AO Auction Recap – London: Impressionist and Modern Evening Sales, June 19th and 20th, 2018

June 22nd, 2018

Pablo Picasso, Buste de femme de profil (Femme écrivant) (1932), via Sotheby's
Pablo Picasso, Buste de femme de profil (Femme écrivant) (1932), via Sotheby’s

The month’s Impressionist and Modern Evening Sales are now in the books, after the London headquarters for both Christie’s and Sotheby’s capped their sales in the British capital.  Seizing on the recent and continued expansion of the market for works from this era in past months, the week’s sales were an often complex, confusing set of outings, as results fluctuated considerably and market health was perhaps painted as a bit unpredictable.

Joan Miro, Peinture (1933), via Sotheby's
Joan Miro, Peinture (1933), via Sotheby’s

At Sotheby’s, nearly a third of the sale’s 36 lots went unsold (10), with the final tally capped at £87,496,600.  Chief among the abortive works was a premier lot, Peinture, by Joan Miró, which stagnated on the auction block and missed its £8 to £12 million auction price, and ultimately contributed to the auction house missing out on its low estimate.  The much-trumpeted Pablo Picasso portrait of Marie-Therese, however, performed admirably, making up nearly a full third of the auction’s value with its £27,319,000 final price.  Also saving the sale was Alberto Giacometti’s Le Chat, which brought a strong price at £12,642,000.

Alberto Giacometti, Le Chat (1955), via Sotheby's
Alberto Giacometti, Le Chat (1955), via Sotheby’s

Franz Marc, Drei Pferde (1916), via Christie's
Franz Marc, Drei Pferde (1916), via Christie’s

A similar situation marked the sale at Christie’s the following evening, where a 45-lot sale achieved a final of £128,081,750.  The sale was also marked by eight unsold lots over the course of the evening, but pushed through its offering on the strength of several strong works, chief among them Claude Monet’s La Gare Saint-Lazare, which reached a price of £24,983,750, as well as Picasso’s Femme dans un fauteuil, the Dora Maar portrait that performed to expectations at a final of £19,358,750.  Another achievement came with the setting of a new auction record for Franz Marc, whose Drei Pferde easily hit £15,421,250, resetting his record.

With results like this, the market picture has grown notably cloudy, or perhaps the market is trending towards saturation, the frequent sales and frequency of blue-chip trophies changing hands making for a less appealing environment for collectors.  No matter why, the major auction houses have only a few days to reflect, as the proceedings continue next week with the Contemporary and Post-War Sales.

Claude Monet, La Gare Saint-Lazare, vue extérieure (1877), via Christie's
Claude Monet, La Gare Saint-Lazare, vue extérieure (1877), via Christie’s

Pablo Picasso, Femme dans un fauteuil (Dora Maar) (1942), via Christie's
Pablo Picasso, Femme dans un fauteuil (Dora Maar) (1942), via Christie’s

— D. Creahan

Read more:
Sotheby’s Impressionist and Modern Evening Sale [Sotheby's]
Sotheby’s Fails to Reach Low Estimate at Modern Art Auction [Bloomberg]
Christie’s Impressionist and Modern Evening Sale [Christie's]