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Christie's could sell $500 million of art in a single night

Christie's opens Spring auction season tonight

Auction house Christie's is preparing a sale of post-World War II art that could raise eyebrows—and bust wallets among high flying art collectors.

The collection of pop and Expressionist art may raise in excess of $500 million dollars in a single night, led by iconic works from Lucian Freud, Andy Warhol and Martin Kippenberger. Seventy percent of these 84 works have never been at auction, which takes place on Wednesday, May 13th in New York.

The highlight is a painting by Lucian Freud, widely-considered one of the seminal painters of the twentieth century. "Benefits Supervisor Resting" is expected to sell for a record-shattering $50 million or higher.

Considered Freud's ultimate masterpiece, the life-size canvas of a female nude was painted during a nine-month period in 1994. If past sales of Freud's work are any indication, there is a strong likelihood this particular painting will draw intense interest once it hits the auction block.

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Brett Gorvy, chairman and international head of post-war and art at Christie's, told CNBC's "Power Lunch" that the version of "Benefits Supervisor Resting" currently up for sale is Freud's ultimate masterpiece, and then some. According to Gorvy, it places the artist in the same company as great painters like Rembrandt and Rubens.

"Nobody paints like Freud," said Gorvy. "Every single brushstroke is loaded with exactly the right pigment to get the precise and breathtaking effect. He had the greatest gift with raw realism, to show the naked body with no sense of pity."

And also well worth the investment, according to Gorvy, who believes "Benefits Supervisor Resting' is one of the rarest and most critically acclaimed paintings put up for sale in modern times. He called the piece "a rarity."

Perhaps the best description of the painting's unique status comes from Freud himself, who once wrote:

"The task of the artist is to make the human being uncomfortable, and yet we are drawn to a great work of art by involuntary chemistry, like a hound getting a scent; the dog isn't free, it can't do otherwise, it gets the scent and instinct does the rest."

Christie's set to break another record?

Benefits Supervisor Resting by Lucian Freud
Source: Christie’s New York

Christie's is no stranger to high priced art auctions: in 2014, the company set a record by selling a clutch of art worth nearly $853 million.

In 2008, one other version of Freud's "Benefits Supervisor Resting" sold for $33.6 million to Russian billionaire Roman Abramovich, setting a record at the time for any living artist..

Abramovich, 48 years old, is one of the world's richest men, with a net worth of $9.2 billion and several stakes in Russian steel and aluminum conglomerates. Abramovich also owns U.K.'s Chelsea soccer team, a Boeing 767 and the world's largest yacht.

Sources close to Christie's said he is not considered a potential bidder in this sale.

Untitled by Martin Kippenberger
Source: Christie’s New York

"Benefits Supervisor Resting," is the second in a series of four paintings featuring model and now British civil servant, Sue Tilley, which Freud undertook over a three-year period beginning in 1993. The canvas is being sold by a private American collector, through Acquavella Galleries of New York.

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Other works in the sale, include Andy Warhol's "Colored Mona Lisa," with a pre-sale estimate in excess of $35 million, and a self-portrait by artist Martin Kippenberger, which could fetch $15 to $20 million dollars.

Christie's Post-War and Contemporary evening sale takes place on Wednesday May 13th. in New York.