London, Impressionist and Modern Art sales



In London on Tuesday 5 February 2013, Sotheby’s took a gamble on its sale of Impressionist and Modern Art, and achieved an outstanding total of £92 million ($144.7 million), with a particularly low unsold rate of 15%. This was the second-highest total for a sale of Impressionist and Modern Art.

Of the 40 high-end lots on sale, the top-selling work was the portrait of Marie-Thérèse Walter, Pablo PICASSO‘s ‘golden muse’, painted in 1932. Sotheby’s took particular care with the marketing of this work, providing the seller with a guaranteed price. The fifth-best overall result for this Impressionist and Modern Art sale was based on the excellent price achieved for pFemme assise près d’une fenêtre, an unsigned work, that Picasso kept for himself and did not wish to sell. This little detail is important because it adds even more interest to an already legendary canvas. Sotheby’s gamble paid off, with the work going under the hammer for £25.5 million, or $40 million.

TOP 3 at the Sotheby’s sale
Pablo Picasso, Femme assise près d’une fenêtre, 1932: sold for £25.5 million ($40 million), slightly above its low estimate. 1932, the year when the artist was putting the finishing touches to Femme assise près d’une fenêtre, proved to be a milestone in Picasso’s work. Not only because his muse, Marie-Thérèse Walter, was emerging as his ‘golden muse’, but also because it marked the artist’s first retrospective (at the Kunsthaus in Zurich). Four of Picasso’s top ten works in terms of sales price date from 1932: Nude, Green Leaves and Bust (world record for the artist: $95 million, 4 May 2010, Christie’s New York); le Rêve ($44 million, 10 November 1997, Christie’s New York), Nu au fauteuil noir ($41 million, 9 November 1999, Christie’s New York) and Femme assise près d’une fenêtre.

Claude Monet, Nymphéas avec reflets de hautes herbes, 1914-1917: sold for £8 million ($9.2 million), £4 million below its low estimate. This type of work has doubled in value since the early 1990s. Claude MONET‘s Nymphéas are the artist’s most expensive works and are primarily sold in London and New York. The world record for this genre was achieved in 2008 with the sum of $71.8 million (Le Bassin aux nymphéas, 1919, Christie’s London, 24 June 2008).

Claude Monet, Le Givre à Giverny, 1885: sold for £7.8 million, £1.8 million above its high estimate. “Giverny” has the same stimulating effect on Monet auctions as the word “Nymphéas”. This small painting (54 cm x 71 cm) achieved a very high sale price, equivalent to $12.2 million. Three years ago only, a larger, more complete work sold for $13.5 million in New York (Effet de printemps à Giverny, 1890, 60 cm x 100 cm, 5 May 2010, Sotheby’s).

Among the wonderful works auctioned on 5 February, Sotheby’s also offered four drawings by Egon SCHIELE, all of which were sold. Liebespaar (Selbstdarstellung mit Wally), 1914-1915, brought in £7 million ($11 million), within its estimate range, and setting a new record for one of the artist’s works on paper.

Christie’s, 6 FebruaryThe following day, it was the turn of Christie’s to stand up for its Impressionist and Modern Art masterpieces. The result of this session 86 m£ ($135.6 million) was below that of its rival, but the auction house achieved a good price for Jeanne Hébuterne (Au chapeau) painted by Amedeo MODIGLIANI in 1919.

TOP 3 at the Christie’s sale
Amedeo Modigliani, Jeanne Hébuterne (Au chapeau), 1919: why is the hammer price of £24 million considered to be an excellent price for this work? Because it was worth £14.6 million in 2006 ($27 million, sold by Sotheby’s London on 19 June). Now its price before costs amounts to $37.7 million, the second-highest price achieved for a Modigliani painting anywhere in the world. This artist’s masterpieces appear so rarely at auction that it is difficult to predict with any accuracy what kind of price his works will fetch.

Pierre-Auguste Renoir, L’ombrelle, 1878: sold for £8.6 million ($13.5 million). The subject is typical of Pierre-Auguste RENOIR‘s works. The depiction of an elegant Parisienne dressed in the latest fashions sitting in a garden in springtime gave the artist an opportunity to add his very personal touch to the play of light and shade. It is a small work for such a high price (61.9 cm x 50.8 cm) but for amateur collectors, this small painting encapsulates the essence of the man.

Pablo Picasso, Nu accroupi, 1960: sold for £6.5 million ($10.2 million).Amazingly, in 1998 this failed to attract any buyers preparedto pay out $2 million or $2.5 million. But just 15 years later, the value ofthis melancholic work, this hallucinatory nude painting of Jacqueline thatspent the last 12 years in a private American collection, has appreciatedby $8 million. This makes it the best auction price ever achieved by a1960 Picasso painting.