Joan Miró, Peinture (Étoile Bleue) (1927)
Tonight in London begins three consecutive weeks of auctions – commencing with the Impressionist and Modern Sales this week. An upwards of £ 500 million in sales is expected from Impressionist, Modern, and Contemporary Art. This week alone is expected to fetch in excess of £ 159 million between the two major houses. Although New York is generally deemed the art auction capital, London’s geographic positioning is advantageous to the billionaire collectors of Russia and the Eastern world. Based upon the record breaking sales held this past May in New York – namely the $120 million paid for Munch‘s The Scream – London’s summer auctions are hoped to follow suit.
Sotheby’s is leading the sales with Joan Miró’s Peinture (Étoile Bleue), which is estimated at £ 15 – 20 million. This cobalt-hued, compositionally poetic painting was executed in 1927 at the height of Surrealism and belongs to Miró’s famed ‘dream paintings’ series. It was last on the market in 2007, where it was purchased for € 11.6 million. According to the Telegraph, it was then exhibited in Zurich as part of the Nahmad family’s collection – making them the possible sellers of tonight’s highlight. A sale is guaranteed for this painting, as an anonymous third party has agreed to pay an undisclosed minimum for the work.
Pierre-Auguste Renoir, Baigneuse (1888)
The other top lot resides at Christie’s – Pierre-Auguste Renoir’s Baigneuse – priced at an estimated £ 12 – 18 million. Painted in 1888, it is a remarkable example of his quintessential Impressionist painting technique – soft, feathery, and lusciously colorful images. This work is one of several bathing female nudes that Renoir created and is among the most luminous of his notorious celebrations of the female form. This work last sold in 1997 for a record breaking amount of $21 million – the most paid for a Renoir nude at the time.
Pablo Picasso, Femme Au Chien (1962)
The following three top lots from both houses includes three paintings by Pablo Picasso. At Sotheby’s and Christie’s, tied for the third most expensive artwork on the block are auction first-timers Picasso’s Homme Assis at Sotheby’s and Femme Au Chien at Christie’s – both expected to boost between £ 6 – 9 million. Painted in 1972, Homme Assis is a prime example of the economic yet fluid gesture that defined his mature body of work, as well as his illustrious palette. Executed a decade earlier in 1962, Femme Au Chien is a portrait of Picasso’s second wife, Jacqueline Roque and their Afghan hound. Coming from the collection of entrepreneur Nathan Cummings, this work is part of a long line of female muses that were tirelessly depicted throughout the artist’s life. A minimum bid from an undisclosed third party has also been placed upon this piece, solidifying its sale. At Christie’s with an anticipated price tag of £ 5 – 7.5 million is Picasso’s Femme Assise. The painting from 1949, is at once dark, vibrant, and inflected with Cubist and Surrealist notes. It is a depiction of his lover, Françoise Gilot, pregnant with their daughter Paloma.
Pierre Bonnard, Nu debout (1931)
Otto Dix, Nude Seated With Blond Hair (1931)
Four female nudes are among the top ten lots at Sotheby’s. Pierre Bonnard’s painting of his wife, Marthe, Nu debout, is hoped to earn £ 4.5 – 5.5 million. It is a colorful and lush representation of Bonnard’s later work, where female bathers were often shown in cropped, abstract, and luminescent interiors. Priced at £ 4 – 6 million, Otto Dix’ Seated Nude With Blond Hair, from 1931, is a curious window to an aging yet lovely blond woman. In Bloomberg, art dealer Richard Nagy is quoted – “It’s a tough picture. Portraits of this quality by Dix are as rare as hens’ teeth, though. The last one we saw at auction was in 1999.” Perhaps even more tough is the haunting female in Kees van Dongen‘s Lailla, which is estimated at £ 3.5 – 5 million. This dark, mysterious, and striking nude was painted in 1908, and is definitively influenced by the Orientalism movement that pervaded European artists’ work during this time. Lastly, Paul Delvaux‘s Deux Femmes Coucheés – a resplendent, sensuous, and Surrealist image of two women reclining – is expected to rearn £ 2 – 3 million.
Paul Signac, La Corne d’Or (1907)
Dominating the remaining top lots at Christie’s are landscape paintings. Paul Signac’s La Corne d’Or, les minarets from 1907 leads with an estimate of £ 4 – 6 million. This chromatic and aquatic-hued painting is one of twelve renditions the artist did of Constantinople, further illustrating artist interest in the Orient during the turn of the century. Following are two more seascapes, both from Maurice De Vlaminck. Painted in 1905, Les régates a Bougival – a painting carved by bright and bold brushstrokes rendering a coastal town – is hoped to boost £ 3.5 – 4.5 million. De Vlaminck’s brighter, summer-hued Village au Bord de la Seine from 1906, is anticipated to earn £ 2.8 – 3.5 million. Within a similar price range at £ 3 – 5 million, is Paul Gauguin‘s Paysage aux troncs bleus from 1892 – a recently rediscovered painting from the artist’s historic pilgrimage to Tahiti.
Set on the heels of the record-breaking May auctions in New York, the strength of London’s art market will now be tested. Considering collectors’ avid and undeniable interest in a dwindling supply of historically relevant artworks, it could quite possibly be a record-breaking summer season for London, too.
Impressionist / Modern Art Evening Sale [Christie's]
Impressionist & Modern Art Evening Sale [Sotheby's]
Picasso, Miro Start $500 Million Test Of Art Market In London [Bloomberg]
Market News: huge sales of Impressionist, Modern and Contemporary art expected in London [The Telegraph]
New money brightens London auction picture [London Evening Standard]
New buyers may lift London art sales to $1 billion [Reuters]
Christie’s puts $500 million art bonanza on display [Reuters]
Sale of the Week, June 17-23: Summer Impressionist and Modern Evening Sales in London [Artinfo]
One of the most beautiful Renoir paintings in private hands to be offered at Christie’s [Artdaily]