AO Auction Preview – London: Impressionist, Modern and Surrealist Sales, February 2nd-3rd, 2016

February 2nd, 2016

Paul Cézanne, Ferme en Normandie, été (Hattenville) (1882), via Christie's
Paul Cézanne, Ferme en Normandie, été (Hattenville) (1882), via Christie’s

With the opening weeks of 2016 drawing to a close, the London auction houses are preparing for the first entries in the year’s sales calendar, presenting two weeks of offerings that will serve as a bellwether for the year. Considering recent concerns (and numerous articles) over the cooling of the market in the early months of this year, the market should offer an initial indication of just how buyers and sellers may respond, and whether recent notes on an increased reliance on Asian customers will be proven accurate.

Christie’s will open the proceedings this week, presenting a pair of sales on February 2nd, teaming together its Modern and Impressionist lots with a special sale of Surrealist works following immediately afterwards.   The first sale, a 50-lot affair, sees a long, dark Egon Schiele portrait (estimate: £6-£8 million) at the top of the evening, followed close behind by a verdant green Cézanne, priced at £4.5-£6.5 million.  A sharply rendered Picasso is also available, with an estimate of £4-£6 million.

Joan Miró, Femme et Oiseau Dans La Nuit (1968), via Christie's
Joan Miró, Femme et Oiseau Dans La Nuit (1968), via Christie’s

Max Ernst, The Stolen Mirror (1941), via Christie's

The evening continues with an auction of Surrealist works, 42 additional lots focused on the increasingly popular segment of the Modernist market, and one which Christie’s seems to quite handily control this week.  Leading the second sale is an impressive Max Ernst work, The Stolen Mirror, which is commanding an estimate of £7-£10 million, as well as a a composition in bold primary colors by Joan Miró, which is selling for an estimate of £3-£5 million.  Also of note is Mesdemoiselles de L’Isle Adam, a Magritte composition which sold quite recently in a similar sale, and which is back on the block for an estimate of £2-£3 million.

Pablo Picasso, Tête de Femme (1935), via Sotheby's
Pablo Picasso, Tête de Femme (1935), via Sotheby’s

Claude Monet, Le Palais Ducal Vu De Saint-georges Majeur (1908), via Sotheby's
Claude Monet, Le Palais Ducal Vu De Saint-georges Majeur (1908), via Sotheby’s

The next evening, Sotheby’s will also try its hand at pairing the Modern/Impression sales with its own curated selection of Surrealist pieces, pushing to stay neck and neck with its competitive rival across town.  Its sale is topped by a pristine 1935 Picasso, Tête de Femme, with clean lines and a series of pale, intersecting crescents that will push an impressive price of £16-£20 million.  It’s followed close behind by a bold, mid-career Matisse, Leçon de Piano, estimated to achieve £12-£18 million, as well as a blurred Monet Venice painting of the Palazzo Ducale, estimated at the same price.

Henri Matisse, La Leçon de Piano (1923), via Sotheby's
Henri Matisse, La Leçon de Piano (1923), via Sotheby’s

After a brief recess, the sales will continue with a choice selection of 10 works from a range of Surrealist masters.  Considerably smaller in scale than Christie’s similar offering, the second auction seems like something of an attempt by Sotheby’s at staying even with its surging competitor, trading scale for quality among these select pieces.  Leading the curated sale is Paul Delvaux, whose masterpiece Le Miroir is commanding early attention, and a pre-sale estimate of £5.5-£7.5 million.  A Francis Picabia piece also stands out, with an estimate of £1.8-£2.5 million.

Paul Delvaux, Le Miroir (1936), via Sotheby's
Paul Delvaux, Le Miroir (1936), via Sotheby’s

The sales will begin this evening in London.  Art Observed will be covering the proceedings on Twitter and Instagram.

— D. Creahan

Read More:
Christie’s Impressionist and Modern Evening Sale [Christie’s]
Christie’s Art of the Surreal Evening Sale [Christie’s]
Sotheby’s Impressionist and Modern Evening Sale [Sotheby’s]
Sotheby’s Surrealist Art Evening Sale [Sotheby’s]