New York’s ’s upcoming trophies


A Matisse “Odalisque” and a Fernand Léger “Grand déjeuner” both expected to fetch over $15 million, a Van Gogh likely to exceed $50 million, a museum-worthy Malevitch Suprematist composition – major works by some of history’s most sought-after artists. This year, New York’s May sales are taking the prestige factor to an impressive new level.


Art market professionals are eagerly awaiting the results of Sotheby’s Impressionist & Modern Art prestige Sale on May 14 and particularly the result for Modigliani’s large format Reclining Nude (1917). Modigliani’s largest known painting is carrying an estimate of $150 million, the highest estimate ever attributed in art auction history. If it reaches that price, the painting will have added $120 million dollars to its value in just 15 years. The result will undoubtedly have an impact on Christie’s sale the following day which will be offering 10 works by Picasso, four by Giacometti, and one of the finest and most complex Suprematist works by Malevich (that could well set a new record [see AMI of 17 April 2018]). At the very least, Christie’s high-end selection will revise the best results rankings of a number of leading artists including Giacometti, Van Gogh and Fernand Leger.


Nine Giacometti sculptures in one…

With an annual auction turnover of $87 million in 2017, Alberto GIACOMETTI was the world’s 26th highest selling artist on the secondary market (not a particularly good year for the artist). In the past, his annual auction market has exceeded $200 million. Along with Picasso and Warhol, Giacometti is one of the artists most coveted by the planet’s ultra high net worth individuals. And, since his L’homme au doigt fetched the record price of $141.2 million at Christie’s in May 2015, he is also one of the few artists whose works have sold publicly above the $100 million threshold. The key work being offered on May 15 next at Christie’s is called La Clairière. It consists of nine spindly bronze human figures that the artist completed in 1950 for a show at the Pierre Matisse Gallery in New York. Sold for $4.4 million five years ago (Christie’s London, May 2013), La Clairière is now expected to sell for $10 – 15 million. Giacometti’s prices are climbing quickly for iconic works and his price index has risen 253% since 2000.

Van Gogh’s Provence period…

The arrival of Vincent VAN GOGH’s La Vue de l’asile et de la Chapelle Saint-Paul de Mausole (45 x 60 cm) is timely because six months ago, a painting depicting a farmhand in a field (Laboureur dans un champ) sold for over $81 million only just missing a new record for the artist (his Portrait of Dr. Gachet fetched $82.5 million in 1990). Vue de l’asile et de la Chapelle Saint-Paul de Mausole (Saint-Rémy) takes us back to the autumn of 1889 in St. Remy de Provence, a period of particular importance in the artist’s career. Van Gogh spent a year in the small Provençal village, interned at his own request at the Asile Saint-Paul de Mausole. This work reflects a period of calm inspiration. Christie’s is expecting between $35 and 55 million, which would make it one of the artist’s 10 most expensive paintings ever sold publicly.

Lunch with Fernand Léger

A traditional subject, Fernand LÉGER’s Le grand déjeuner totally revises the “picnic” theme with his Modernist and mechanist aesthetics. Completed in 1921 the painting could also generate one of Fernand Léger’s Top 10 auction results if it sells within its estimated range of $15-25 million. It would also revalue his other déjeuner sur l’herbe paintings, considered one of his best subjects. The best result for a similar work was $7.2 million in 1991 (Christie’s, 5 November 1991). The price paid on 15 May at Christie’s will tell if the value of these works from the early 1920s has doubled or tripled. It’s certainly a good time to sell the work because last year (13 November 2017) his Contraste de formes set a new auction record for the artist at almost double the previous record, fetching $70 million (Christie’s).

A unique Brancusi

La jeune fille sophistiquée (Portrait de Nancy Cunard) is an original and unique work by Constantin BRANCUSI – a pure form in polished bronze on a white marble base – that has never left the private collection it has been in since 1955. That’s already enough to attract the attention of the world’s biggest dealers and collectors, especially as the artist’s prices are on an ascending path. Last year, one of his superb gilded Sleeping Muse (La muse endormie) bronze heads, portraying a refined and delicate face, fetched a record price of $57.3 million, multiplying its value 6.6 times in 20 years. That new record gave Brancusi a place in the Top 10 best Western auction results in 2017, ahead of Kandinsky and Picasso. Christie’s has not revealed the estimate for Portrait of Nancy Cunard, but the sophisticated young girl should generate one of the best results ever hammered for a work by the Romanian artist. Eighteen years ago, a similar work, La négresse blonde, was offered at Sotheby’s New York where it fetched $8.8 million. Today it could fetch well over $30 million.