Last night Christie’s held London’s biggest ever art auction when 46 Impressionist and Modern works racked up £153 million ($227 million), but the total was off from the pre-sale estimate of £164-231 million. While nearly quadrupling the anemic $60.4 million brought in by Christie’s at the same sale last June, tonight’s results suggest that while the art market may have recovered, pricing points are still a moving target. The sale was dominated by UK and European bidding – that includes Russia and former Eastern Bloc countries – which bought 55 percent of the lots sold, the U.S. accounted for 40 percent, and Asia for the remaining five percent. The sale saw only 46 of the 62 lots on offer sell, for a buy-in rate of 25 percent by lot and just 26 percent by value. Eight lots sold for over five million pounds and 31 broke the million-pound mark (37 works sold over $ 1million).
The evening’s top-selling, top-estimated lot, Picasso’s Portrait d’Angel Fernandez de Soto, sold within its pre-sale estimates of £30-40million to an anonymous telephone bidder for £34,761,250 – the second highest price ever paid for a work of art at Christie’s, London. The “Blue Period” canvas was bought by composer Lord Andrew Lloyd-Webber in 1995 for £18 million, and had been scheduled to be sold by Lloyd Webber to benefit his foundation at Christie’s New York in November 2006 but was withdrawn at the last minute after a German academic claimed it was forcibly sold to the Nazis in the mid- 1930s. The ownership dispute was resolved in December 2009 when the claimants withdrew claims to the painting. On finally completing the sale Lloyd-Weber stated: “I am pleased that my Foundation has raised over £30 million, especially in such austere times. This is a significant amount to devote to the Foundation’s passions – architecture and the sponsorship of young talent in musical theatre.” A number of the evening’s lots were being sold to benefit charities, including another work by Picasso, Buste de Femme, which sold for £2,057,250 to benefit the Swiss Thomi-Hopf Foundation.
Minutes after the impressive Picasso sale, the evening’s other top lot, Claude Monet‘s water-lily painting, Nymphaes, tanked at £29 million (est. £30-40million). The Monet was one of 16 unsold works that included offerings by Kees van Dongen, Paul Klee and Balthus, along with a foot-high bust by Giacometti, Diego (Head and Collar), that was expected to fetch at least £700,000 but did not find a single bidder.
Despite the number of works that failed to sell, a number of rare works stirred-up heated bidding wars including one of the last great female portraits painted by Gustav Klimt, Portrait of Ria Munk III, which sold for £18,801,250 against pre-sale estimates of £14-18 million. Another success was witnessed when Vincent van Gogh‘s painting of a cypress tree painted during his voluntary confinement in an asylum, Park at the Saint-Paul Hospital, was nabbed for £9 million. It had been estimated to sell for at least £8 million.
Auction season in London continues next week with the Contemporary sales that are headlined Sotheby’s group of “School of London” paintings by Auerbach, Kossoff, Freud, and Rego, that are estimated to fetch up to £4.5 million.
Lloyd Webber’s Picasso Portrait Sells for $52 Million; Monet Fails to Sell [Bloomberg]
Even for Picasso, Bidding Stays Cautious in London Auctions [NY Times]
Picasso reaches £34.7m in Christie’s auction [BBC News]
Christie’s in record London sale, but misses target [Reuters]
Picasso, Manet and Matisse – auctions revel in Europe’s richest art sales [Guardian]
Christie’s Sells Picasso for $51.2 Million [WSJ]
Picasso sells for $54M [CBC News]