Flash News : Nicolas de Staël – Amedeo Modigliani – Boticelli



Every fortnight, Artprice provides a short round up of art market news: Nicolas de Staël – Amedeo Modigliani – Boticelli

Nicolas de Staël would be 100

2014 is the year of the centenary of Nicolas DE STAËL‘s birth (1914-1955). In his honour, several tributes are being staged in the north and south of France. Antibes, where the painter killed himself at the age of 41, is devoting an exhibition to the female nude (“La figure à nu”, at the Château d’Antibes, until 7 September 2014), while the MuMa (Musée d’Art Moderne André Malraux) at Le Havre is hosting “Lumières du Nord, Lumières du Sud”(7 June – 9 November 2014). This is the first exhibition entirely dedicated to the artist’s landscapes – a theme that inspired over half the pictures he produced in the last four years of his life. Nudes in the south and landscapes in the north, then: the artist’s two favourite subjects, which often give rise to ferocious battles between museums and collectors. These two key themes struggle for supremacy in the sale room, but the nude carries the day by over a million. The two record bids, achieved in 2011 and 2012, went first to a Reclining Nude of 1953 (knocked down for $8.11 million at Artcurial), and then to the landscape of Agrigente from the same year and of a similar size (sold for $7.42 million at Christie’s London).
The cultural activity inspired by the anniversary of his birth in both France and Europe is having a constructive effect on de Staël’s price index. For example, in February this year, the landscape Selinunte (1953) doubled its average estimate when it garnered $4.7 million including the buyer’s premium (Christie’s London, 13 February 2014): the best price ever achieved for a work of this size (54 cm x 72.5 cm). Meanwhile, no fewer than seven oils on canvas went up for sale in Paris (with Artcurial, Christie’s and Sotheby’s) in early June. Four of them went to new owners, including a Composition of 1950 bought for $5.8 million including the buyer’s premium at Sotheby’s on 3 June (knocked down for €3.7 million).

Record for a Modigliani in France

On 4 June 2014, Sotheby’s placed five works by Amedeo MODIGLIANI (1884-1920)at various venues in Paris: four drawings and an oil on canvas of Paul Alexandre, the artist’s principal patron. This portrait, which was making its first appearance on the market with an estimate of between €5 and €7 million, was fought over by five telephone bidders. The art-loving doctor, Paul Alexandre, was a key figure in the artist’s career. They met in Paris in 1907.

He was the first person to take an interest in Modigliani’s work, and bought nearly 500 drawings and a dozen paintings from him over seven years. He also introduced him to the Romanian sculptor Constantin Brancusi. His portrait at Sotheby’s, one of five known pictures of him, came on the market six months after the highly successful sale of the portrait of another patron, Roger Dutilleul, sold by the same auction house in Paris for the equivalent of $8.79 million including the buyer’s premium. Although slightly smaller than the portrait of Dutilleul, Paul Alexandre exerted stronger appeal, selling for €13,537,500 euros (i.e. $18.5 million, including the buyer’s premium), a record in France for a painting by the artist. This was a distinct plus for the French marketplace (which usually accounts 10% of revenue for the artist, with 27% of global transactions), especially as Modigliani has the wind in his sails and a price index that has risen by 200% over the last decade.

A Botticelli drawing for sale

Only fifteen paintings by Botticelli have appeared at auction over the last thirty years, with one recently garnering a record, $10.4 million including the buyer’s premium: more than 25 times the price paid for it in 1992 (The Rockfeller Madonna in January 2013 at Christie’s). So the arrival of a new work is a real event. Drawings are even rarer than paintings, and there has not been a chance to buy one at auction for over a century. And it is precisely a work on paper that Sotheby’s has included in its Old Masters and British Painting sale on 9 July 2014 in London: a superb drawing from the late 15th century: Study for a seated St Joseph, his head resting on his right hand, which comes from the Barbara Piasecka Johnson collection. This is a study for Saint Joseph to the left of The Nativity with adoring John the Baptist, now at Buscot Park: a tondo dating from the late 1480s. This rarity, estimated at between £1 and £1.5 million, (i.e. between $1.7 and $2.5 million) lies far behind the dizzying results for another Old Master – one of the highest rated: Raphael, two of whose drawings in black chalk each crossed the $42 million threshold in 2009 and 2012. Nonetheless, Botticelli’s Saint Joseph is important enough to smash the price of his last oil painting sold at auction: a Madonna and Child, which fetched $1.4 million at Christie’s New York in January this year.