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A possibly record-breaking painting by Martin Wong and a woollen work by John Olsen: our pick of the May sales

Martin Wong’s Portrait of Mikey Piñero at Ridge Street and Stanton (1985)

21st Century Evening Sale, Christies, New York, 14 May

Estimate: $1m to $2m

“The best painting by Martin Wong to ever come to auction” will be offered at Christie’s in New York this month, says Isabella Lauria, the house’s head of the 21st century evening sale. The late Chinese American artist’s market has been climbing rapidly for a decade, thanks in part to the longstanding efforts of the New York gallery P·P·O·W, which represents his estate. A major travelling survey of Wong’s work in Europe, Malicious Mischief, most recently on show at the Stedelijk Museum in Amsterdam, has brought him to even greater attention, especially outside the US. Portrait of Mikey Piñero at Ridge Street and Stanton (1985) will likely break the artist’s auction record of $1.2m, made at Bonhams in New York in 2022.

This painting was executed in “Wong’s prime” and bears many of his signature motifs, Lauria says, including exposed brick, hearts and beer cans. It also carries an extremely personal story, depicting Wong’s lover, the playwright and actor Miguel (Mikey) Piñero, who was pivotal to introducing him to Manhattan’s creative and gay scenes, and is bordered by one of Piñero’s poems. Ten works by Wong depicting Piñero exist. This painting has only been owned by one person, the consignor, who bought it from Semaphore Gallery in New York in the 1980s. According to Christie’s, the collector, who is anonymous, was instructed by Wong how to specifically light the work so as to best bring out the metallic quality of the paint.