Henri Matisse, Nu de dos, 4 état (Back IV), conceived c. 1930 and cast 1978 (est. $25-35 million, realized $48.8 million), via Christies.com
Wednesday evening’s Impressionist & Modern auction at Christie’s in New York featured 84 lots (not including lot 27, which was withdrawn) that were expected to fetch between $198-286.6 million. The sale realized a total of $231.4 million and had a sell through rate of 80% by lot and 88% by value. Like the Sotheby’s sale on Tuesday night, a handful of the top lots found buyers after enthusiastic bidding while the majority of lots were sold within or below presale estimates, or were bought in.
Still, the aggressive bidding that set two artists’ records was largely unexpected. Perhaps garnering the most post auction attention, the sale of Matisse’s Nu de dos, 4 état (Back IV), an impressively sized bronze sculpture of a woman’s back, went to Larry Gagosian–on behalf of an anonymous client–for $48.8 million. Similarly, Violon et guitare, a 1913 painting by Juan Gris, generously outperformed its $18-25 million estimate, fetching $28.6 million from a European collector. Though the top buyers identities remain unknown, sources such as the New York Times have speculated the involvement of hedge fund billionaire and collector Steven A. Cohen, who was present at the event and has bought through Larry Gagosian in the past.
More after the jump…
Juan Gris, Violon et guitare, 1913 (est. $18-25 million, realized $28.6 million), via Christies.com
Six works by Fernand Léger were offered at Christie’s, three of which were among the top ten earning lots while one was bought in. La Tasse de thé sold for $8.2 million, Nature morte for $7.9 million, and Femme sur fond rouge, femme assise for $6.4 million – the last to Luxembourg Art Limited.
One of the few lots to shoot past its high presale estimate was Alberto Giacometti‘s plaster sculpture titled Buste d’homme. It sold for $3.9 million against a presale estimate of $1.1-1.8 million. Two other Giacomettis were offered Wednesday night with mixed results- Femme de Venise V sold for $10.3 million against a presale estimate of $8-12 million, and Femme debout (Nu debout IV) sold for $842,500 against a low estimate of $900,000.
Joan Miró‘s 1938 canvas titled L’Air was featured on the cover of the sale’s catalog and sold for an underwhelming $10.3 million, well below its presale estimate of $12-18 million.
Also surprising was the sale of Georges Seurat‘s Le Chemin creux for half its low presale estimate (not including buyer’s premium), and a comparable result for Pierre Bonnard‘s Ciel d’ete when it sold for $580,000 (hammer) against a presale estimate of $1-1.5 million.
Among the lots that were not sold were two canvases – both depicting a mother and child – that carried high presale estimates. Bidding stopped at $4.7 million on Renoir‘s Maternité ou Femme allaitant son enfant (Madame Renoir et son fils Pierre) and at $5.8 million on Picasso‘s Maternité. Works by Naum Gabo, Pierre Bonnard, Max Beckmann, Sonia Delaunay, Edgar Degas, Kees Van Dongen, and Alfred Sisley were also among the 17 lots bought in.
Both the Sotheby’s and Christie’s auctions fared far better than last year’s comparable sales, though real excitement was sparse and was reserved for a select few works. This may have as much to do with the state of the market as it does with the desirability of the works for sale. Check back for on-site coverage of next week’s Contemporary sales in New York at Sotheby’s, Christie’s, and Phillips de Pury.