Paris Sales – December 3 to 5 – the key works…



Christie’s and Sotheby’s are opening their series of Contemporary, Impressionist and Modern art sales in Paris, between 3 and 5 December at which a total of 320 lots of the best signatures on the French and international art scene will be offered with prices ranging from 1,000 to 10 million euros.

The highlight of the three days of sales is a painting by Amedeo MODIGLIANI estimated between EUR 7 and 10 million at Sotheby’s on 4 December. It is not a portrait of a woman, and therefore not a priori one of his most sought-after works (La Belle Romaine fetched USD 61.5 million), but a portrait of Roger Dutilleul who proved to be a true pioneer in the collection of Modern artworks during the first half of the twentieth century. In 15 years of methodical purchasing, Dutilleul built up an amazing collection of works including Braque, Picasso, Klee, Kandinsky, Soutine, Miro, some Fauvist works and lots of other works. Nor is the Modigliani canvas on offer, dated 1919, tipped to dethrone the artist’s record for a male portrait (held since 2006 by Fils du concierge which fetched €21.8 million [$27.75m] at Sotheby’s New York on 7 November 2006), but it could generate his third or fourth best auction record in the genre.

Seven other major works are expected to cross the EUR 1 million threshold on 3 and 4 December at Sotheby’s. Three works for the Contemporary session, by Pierre Soulages, Zao Wou Ki and Joan Mitchell, followed by four works the next day by Tamara de Lempicka, Wassily Kandinsky, Pablo Picasso and Joan Miro.

Among the works on offer there will be two rarities: Deux nus en perspective by Tamara DE LEMPICKA and a bronze sculpture entitled Souvenir de la Tour Eiffel by Joan MIRO. The former is indeed a rare commodity: dated 1925 the painting of the two female nudes is estimated at EUR 1.3 – 1.8 million and is from a Parisian collection that has not moved since 1980. This lot represents the most important work by Tamara de Lempicka offered at auction in a year. The last work of this quality, Nu sur une terrasse, also dated 1925, fetched €1.56 million ($2m) at Sotheby’s, on 8 November 2012.

The other rarity, Miro’s Souvenir de la Tour Eiffel is a sculpture over three meters high that was cast in 1977 in only 6 copies. If it reaches into its estimated range of €1.4 to 1.8m, it could generate the artist’s fourth best-ever auction result.

Both auction houses are competing with works by Joan MITCHELL; but the work offered by Christie’s is the one likely to generate the most interest: a majestic painting measuring nearly 5 meters (163 x 488 cm) entitled Aquarium and completed in 1967. The work was sold at auction 20 years ago at Sotheby’s New York, and since then its value has increased from the equivalent of €207,000 ($230,000 – 10 November 1993) to an estimated €2.2 – 3.3 million in the upcoming sale. The current owner is therefore expecting a gain of € 2 – 3 million in just 20 years. In effect, Joan Mitchell is one of the most sought-after artists in Western art with a price index that has risen nearly 250% over the last decade. The work is likely to attract interest from both European and American collectors in early December.

The other jewel in Christie’s catalogue is a major work by Martial RAYSSE: Quinze Août is a canvas dated 1964 in vibrant colours with the intensity of the orange enhanced by neon. Carrying an estimate of €1.5 – 2m, this work is expected to fetch one of the artist’s top three auction results and it would be his fifth 7-figure result (the second in Paris since Raysse is the one of the few French artists enjoying strong Anglo-Saxon demand: roughly 41% of his annual auction revenue is generated in London). His price index has rocketed since 2008 and, for the last decade as a whole, it already shows a rise of approximately 890%!

Paris being Paris, a number of other New Realists will be present during these sales, including Niki de Saint Phalle and Jean Tinguely. There will also be a few surrealists (Miro, Magritte) and ex-surrealists like Simon HANTAÏ whose 1971 Study (a “folding” with bright blue on bright white background measuring 235 x 208 cm) is estimated at €400,000 – 600,000.

Other rarities on offer include a small and well-dated (1952) work by Nicolas DE STAËL which has not moved from its collection since 1959 and is carrying an estimate of €120,000 – 180,000. There will also be painting by the American artist Peter SAUL who lived in Paris between 1958 and 1962. Estimated at €100,000 – 150,000, the painting could set a new record for Saul on the Paris market.