Sotheby’s dominates London’s sales


With a total of $125.5 million from 23 Impressionist & Modern Art lots on 19 June, Sotheby’s dwarfed its competition last week; Christie’s Imp-Mod total amounted to just $45.8 million.


Christie’s kicked off London’s June sales of Impressionist & Modern Art with a disappointing total (18 June). The world’s leading auction firm generated $45.8 million at its prestige sale compared with $166.6 million a year earlier (Imp-Mod sale, 20 June 2018). Even adding together the results of a total of seven fine art sales during the same week, Christie’s overall total reached approximately $77 million, i.e. $50 million behind Sotheby’s total from just one evening. So… logically, the week’s best results were hammered at Sotheby’s on 19 June. Here is a selection.

Sotheby’s Impressionist & Modern art sale was led by a very subtle and delicately nuanced Claude MONET’s Nymphéas (1908), his most popular subject. The American company – which has just been acquired by the French businessman Patrick Drahi – is delighted with the $30.1 million (incl. fees) hammered for this “tour de force” by the Impressionist champion, a result which, according to the auction house, confirms “the market’s persistent power on works by this unmatched master”.

Another gem at the Sotheby’s sale was a Amedeo MODIGLIANI painting – Jeune homme assis, les mains croisées sur les genoux (1918) – that had remained in the same family since 1927. The work reached $23.4 million, the 10th best-ever result for a Modigliani portrait. Demand remains robust for portraits by this major artist. Remember that the highest auction result in Sotheby’s history was hammered for a Modigliani canvas – Nu couché (sur le côté gauche)which fetched $157.2 million in May 2018. Christie’s still holds the artist’s absolute record since the sale of a superb Reclining nude (1917-1918) for $170.4 million in November 2015.

In the Surrealism segment, Sotheby’s posted a good result ($5.2 million) for René MAGRITTE’s superb La Magie Noire, taking a million more than the high estimate. The other two Magritte paintings in the sale also passed the million threshold: his Untitled (Two girls walking along a street) depicting two women walking, one nude, the other dressed, fetched $1.3 million, and his Le Grand matin sold for $3.8 million. Demand for Magritte’s best works has never been stronger and in terms of auction turnover the Belgian artist ranks 14th in the world artist for the first semester of 2019 (ahead of Modigliani!) with $55 million already under his belt. If the trend continues, 2019 could be Magritte’s best-ever year. Remember that his auction record is still very recent: last November Sotheby’s took $26.8 million for Magritte’s The Principle of pleasure.

London’s Contemporary Art sales will close the season this weekend before the summer break. A Francis Bacon self-portrait is particularly anticipated on 26 June at Sotheby’s with an estimate of $19 – $29 million.