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art & design, Auction Action, General News

Coverage on the May 2014 Modern & Impressionist Sales

It’s that time again when the semiannual sales kickoff and collectors from around the world battle it out at auction for some of the newest Impressionist and Modern works to hit the market.  First up was Christie’s evening sale on the 6th which included works from the Viktor and Marianne Langen, Huguette M. Clark and Edgar J. Bronfman Collections … 87% of the works had been off the market for ten plus years.

Three lots from the Clark estate racked up $41M, much of which came from Monet’s Nymphaes.  An iconic Giverny water lily scene that has been in the Clark collection for over 80 years took the top spot in the sale. The bidding opened up at $15M and thirty seconds later was done — making $24M (low end of the estimate was $25M).   With the buyer’s premium the lot made $27M and sold to Elaine Holt on behalf of her Hong Kong client – what a surprise!  By the end of this season the Clark estate will have sold about 400 works and all of the money will be put towards establishing a charitable fund devoted to arts and culture… Kudos!

Nine lots offered from the Langen collection sold, bringing in almost $80M; the most important being Picasso’s Dora Maar which was bought by the Langens in 1942.  Painted during the occupation, Picasso expresses his anguish of the war through a series done of his mistress, Dora, who he shared a passionate love affair with from 1936 – 1944.  Picasso paints her “regally enthroned with her typical tricorn hat and elephantine nose.”  Reflecting back to early cubism, Picasso portrays her violently with harsh lines and edges, while constructing an image of her from both the side and front.  Surprisingly, even thought the work was never at auction it only sold for $22.6M – falling short of its $25-$30M estimate; nevertheless it was the second most expensive work in the sale.

The Bronfman collection brought in $21M from eight lots — the biggest score came from Picasso’s Mangeuse de pasteque et home ecrivant that sold for $8M (est. $7-$10M).

Most of the lots in this sale skimmed by, bringing in just below or within the estimates.  This comes with one exception, Amedeo Moigliani’s Jeune home roux assis from 1919 (est. $8M -$12M).  The auction opened at $6M and quickly rose as phone bidders battled it out for the calm, collective and youthful male portrait. The action ended a minute and a half later at $15.6M ($18M with commission) … this was the third most expensive work sold that night.

By the end of the evening, the sale racked up $285.9M (est. $244.5-$360.4M), the highest total since May 2010, but they needed the buyer’s premium to make it to the middle of their range.  Of the 53 lots offered, 47 sold (89%); 9 lots sold above $10m, 18 lots above $5m and 43 lots above $1m.

The next day was Christie’s Day Sale.  Here, 255 works were offered and 202 sold (79%) bringing in just under $40M (this is their highest grossing Impressionist day sale since 2007 in New York).  Four works sold for over $1M, including Picasso’s Buste de Femme, which brought in $2.7M more than doubling its estimate, Kees van Dongen’s Fillette au bois (est. $1M-$1.5M) & Van Gogh’sOude Toren bij Zonsondergang (est. $800K-$1.2M) both making $1.9M and Henri Laurens, La Negresse which brought $1.3M (est. $600K-$800K).

That wraps up Christie’s two sales at $326M…damn.

On the evening of the 7th, we switched over to Sotheby’s where the top lot was Picasso’s Le sauvetage (est. $14M – $18M) and four bidders jacked the price up to $31.5M … well beyond the high end.  This work was bought by the seller ten years ago for $14.8M — less than half of what it sold for this month!  In second we found Henri Matisse’s La Séance du matin selling for $19.2M just under the low estimate of $20M and in third was Claude Monet’s Le Pont Japonais making $15.8M (low est. $12.M).

The sale included eleven works from the Jan Krugier estate which totaled $32.9M, well above their combined high estimate of $26.8M.  The leading lot from the collection was Alberto Giacometti’s bronze, Femme de Venise V, which sold for $8.8M (high est. $8M).

In the end, of the 71 works offered 50 sold (70% — not the best sell-through rate for an evening sale) and the total take was $219M (est. $218.1-$317.9M) … so they only hit the range with the buyer’s premium added in.  It is interesting to note that about one-third of the sale’s total value ($63.9M – 8 lots) was purchased by Asian collectors.  Among those works were Matisse’s La Séance du matin, three works by Claude Monet (including, Le Pont Japonais), Giacometti’s La Place (selling for $13M – low est. $12.M) and Miro’s San totre for $8M (high est. $6M).

On the 8th, Sotheby’s held their day sale and the leaders here were a Lyonel Feininger at $3.2M (four times the high estimate of $800k), a Georges Braque at $3M (more than four times its high estimate of $700k) and a Louis Anquetin at $1.8M (also four times the high end of its range — $450K).

One item of special note was Salvador Dali’s The Eye of Time … known to be the finest jewel art the artist created.  Originally conceived in 1949 as a gift to his wife, the platinum, diamond, ruby and blue enamel broach brings together Dali’s most iconic symbols; the eye and the clock.  The final result for the piece was $1.1M, three times the high estimate of $350K!  What makes this so interesting is that my mom (Amy) mentioned this work in one of her 2013 “Really!?” articles … at that sale it carried an £8,000-£12,000 estimate and sold for £93,000 ($142K) … guess that was a Really good buy for the seller!!

By the end of the long session, of the 309 lots offered 261 sold (84.5%) and the take was $66.4M – a record for a New York Impressionist/Modern day sale.  I found it interesting that all of the top ten works sold for more than $1M and 9 of them left their estimates in the dust.

At the end of the two days, Sotheby’s took in $285.4M … which was less than Christie’s evening sale.  Between the two rooms, about $600M worth of art changed hands and while most people were now looking forward to the Contemporary sales, we were focusing on the 19th century sale.

About Alyssa T. Rehs

Alyssa Rehs is a fourth generation Art Dealer at her family owned art galleries, Rehs Galleries, Inc. and Rehs Contemporary Galleries, Inc., New York City, New York. She received an Art History degree from the University of Rhode Island in 2012 as well as interned at Christie’s Auction House, New York City. Using her art historian degree, gallery experience, and a summer spent working at the auction house, she has a well rounded understanding of the art market. Alyssa appreciates the market from multiple standpoints; art lover, art buyer and art seller!

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