AO Auction Previews – Impressionist/Modern and Post-War Evening Sales in London, February 27th – March 8th, 2018

February 25th, 2018

Pablo Picasso, Femme au béret et à la robe quadrillée (Marie-Thérèse Walter) (1937), via Sotheby's
Pablo Picasso, Femme au béret et à la robe quadrillée (Marie-Thérèse Walter) (1937), via Sotheby’s

Marking the first major test of the secondary market for this 2018, the major auction houses are preparing to open their doors for a series of marquee evening sales in London this coming month.  Trying both the Impressionist/Modern and Post-War categories with top selections of works, the sales at Sotheby’sChristie’s and Phillips will offer a look at just how strong the market is rebounding since a long stretch of inactivity and stagnancy.

Jump-started last fall with the landmark sale of Leonardo Da Vinci’s magnificent Salvator Mundi, the auction houses have been trumpeting a triumphant return to form since a string of underperforming sales in 2016 and 2017 hinted at a downturn across the various market segments.  But since the changing of regimes in the U.S. last year, and an increasingly positive global economic perspective, sales seem to have rebounded strongly.  How this will translate to long-term stability, however, should be seen this month.

Edgar Degas, Dans les coulisses (1882-1885), via Christies
Edgar Degas, Dans les coulisses (1882-1885), via Christies

Sales begin this coming Tuesday, February 27th at Christie’s, where a series of strong surrealist and impressionist/modern sales will look to notch the first major event of the week’s proceedings.  Leading the sale is an outstanding Pablo Picasso composition, Mousquetaire et nu assis, will look to hit a high estimate of £18,000,000, a strong figure for the artist’s market. It’s followed by Dans les coulisses, a striking Edgar Degas work carrying a high estimate of £12,000,000. The 65-lot evening sale should make for an interesting first entry for two weeks of sales, complemented by a surrealist auction that includes René Magritte’s Le groupe silencieux, which carries an estimate of £6,500,000 – £9,500,000.

Pablo Picasso, Mousquetaire et nu assis (1967), via Christies
Pablo Picasso, Mousquetaire et nu assis (1967), via Christies

Rene Magritte, Le groupe silencieux (1926), via Christie's
Rene Magritte, Le groupe silencieux (1926), via Christie’s

The following evening, attention will turn to Sotheby’s, where another pair of auctions will look to answer the first evening’s numbers.  Leading the evening are a pair of staggering Picasso compositions from vastly different eras of the artist’s work.  One piece, a portrait of his lover Marie-Thérèse Walter titled Femme au béret et à la robe quadrillée (1937) is set to achieve upwards of £20 million, a strong figure that should see some strong competition for the work’s striking detail and precise technical abilities.  Another piece, Le Matador (1970), boasts a looser hand, and an estimate of £14,000,000 — £18,000,000.  
Pablo Picasso, Le Matador (1970), via Sotheby's
Pablo Picasso, Le Matador (1970), via Sotheby’s
Andy Warhol, Six Self-Portraits (1986), via Christie's
Andy Warhol, Six Self-Portraits (1986), via Christie’s
Following this pair of sales, the auction houses will stop to reset, prepping for a series of Post-War/Contemporary Auctions in the coming week.  The sales begin on March 6th with a sale at Christie’s, a 65-lot sale opening with a string of Robert Mapplethorpe photos clearly intended to test the upper reaches of the artist’s market, before moving on to the sale’s marquee pieces.  The sale is led by a striking Andy Warhol print from his Fright Wig series, a six-panel, multi-colored composition with an undisclosed estimate that could push beyond £20 million.  Also of note is a strong Basquiat piece, which could also top £20 with the right market conditions.
Jean-Michel Basquiat, Multiflavors (1982), via Christie's
Jean-Michel Basquiat, Multiflavors (1982), via Christie’s
Gerhard Richter, Gelbgrün (1982), via Sotheby's
Gerhard Richter, Gelbgrün (1982), via Sotheby’s
The next evening, Sotheby’s will take its turn at the Post-War market, launching a 61-lot sale that boasts a series of its own strong entries. Chief among them is The Architect’s Home in the Ravine, a swirling Peter Doig masterpiece that seems to follow the steady increase in the artist’s prices at auction.  The work has come to the block several times in the past few years, each time helping to mark an increase in Doig’s prices.  It will do so again this week, with an estimate of £14,000,000 — £18,000,000.  A powerful 1982 Gerhard Richter will also lead the sale, carrying an estimate of £7,000,000 — £10,000,000. 
Peter Doig, The Architect’s Home in the Ravine (1991), via Sotheby's
Peter Doig, The Architect’s Home in the Ravine (1991), via Sotheby’s
The sales conclude on March 8th, when Phillips makes its own entry in the Post-War and Contemporary sector, opening another edition of its 20th Century sale.  The evening’s auctions show an increasingly competitive auction house, leading its sale with an impressive Picasso from 1932 that boasts a pre-sale estimate of £12,000,000 – £18,000,000.  A massive Mark Bradford composition also leads the sale, expected to sell for £6,000,000 – £8,000,000.
Sales begin this week, with Art Observed covering live on Instagram and Twitter.

Read more:
Christie’s Imp/Modern Evening Sale [Site]
Sotheby’s Imp/Modern Evening Sale [Site]
Christie’s Post-War/Contemporary Evening Sale [Site]
Sotheby’s Post-War/Contemporary Evening Sale [Site]
Phillips 20th Century/Contemporary Sale [Site]