Incredible records were made early in November as the Impressionist & Modern Art auctions were held in New York City. Kicking off the week was Sotheby’s Evening sale on November 4th. Buyers in 40 countries, most of which were from the US, Europe and China, battled it out on the block for the latest pieces on the market.
Interestingly, the two top lots of the sale were sculptures, one by Giacometti titled Chariot and the other by Modigliani titled Tete. The first, considered a masterpiece of the artist’s career, displays a goddess frozen in motion standing aboard her chariot. This work is one of two casts (the only painted cast) to remain in private hands. It climbed over the $100M mark, becoming the second sculpture in history to do so, garnering $100.9M and bought by SAC Capital founder, Steven Cohen – as the old saying goes … rich or poor, it is good to have money! By the way, according to reports, Mr. Cohen was the only person to bid on the work. The second was a rare piece by Modigliani which is considered to be one of the great icons of 20th century sculpture. Up for the first time at auction, the piece brought in $70.7M, a new record for Modigliani.
Another auction record was achieved when Vincent van Gogh’s Nature morte, Vas aux marguerites et coquelicots (one of the very few works sold during the artist’s life) hit the auction block. The oil on canvas sold for $61.8M (est. $30-50M) to Wang Zhongjun, a movie producer and distributor in China. This work became the most expensive van Gogh still-life sold at auction as well as his highest result since 1998.
Three outstanding works by Claude Monet came from a private American collection and sold for a total of $61.9M. The highest of which – Alice Hoschede au jardin – sold to a US buyer for $ 33.8M (est. $25-35M). This work depicts Monet’s 37-year old lover who happened to be the wife of his close friend and patron, Ernst Hoschede…not cool Mr. Monet!
In the end, the sale racked up $422.1M, well over the $300M estimate and the highest result in the company’s 270 year history! With 79.4% sold by lot, Sotheby’s Impressionist & Modern Art Sale holds the leading spot for 4 consecutive years. In this sale, 58 works sold, 1 lot sold for over $100M, 2 works sold for over $60M, 9 works sold for over $5M and 33 works for over $1M … Wow!
On the 5th, Sotheby’s held their day sale. With 450 works up for sale, 322 were purchased bringing the sale total to $47.9M. Topping the chart was a work by Alfred Sisley, Sous-Bois. The work depicts a rural urban landscape covered in dense foliage in Moret-Sur-Loing, an area where Sisley painted some of his most successful works. This piece was offered at Sotheby’s 27 years ago and brought in $286,000. This time around the result more than doubled its estimate of $1 -1.5M, selling for $3.19M … 11 times its last auction price!
Taking second place was Renior’s Tete de jeune fille se coiffant which depicts a young woman at her toilette braiding her hair (this work was last offered at Christie’s in 2000 — selling for $1.66M). This time around it carried an estimate of $1.5-$2M and sold for $1,685,000 – not much more than it sold for fourteen years ago…Big difference in appreciation from the Sisley.
After Sotheby’s day sale, Christie’s held their Impressionist & Modern Art Evening auction. The sale was led by Edouard Manet’s 1881 Le Printemps. It is the last of the 30 paintings Manet exhibited at the Paris Salon which still remained in private hands. This beautiful work was estimated at $25-$35M and the auction record for the artist was shattered when the hammer came down at over $65M selling to the J. Paul Getty Museum. The previous auction record for Manet was $33.3M back in 2010.
Only 24 hours earlier, Giacometti broke auction records at Sotheby’s selling for over $100M. Up for sale at Christie’s was his Stele III, a thin sculpture that came out of the Saks & Co. heiress Caral Gimbel Lebworth’s estate. The bronze painted with brown patina exceeded the high estimate, but a far cry from the prior night’s price. The work sold to US trade for $9.9M (est. $4.5-$6.5M).
Other highlights of the sale include, Miro’s Tuilerie a Mont-Roig painted in 1918, a work depicting a tile maker’s shop near the artist’s home which shows Miro’s play on Fauvism, Cubism, Futurism and early abstraction. The painting sold for $8.7M (est. $5-$8M). Renior’s La jeune fille au cygnet oy La juene fille au heron, painted in 1886, took fourth place the sale when it sold for $5.8M (est. $5-$7M).
Overall the sale brought in $165.6M with 39 works offered and 35 sold (90% sell-through rate); 1 lot sold for over $50M, 6 sold for over $5M, and 31 sold for over $1M.
On the 6th, Christie’s held their day sale which garnered a total of just over $27M. Topping the charts was Marc Chagall’s Arbre Bleu, which depicts two newlyweds embracing. The painting came from the prominent private collection of Louise Bloomingdale and Edgar M. Cullman, of Bloomingdale’s department store and General Cigar Company, and sold for $1.4M (est. $700k – $1M).
Renior’s La Baigneuse also sold above its expected estimate of $700K – $1M. Consigned from a private Swiss collection (the work was acquired in 2003 from Christie’s for $657K), this time around it was brought by a UK dealer for over $1.3M.
By the end of the three days Sotheby’s brought in $470M while Christie’s totaled just $193M. When combined the two rooms grossed over $660M. Over half a billion dollars worth of art was sold in three days… and while Christie’s sale made a fraction of the Sotheby’s total, I’d say the market is going strong!
But wait, just when you thought Sotheby’s was well in the lead, the contemporary sales rolled around and what happened that week was truly ‘off the charts’!