Pablo Picasso, La Lecture, 1932 (est. £12–18 million), via Sothebys.com
February’s round of major art auctions begins in London next week with Impressionist & Modern sales at Sotheby’s and Christie’s. On Tuesday evening Sotheby’s will offer forty-two lots estimated to bring between £55-79 million. Sotheby’s will also hold a 60-lot sale of Impressionist, Modern, and Contemporary works titled “Looking Closely: A Private Collection” on Thursday, February 10th that is expected to fetch up to £54 million. All the works in that sale are from the collection of George Kostalitz, a Geneva-based collector who died last year. Christie’s forty-six lot evening sale on Wednesday is estimated to bring £54-80 million and, as was the case last year, will be immediately followed by a thirty-one lot auction of Surrealist works estimated to fetch an additional £19-28 million. While it is uncertain whether these auctions will produce a buzz-worthy sale on par with last year’s £65 million paid for Giacometti’s L’Homme Qui Marche I, both houses are offering a number of strong works led by canvases by Picasso and Gauguin.
more images and story after the jump…
At Sotheby’s, Picasso‘s portrait of Marie-Therese Walter, his muse and mistress, is the week’s most anticipated lot. The canvas was last at auction in 1996 and failed to sell against a low estimate of $6 million. This time around La Lecture is expected to fetch between £12-18 million and may very well exceed its estimate if the demand is anything like it has been for comparable Picasso paintings, such as Nu au Plateau de Sculpteur (another 1932 portrait of Walter that sold for $106 million in May) and Le Rêve (same year, same subject, and would have sold for $139 million were it not for an unfortunate meeting of canvas and elbow).
Two works by Giacometti are among the top lots at Sotheby’s. Both are portraits of the artist’s younger brother, Diego, who worked closely with the elder Giacometti and was his primary model. A somber oil on canvas likeness is expected to bring £3-5 million. The three-dimensional portrait, Grand Buste de Diego Avec Bras, is estimated to fetch about the same and is one of an edition of six.
An early Monet will also be offered on Tuesday evening. Painted in 1872, the canvas is one of the first major compositions by the artist to explore the theme of boats on water. The most famous of these works is another 1872 painting, Impression, Soleil Levant, after which the Impressionist movement was named. At last June’s auctions in London a water lily painting by the artist that carried estimates of £30-40 million failed to sell at Christie’s. Sotheby’s expects its Monet will bring between £3.5-5.5 million.
A monumental piece by Marino Marini is one of four sculptures included in the Sotheby’s evening sale. Noting that 2010 was a good year for sculpture, the auction house will offer L’Idea Del Davaliere with a presale estimate of £3.7-4.5 million. Marini is best known for his equestrian sculptures and this one, standing over 80″ high, is cast in bronze and hand-painted by the artist. Works by Henry Moore and Aristide Maillol complete the sculpture offerings at the evening sale.
The “Looking Closely” sale at Sotheby’s has some gems of its own. The top lot there is a tryptic by Francis Bacon that is expected to fetch between £7-9 million. Works by Dali, Chagall, Giacometti, and Modigliani are all expected to bring upwards of £2 million.
Paul Gauguin, Nature morte à “L’Espérance”, 1901 (est. £7-10 million), via Christies.com
The headlining work at Christie’s Impressionist and Modern evening sale is a still life with sunflowers by Paul Gauguin. Executed in 1901, the work is one of four sunflower paintings created as a tribute to Gauguin’s friend and fellow artist Vincent van Gogh. The painting has a long, impressive exhibition history and according to the auction house has been unseen in public since 1989, though it failed to sell at Christie’s in 1996 against the same presale estimate it carries today.
Hidden away even longer was a painting by André Derain. Executed during the artist’s stay in the French coastal town of Collioure with friend and mentor Henri Matisse, Bateaux à Collioure was last on view in 1965 and has changed hands just three times in the hundred or so years since its creation. The work is being offered with a presale estimate of £4-6 million.
Christie’s will be offering four works from the collection of the Art Institute of Chicago. The auction house notes that one of these, Georges Braque‘s Nature morte à la guitare (rideaux rouge), was once owned by Mr. and Mrs. Albert D. Lasker, the parents of Mrs. Brody who owned Pablo Picasso’s Nu au Plateau de Sculpteur which, as previously mentioned, sold at Christie’s New York in May 2010 for a record $106 million. The other three Art Institute lots are Sur l’impériale traversant la Seine and Verre et pipe by Picasso and Henri Matisse’s Femme au fauteuil.
A pair of ballet dancers by Edgar Degas is among the top lots at the Christie’s sale. The painting has been in the same family since 1899 and was on long term loan to the Ashmolean Museum from 1983-2000. Its owners hope to unload the pastel for £3-5 million.
As is the case at Sotheby’s, some of the most alluring works for sale at Christie’s are being offered at the secondary auction. The top lot at “The Art of the Surreal” sale is a luminous nude painting by René Magritte that is expected to bring between £3.5-5.5 million. Works by Dali, Tanguy, and Miró are expected to fetch upwards of £2 million.
Optimism for the Impressionist & Modern sales is summarized by a statement from Giovanna Bertazzoni, Director and Head of Impressionist and Modern Art at Christie’s London: “2010 was a landmark year for the art market that witnessed record sales and results. This was driven in a significant way by the demand for rare and market-fresh works of Impressionist and Modern art which represented 7 of the top 10 prices paid last year at auction, 6 of which sold for over $50 million. The category continues to engage new collectors from both established and emerging markets, including China and Russia, and where there is a healthy supply it has been shown that there is a tremendous demand for the rarest and the best.”
Check back for onsite coverage of these auctions as well as the Contemporary auctions that begin on February 15th. Follow Art Observed on Twitter for live tweeting of notable auction results.
Sotheby’s Impressionist & Modern Evening Sale e-Catalog [Sotheby’s]
Sotheby’s Looking Closely Sale e-Catalog [Sotheby’s]
Christie’s Impressionist & Modern Evening Sale e-Catalog [Christie’s]
Christie’s Art of the Surreal Sale e-Catalog [Christie’s]
Gauguin Flowers to Top $169 Million Sale; Hirst Skull: Art Buzz [Bloomberg]
Christie’s Offers a Still Life Painting by Paul Gauguin in Big 2011 Opening Sale [ArtDaily]
Impressionist & Modern Art sales in London: maintained confidence [Art Market Insight]
London Auctions Brim with Comeback Kids [Wall Street Journal]
The Art Market: the big-hitters in London [Financial Times]
Picasso’s Sleeping Mistress May Fetch $28.6 Million at Auction [Bloomberg]
Picasso to make biggest impression at Sotheby’s sale [Guardian]
Sale of the week: Looking Closely [Financial Times]