AO Auction Recap – London: Impressionist, Modern and Surrealist Sales, February 3rd, 2016

February 4th, 2016

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

The first week of February’s auctions concluded last evening, following a difficult set of sales at Sotheby’s that saw tepid, occasionally concerning results, with 13 of the 37 Impressionist and Modern works going unsold, bringing a total of £78,308,000, while the auction house’s small but impressive selection of 16 Surrealist pieces saw 2 go unsold, bringing the modest sale a tally of £14,860,500.

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

The sale kicked off with a Paul Klee lot, which jumped out of the gate to reach £245,000 over estimate, and a Henry Moore which met expectations to sell for £1,109,000.  A Paul Signac three lots later also performed modestly, reaching estimate and selling promptly for £1,025,000 before the Franz Marc work, an auction highlight, stalled below estimate and passed.  A Max Beckmann managed to recover some tempo with strong bidding, just beating estimate for £1,565,000, while a Picasso painting in the next lot struggled to meet estimate, selling at £1,445,000.  Another Picasso passed in the next lot, before the sale’s impressive Tête de Femme came to the block, and rose slowly, ultimately settling within estimate for a final of £18,853,000.  A Giacometti sold below estimate in the next lot, followed by a Léger picture that quickly sold above the low estimate for £3,285,000.

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

Sales continued to move procedurally through the middle lots, with a Picasso landscape meeting estimate for £2,781,000, before the Henri Matisse, a top lot, also failed to meet its £12 million estimate, but still sold, netting £10,789,000.  Another Paul Signac followed shortly after, and sold within estimate for a final of £2,045,000.  Two lots later, another Picasso failed to sell, setting off a string of passes before the sale reached the Auguste Rodin work Iris, surging past estimates to ultimately top the artist’s auction record at £11,573,000.  The next lot, a Claude Monet, struggled by comparison, selling below estimate for £11,573,000.  Another high estimate, a Camille Pissarro, passed shortly after, as did a Monet in the next lot.

Francis Picabia, Ventilateur (1918), via Sotheby's
Francis Picabia, Ventilateur (1918), via Sotheby’s

The sale closed with another flurry of passes and underperforming works, bringing up the Surrealist sale.  It began with a strong sale by Rene Magritte’s Shéhérazade, which topped estimates for a final of £785,000.  Another highlight came several lots later, as a Francis Picabia work brought £2,389,000, and the Paul Delvaux, on the block one lot later, quickly reached estimate to sell for a final of £7,317,000, a new record for the artist.  A Picasso canvas performed below expectations, bringing a final of £965,000.

The sales will pick back up next week with Contemporary and Post-War Works.

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

Auguste Rodin, Iris, Messagère Des Dieux 1890-91), via Sotheby's
Auguste Rodin, Iris, Messagère Des Dieux 1890-91), via Sotheby’s

Fernand Léger, Éléments Mécaniques (1919), via Sotheby's
Fernand Léger, Éléments Mécaniques (1919), via Sotheby’s

— D. Creahan

Read more:
Sotheby’s Impressionist and Modern Evening Sale [Sotheby’s]
Sotheby’s Surrealist Art Evening Sale [Sotheby’s]