Star turns at the Impressionism & Modern Art auctions in New York

[16/04/2003]

 

Sotheby’s and Christie’s are taking similar approaches to the evening auctions to be held on 6 and 7 May. Both are banking on Renoir and Degas from the impressionists, dropping Picasso, and hoping to continue selling Giacometti sculptures in bulk. Some of the works on offer may seem oddly familiar…

This year, Auguste Renoir will take centre stage at Sotheby’s on the evening of 6 May with a very large canvas from 1882, Dans les Roses (Madame Léon Clapisson), with an estimated price of USD20-30 million. This is likely to fetch the top hammer price in the two days of auctions. As Sotheby’s is keen to point out, this is the first time the metre-high painting has been seen in public since 1937. Renoir’s price index has risen by 35% since 1997. Sotheby’s is also offering some good Degas pastels offered by the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston: Danseuse (USD9–12 million) and Danseuses près d’un portant (USD2.5-3.5 million). Christie’s is putting up a magnificent bronze by the same artist entitled Petite danseuse de quatorze ans (USD8-12 million), considered the most important of Degas’ 73 sculptures. In the last seven years, three other casts have been offered at auction and all have gone for over USD10 million. The same evening, Christie’s offers two Degas pastels, Avant le départ (USD3–4 million), themed on horse racing, andPortrait de femme (USD0.9–1.2 million). But their star lot is a Paul Cézanne self-portrait from 1895, estimated at USD15-20 million — the first time a portrait of the artist has come up at this sort of price. In contrast, no major Monet canvases are on offer this year. Over the last five years, works by the impressionist master have brought in USD160 million at the high-profile evening sales, 16.8% of the total turnover at these auctions.

Another virtual absentee is Pablo Picasso, whose canvases have turned over USD97 million at auctions since 1997. Neither of his two offered works are up to the usual standard for major auctions. The mantle of modern art will therefore pass this year to Piet Mondrian’s Composition in White, Blue and Yellow: C at Christie’s (USD6-9 million) and Kasimir Malevitch’s Suprematist painting, Rectangle and Circle, at Sotheby’s (USD5-7 million). The Malevitch-inspired Suprematism is one of the movements whose index has gained most over the last five years (+112%). And no Mondrian painting has got close to the estimated price for this one since 1990, when his Tableau losangique II, sold for a record USD8 million at Christie’s.
Lastly, both auctioneers are again offering a wide range of Giacometti sculptures to meet sustained demand, despite the break-up sale of the Giacometti inheritance in September 2002. They have even risked two casts of the same sculpture within 24 hours of each other: La clairière number 5/6 goes under the hammer at Sotheby’s on 6 May with an estimated price of USD8-10 million, followed the next day by number 1/6 at Christie’s in a similar price range. Whatever next.

May « Impressionist and Modern Art » evening sales (from 1997 to 2002)Top 20 artists by auction turnover

Artist

Turnover

Lots sold

Claude MONET

$160 050 000

34

Pablo PICASSO

$78 830 000

36

Paul CÉZANNE

$77 675 000

5

Henri MATISSE

$62 280 000

19

Alberto GIACOMETTI

$43 180 000

11

Pierre-Auguste RENOIR

$41 330 000

26

Edgar DEGAS

$40 430 000

15

Georges Pierre SEURAT

$33 700 000

3

Vincent VAN GOGH

$32 840 000

8

Max BECKMANN

$26 375 000

8

Gustave CAILLEBOTTE

$25 400 000

5

Camille PISSARRO

$21 780 000

21

Auguste RODIN

$19 575 000

22

Amedeo MODIGLIANI

$18 600 000

5

Constantin BRANCUSI

$17 450 000

2

René MAGRITTE

$15 815 000

6

Pierre BONNARD

$15 550 000

11

Kasimir Sevrinovitch MALEVICH

$15 530 000

2

Paul GAUGUIN

$14 910 000

6

Georges BRAQUE

$13 120 000

7

Autres

$176 055 750

213