AO Auction Recap – Christie’s Impressionist and Modern Evening Sale, February 28th, 2017

February 28th, 2017

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

As New York City gears up for the rush and bustle of Armory Week, London has its own series of sales in swing, opening two weeks of major evening sales this evening with an impressively steady outing at Christie’s that offered some reassurance for towards alarmists and critics of the market’s current strength and consistency.  The pair of sales, kicked off by Impressionist and Modern works, and capped with a brisk sale of Surrealist pieces shortly after.

Pierre-Auguste Renoir, Canotage a Bougival (1881), via Christies
Pierre-Auguste Renoir, Canotage a Bougival (1881), via Christie’s

The evening’s results were particularly strong even considering some prior indications of how strong the Modernist week might fair.  Both the main sale and Surrealist auction saw only three works a piece go unsold, with a final price of £94,306,000 for the Impressionist and Modern Sale, and a tally of £43,412,250 for the Surrealist offering.  Pacing was brisk throughout, as Jussi Pylkannen worked the room deliberately though each lot.

Henri Matisse, Jeune fille aux anémones sur fond violet (1944), via Christies
Henri Matisse, Jeune fille aux anémones sur fond violet (1944), via Christie’s

The sale opened with a Pablo Picasso piece from the artist’s early career, part of a series of works from the collection of Barbara Lambrecht, sold to benefit the Rubens Prize Collection in the Museum of Contemporary Art in Siegen. The work quickly topped estimate and sold, setting a strong tone for the evening.  A Berthe Morisot also sold well one lot later, doubling estimate to a £2,045,000 final.  The first of the evening’s Renoir works also topped estimate on a last second bid, reaching a final of £1,205,000.  Another Morisot continued the sale’s methodical pacing, beating estimate and continuing to rise in price, ultimately finishing at £4,085,000, with a Monet also topping estimate shortly after at £3,525,000.

Pablo Picasso, Joueur de flûte et femme nue (1970), via Christies
Pablo Picasso, Joueur de flûte et femme nue (1970), via Christie’s

A slight lull fell over the proceeding lots, as each work found a buyer with little fanfare, before a star lot, Henri Marisse’s Jeune fille aux anémones sur fond violet hit the block and galvanized bidding, ultimately beating estimate for a £8,453,000 final.  A Francis Picabia became the first lot to pass shortly after, while another top lot, the evening’s major Paul Gauguin work, met estimate after sluggish initial bids, and sold for the final price of £20,325,000, beating its £18mil high easily.   Another Monet followed close behind, bringing a final price of £3,077,000, while a Rodin sculpture met with a pass around the same price in the next lot, a stinging loss that saw considerable murmurs sweeping through the gallery, and which seemed to put a freeze on the sale, sending a Renoir down for sale below estimate for£4,197,000 in the next lot, while another, a nude of Louise Bengel, achieved £2,965,000 (within estimate).

Paul Cezanne, Femme assise (1879), via Christies
Paul Cezanne, Femme assise (1879), via Christie’s

At this point, the pace kicked into a higher gear, powering through lots quickly after reaching estimate.  A Paul Cézanne reached estimate for a £4,533,000 final, while an Egon Schiele drawing settled at estimate for a final of £2,965,000.  A Pablo Picasso work in the 33rd lot kicked off a series of works by the artist, bringing a price well below estimate at £4,645,000 but setting the pace for the slide down towards the end of the sale, as rapid bids saw most lots moving at a considerably quick pace.  A trio of works by Le Corbusier helped bring the sale to a strong close, finishing above estimate for £3,301,000, £3,189,000 and £2,853,000 respectively, and showing just how strong the famed architect market is for his inventive paintings.

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

A short pause split the sale up from the Surrealist offering, which saw an early highlight with Paul Delvaux’s Le village des sirènes beating estimate to reach a final price of £3,077,000.  Subdued bidding seemed the name of the game until the first René Magritte of the evening, which exploded out of the gate but faded after several bids to just reach the auction house’s low estimate of £14 mil, and ultimately setting a new auction record for the artist (final price: £15,285,000).  Another Magritte followed close behind, notching steady bids to hit its £6.5mil low estimate and continuing to rise, ultimately hammering to a final price of £10,245,000.  A Max Ernst several lots later continued a strong showing, selling near the high estimate for a £2,285,000, while a pair of Picabia paintings saw mixed results, with one beating estimate (final: £2,045,000), while another went unsold.  A pair of Salvador Dali works also went unsold, pushing the sale towards its final moments.

Sales continue tomorrow at Sotheby’s.

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

— D. Creahan

Read more:
Christie’s Impressionist and Modern Evening Sale [Christie's]
Christie’s Surrealist Evening Sale [Christie's]