AO November Auction Roundup 1 of 5: Christie’s Impressionist and Modern Art, New York, Thursday November 6th: “Obviously, prices have changed”

November 16th, 2008

“Livre, pipe et verres” (1915) by Juan Gris, Christie’s, via Artnet


Total Lots Offered: 82
Total Lots Sold: 46
Total Sales Value: $146.7 million
Total Sales Pre-Auction Estimate: $240.7 million

This is the first of five articles that will summarize in parts the auction results following AO’s last covered Wednesday November 5th Christies Auction covered by AO here. Following a day where the Dow Jones industrial average dropped over 400 points, overall, Christie’s Impressionist and Modern art auction, the second evening sale of the week, was perhaps successful versus others in the week. Though overall sales were poor, the six guaranteed works sold. In total, 44% of the lots failed to sell, or rather, of the 82 pieces offered 36 works were brought in (37% by value). Auctioneer Christopher Burge quoted to Bloomberg after the sale: “Obviously, prices have changed, we’d be foolish not to recognize that.”

The auction totaled $146.715 million against a pre-sale estimate of $240.7 million to $337.2 million. Marquee works from Juan Gris, Pablo Picasso, and Wassily Kandinsky brought high prices but works by Claude Monet and Henri Matisse met little to no interest. New world auction records were set for Cubist master Juan Gris, Henri Laurens, American artist Alice Neel and for Seurat and Magritte for works on paper. 27 of the 46 works that did sell earned in excess of $1 million. 61% of buyers were Americans, 26% Europeans and 11% (other) with 2% going to Middle Eastern buyers.

Gris Sets Record in Slow Christie’s Auction [New York Times]
World Record For Juan Gris at Christie’s New York – “20.8 Million For Livre, pipe et verre”
[Art Daily]
Christie’s Impressionist Sale Falls Short; 44% Fails to Sell
Some Gloom, Some Records at Up-And-Down Night at Christie’s [ArtInfo

more detail and pictures after the jump…

French billionaire Francois Pinault, owner of the auction house, was in attendance in the skybox, as was former Walt Disney Head Michael Eisner, in the front row. The night’s biggest sale (pictured above) was the 1915 cubist still-life “Livre, pipe et verres” or “Book, Pipe and Glasses” by Juan Gris. This work sold for $20,802,500 (estimate $12.5 to $18.5 million) against 2 telephone bidders to New York private dealer Franck Giraud of Giraud Pissarro Segalot. Giraud bid on behalf of an American collector whom he declined to name. The previous record for Juan Gris was $18,520,000 million for “Le Pot de Geranium” at Christie’s in New York in May 2007.

“Deux personnages – Marie-Thérèse et sa soeur lisant” (1934) by Pablo Picasso, Christie’s, via Artnet

Another notable lot was Pablo Picasso’s “Deux personages – Marie-Therese et sa soeur lisant” pictured above. This work, painted in 1934 , was inspired by the artist’s blond mistress, and though it was expected to be the top lot at a high estimate of $25 million the work sold for $18 million to a sole bidder.

“Studie zu improvisation 3″ (1909) by Wassily Kandinsky, Christie’s, via Artnet

Wassily Kandinsky’s “Studie zu improvisation 3″ painted in 1909 was the guaranteed cover lot. The work is an expressionist oil and gouache in a painted frame. This work sold for $16,882,500 (low estimate of $15.20 million) to a single anonymous telephone bidder.

“Trois Hommes qui marchent I” (1950) by Alberto Giacometti, New York, Christie’s via ArtNet

Alberto Giacometti’s “Trois Hommes qui marchent I” is a 1950 bronze cast sculpture which sold for $11,506,500 (estimate $14 to 18 million). It was previously sold for $5,722,500 million at Sotheby’s, New York in November 1999.

Pablo Picasso - Mousquetaire et femme à la fleur - sold for $9,042,500 estimated at $8.0 - $10.0 million

Egon Schiele's "Sitzende in Unterwäsche, Rückenansicht" gouache, watercolor and crayon, sold for $1,594,500 and was estimated at $700,000 to 1,000,000.

Marc Porter, President of Christie’s Americas said to to Artdaily: “This week’s sales witnessed the reassertion of the private collector with strong prices achieved for the most desirable works by artists such as Picasso, Gris and Kandinsky. The past week has validated our belief that works of art are stable stores of value, and collectors and connoisseurs will not miss the opportunity to acquire the best of the best.” Christie’s CEO Edward Dolman was quoted by Art Info as saying: “There’s still a little life left in this market, and I think that’s what people should be concentrating on.”