife Annalee Newman, the present painting resided in the collection of renowned collectors and art patrons, David and Geraldine Pincus from 1988 to 2012 when it was acquired at Christie’s New York from the historic sale of Property From the Pincus Collection. Onement V dates from a pivotal moment in the artist’s career when he was first exhibiting at the Betty Parsons Gallery, gaining traction with the public and recognition amongst his peers for his radical approach to painting.

At first glance, works such as Onement V appear to be centered on color and form, but for Newman these concerns were only secondary. Instead he sought to instill in his compositions a fundamental spiritual and transcendental power. Newman belonged to a generation of American painters including Mark Rothko, Alfred Gottlieb, Jackson Pollock, Clyfford Still and others who had witnessed the very darkest moments of the twentieth century, amongst them the Great Depression, the atom bomb and the Holocaust. Rather than recoil however, they sought a new, emancipating vernacular and the title of the present work embodies this artistic ambition. As Newman once explained, ‘I tried to make the title a metaphor that describes my feelings when I did the painting [It] is a celebration of harmony, wholeness; the archaic sense of atonement that was ‘at onement’.

Newman had been a consistent pioneer of new approaches in art since the mid 1940s, emerging as one of the most fervent advocates of American art. Together with his colleagues he hoped to establish a new aesthetic of the sublime that would revive the fortunes of painting. In his landmark essay, ‘The Sublime is Now’, Newman argued that the United States could now determine a radically new direction in art, distinct from past European aesthetics: ‘I believe that here in America’ he explained, ‘some of us free from the weight of European culture, are finding the answer, by completely denying that art has any concern with the problem of beauty and where to find it’ (B. Newman quoted in A. Temkin (ed.), Barnett Newman, exh. cat., Philadelphia Museum of Art, Philadelphia 2002, p. 47).

Additional Reading‘The beginning of my present life’ — Barnett Newman’s Onement V

ONE: A Global Sale of the 20th Century: This July, Christie’s will launch a revolutionary relay-style auction concept. Entitled ONE: A Global Sale of the 20th Century, this sale will present masterpiece-level works of 20th Century Art together in a curated live-online hybrid sale, blurring category boundaries and bringing clients together in an unprecedented way.

Launching in Hong Kong, the sale will then transition to auctioneers in Paris and London, concluding in New York. Each city will host a pre-sale public exhibition staged in line with the appropriate regional health advice at the time, complemented by a ground-breaking virtual exhibition and digital marketing campaign to connect with global audiences and support the auction event. Bidders will be able to participate both online, via Christie’s LIVE online bidding channel, and where regional, government advice allows, clients and phone bidders will be welcomed in each saleroom location.

Public viewingAll ONE sale highlights will be available for online viewing from anywhere in the world. For New York sale highlights, Christie’s expects to begin welcoming clients into its Rockefeller Center galleries by request and on an appointment-only basis in the weeks ahead, subject to all local public health guidelines  and with all necessary measures to protect our visitors and our staff in place. Clients may request an appointment for viewing by contacting; all members of the media should reach to Christie’s press contacts below.

About Christie’s

Christie’s, the world’s leading art business, had auction sales in 2019 that totalled £4.5 billion / $5.8 billion. Christie’s is a name and place that speaks of extraordinary art, unparalleled service and international expertise. Christie’s offers around 350 auctions annually in over 80 categories, including all areas of fine and decorative arts, jewellery, photographs, collectibles, wine, and more. Prices range from $200 to over $100 million. Christie’s also has a long and successful history conducting private sales for its clients in all categories, with emphasis on Post-War & Contemporary, Impressionist & Modern, Old Masters and Jewellery.

Alongside regular sales online, Christie’s has a global presence in 46 countries, with 10 salerooms around the world including in London, New York, Paris, Geneva, Milan, Amsterdam, Dubai, Zürich, Hong Kong, and Shanghai.

*Please note when quoting estimates above that other fees will apply in addition to the hammer price – see Section D of the Conditions of Sale at the back of the sale catalogue.

*Estimates do not include buyer’s premium. Sales totals are hammer price plus buyer’s premium and are reported net of applicable fees.

About the author

Staff Writer

Leave a Comment