AO Auction Previews – London: Surrealist, Impressionist and Modern Art Evening Sales, February 28th – March 1st, 2017

February 23rd, 2017

Gustav Klimt, Bauerngarten (Blumengarten) (1907), via Sotheby's
Gustav Klimt,  Bauerngarten (Blumengarten) (1907), via Sotheby’s

Moving away out of the depths of winter and towards the spring market rush, Sotheby’s and Christie’s will kick off their respective sales of Surrealist, Impressionist and Modern works this coming week, marking the first major auctions of 2017, and signaling the first real test of a market dealt the lion’s share of uncertainty in the past six months.  Taking place in London, the week’s sales will offer a first look at how recent shakeups at both auction houses, and attempts to broaden their respective scopes, will fare with works on the block.

Paul Gauguin, Te Fare (La maison) (1892), via Christie's
Paul Gauguin, Te Fare (La maison) (1892), via Christie’s

Some analysts have pointed to micro-booms in the London market recently, driven by a weak pound attracting a number of foreign buyers, but it remains to be seen how this currency crossover will affect the often demanding sales figures and guarantees the auction houses have been able to achieve for buyers in recent years through third-party financiers.  Continually pushing these prices upwards has seemingly done little to help both houses’ bottom lines, and the drops in sales over the past year have posed a problem for continuing these cash-intensive practices.  As a result, the week’s first sales should offer some indication if new strategies are being explored, or if the top sales will continue to stand as a site for brute force and high tallies.

Pablo Picasso, Plant de Tomates (1944), via Sotheby's
Pablo Picasso, Plant de Tomates (1944), via Sotheby’s

Sales kick off at Christie’s next Tuesday, February 28th, doubling up on sales for both its Impressionist and Modern Evening Sale and its Surrealist offering, which has become a hallmark piece of the week’s sales in the past years.   The evening begins with the main sale, a 51-lot offering that sees a modestly appointed sale with a number of strong highlights expected to hit a high estimate of around £45.5 million.  The sale is led by a strong Paul Gauguin landscape from the height of the artist’s abilities, and priced at £12,000,000 – £18,000,000, while a vivid Pablo Picasso work from 1970 will also look to move buyers at the top end of the sale, carrying an estimate of £6,500,000 – £8,500,000.

Pablo Picasso, Joueur de flute et femme nue (1970), via Christe's
Pablo Picasso, Joueur de flute et femme nue (1970), via Christie’s

The auction house will continue its sales shortly after with a 35-lot sale led by a pair of striking René Magritte works, priced at £14,000,000 – £18,000,000 and £6,500,000 – £8,500,000, respectively, while a Francis Picabia work will also hover near the top of the sale, a piece that may see outsize interest in the wake of the artist’s major MoMA retrospective on view now to beat its £1,300,000 -£1,800,000.

René Magritte, La corde sensible (1960, via Christie's
René Magritte, La corde sensible (1960, via Christie’s

Francis Picabia, Statices (circa 1929), via Christie's
Francis Picabia, Statices (circa 1929), via Christie’s

The following night sees Sotheby’s take its shot at the same market, as the auction house kicks off its sale at 7PM with its Impressionist and Modern offering.  The sale is a notably slim 23 lots, yet seems distinctly top-loaded, focusing on a series of hallmark pieces with strong guarantees rather than a more expansive offering of works aiming to bring in a broad range of buyers, and aiming at a final estimate high of £26 million.  The evening is led by an impressive Gustav Klimt piece from 1907, Bauerngarten, which could beat out a £20 million figure to send a major message during an unsteady market period.  Pieces by Amedeo Modigliani and Pablo Picasso, both priced at £10,000,000 to £15,000,000, could also offer a major shot in the arm for the market, while a striking Paul Gauguin,  Te Arii Vahine – La Femme Aux Mangos (II), will round out the top end of the sale.

Paul Gauguin, Te Arii Vahine - La Femme Aux Mangos (II) (1896), via Sotheby's
Paul Gauguin, Te Arii Vahine – La Femme Aux Mangos (II) (1896), via Sotheby’s

Salvador Dali, Moment de Transition (1934), via Sotheby's
Salvador Dali, Moment de Transition (1934), via Sotheby’s

After a brief pause, sales will shift to the evening’s Surrealist offerings, an equally stripped-down 16-lot sale that centers around a commanding Salvador Dali landscape, Moment de transition, which boasts an estimate of £6,000,000 – £8,000,000.  A striking, minimal Jean Arp sculpture will also top the sale, bringing a pre-sale estimate of £2,500,000 – £3,500,000, while a René Magritte piece will look to improve on the artist’s often unpredictable performance in the major evening sales.  

Jean Arp, Torse (1931), via Sotheby's
Jean Arp, Torse (1931), via Sotheby’s

René Magritte, Le Domaine d'Arnheim (1938), via Christie's
René Magritte, Le Domaine d’Arnheim (1938), via Christie’s

The sales will begin next Tuesday, February 28th at Christie’s.  Art Observed will be covering live on our Instagram and Twitter.

— D. Creahan

Read More:
Christie’s Impressionist and Evening Sale [Christie's]
Sotheby’s Impressionist and Evening Sale [Sotheby's]
Sotheby’s Surrealist Evening Sale [Sotheby's]
Pre-sale guarantees set to create new high for Sotheby’s Impressionist and Modern art sales [Telegraph]