AO Auction Recap – London: Modern and Impressionist Evening Sales, February 4-5th, 2014

February 6th, 2014

Camille Pissarro, Le Boulevard Montmartre, Matinée De Printemps (1897), via Sotheby's
Camille Pissarro, Le Boulevard Montmartre, Matinée De Printemps (1897), via Sotheby’s

With the closing hammer at Sotheby’s last night, another set of impressive evening sales for Impressionist and Modernist Art, with a number of longstanding auction records falling in a flurry of bids.  The continued strength of the market could be felt across the board, but the week was particularly auspicious for Christie’s, which secured an astounding $288.13 million sale for its 48 lots, the highest sale for an auction ever in London, while Sotheby’s achieved $104.4 million for its 90 lot offering.  

Juan Gris, Nature morte à la nappe à carreaux (1915), via Christie's
Juan Gris, Nature morte à la nappe à carreaux (1915), via Christie’s

The difference in figures is astonishing, with Christie’s nearly tripling its sales take over its rival with almost half the works on sale, especially when considering the withdrawal of works by Joan Miró shortly before the auction.  Public opposition and an ongoing legal dispute led to the auction house taking 85 works up for sale during the week off the market.  Even so, only 5 of the works on sale sold for under $1 million, and only a handful of works failed to find buyers.

Pablo Picasso, Femme au costume turc dans un fauteuil (1955), via Christie's
Pablo Picasso, Femme au costume turc dans un fauteuil (1955), via Christie’s

The sale was particularly bolstered by a record-smashing sale of  $56.7 million for  Juan Gris’ 1915 Nature Morte à la nappe à carreaux, a far cry from its estimate of roughly $20 to $30 million.  Reports indicate that it was Alex Corcoran who placed the winning bid, and who also took home a 1956 Henry Moore that sold for $2.05 million.  Other impressive sales belonged to Fernand Léger’s 1918 Les Cylindres Colorés, which commanded $19.8 million, surging past its estimate of $8.1 million to $11.3 million.

Fernand Léger, Les Cylindres Colorés (1918), Via Christie's
Fernand Léger, Les Cylindres Colorés (1918), Via Christie’s

Sotheby’s, despite comparisons to the landmark sale at Christie’s, still maintained a strong sale, boasting several auction records of its own.  Most notable was the new record set by the auction house’s Cover Lot, Camille Pissarro’s 1897 Boulevard Montmartre, Matinee de Printemps which sold for a final price of $32.1 million, nearly 5 times the artist’s previous auction record.  Vincent Van Gogh’s 1889 L’homme Est En Mer also performed well, doubling its presale estimate for a final price of $27.5 million. A visceral Picasso, Composition (composition Au Minotaure), 1936, also beat all estimates, selling for nearly $17 million after an estimate of $2.9 to $4 million.

René Magritte, Le Beau Monde (1962), Via Sotheby's
René Magritte, Le Beau Monde (1962), Via Sotheby’s

The continued strength of the month’s auctions will look to continue into next week’s contemporary sales in London.  As always, Art Observed will have the reports for sales as they happen.

Alberto Giacometti, Homme Traversant Une Place Par Un Matin De Soleil (1951), Via Sotheby's
Alberto Giacometti, Homme Traversant Une Place Par Un Matin De Soleil (1951), Via Sotheby’s

Pablo Picasso, Composition (composition Au Minotaure) (1936), Via Sotheby's
Pablo Picasso, Composition (composition Au Minotaure) (1936), Via Sotheby’s

— D. Creahan

Read more:
Christie’s Modernist, Impressionist and Surrealist Evening Sale [Auction Site]
Sotheby’s Modernist, Impressionist and Surrealist Evening Sale [Auction Site]
“Christie’s Pulls Auction of Joan Miró Art After Uproar” [WSJ]
“Christie’s record-breaking art sale kicks off 2014 London auction seasonChristie’s record-breaking art sale kicks off 2014 London auction season” [Reuters]
“Picasso’s Concubine Boosts Christie’s $289 Million Sale” [Bloomberg]