Sotheby’s unveils the highlights of its upcoming « Impressionist & Modern Art » auction



Like its competitor Christie’s, Sotheby’s holds its biggest sale every year in early May. The prestigious « Impressionist and Modern Art » evening sale will take place on 3 May 2005 in New York. The same thematic auction last year, which included 34 works from the Whitney Collection, proved a huge success and generated USD 190 million in turnover.

Despite the tempting selection of major works by Wassily KANDINSKY, Pablo PICASSO, Max BECKMANN, Fernand LÉGER, Henri Matisse, etc. offered at this year’s auction, there are no expectations that last year’s record of USD 93 million will be beaten.

Sotheby’s star lot is Wassily Kandisky’s « Zwei Reiter und liegende Gestalt » (1909-10), a large painting estimated at USD 15-25 million, that foreshadowed the beginnings of abstract art. However, it may fetch less than Picasso’s painting « Les femmes d’Algers » (J) (1955), part of a 15-piece series on the theme of harems, estimated at USD 15-20 million and that sold for USD 213,000 in 1956. Several pieces from this series went up for auction in 1997 and 1988 one of which (the « O » version) went under the hammer at USD 29 million, having been estimated at USD 10-12 million. The Artprice Indicator (Artprice’s tool for following the price of a work over time) estimates that today this piece could fetch nearly USD 35 million.Several other paintings may also break existing records, notably « Self-portrait with Crystal Ball » by Max Beckmann that may well top the 2001 record and another of the artist’s self-portraits, « Self-portrait with Pipe » (USD 20.5 million). Other highlights include the long-awaited work by Fernand Léger, Les Maisons dans les Arbres (1914), which may fetch more than another of the artist’s works La femme en rouge et vert (also 1914) that went under the hammer for USD 20 million in November 2003.

While collectors will certainly delight in the selection of Modern Art works on offer, Sotheby’s will not be offering any major Impressionist pieces. The only 19th century painting from this important art movement included in the auction schedule is Claude Monet’s « Les Bords de la Seine à Argenteuil » that has an estimation of USD 4-6 million.Judging from the auction’s selection, it looks like Impressionist works will be eclipsed by Modern Art.