Christie’s Impressionist and Modern Sale Reaches $113 million, Despite the Odds

Most lots to exceed estimates were around the £1 million mark.

Pablo Picasso (1881-1973), Tête. Painted on 14 December 1969. Estimate: £4,800,000 - 6,500,000.
© Christie’s Images Limited 2015.
Henry Moore (1898-1986) Reclining Figure No. 2 bronze with brown and green patina Length: 36 in. (91.5 cm.) Conceived in 1953 and cast in an edition of seven Estimate: £900,000 - 1,200,000         Price Realised: £1,538,500/$2,430,830/€2,155,439. © Christie’s Images Limited 2015.

Henry Moore (1898-1986) Reclining Figure No. 2
Estimate: £900,000 – 1,200,000
Price Realised: £1,538,500/$2,430,830/€2,155,439.
© Christie’s Images Limited 2015.

Christie’s Impressionist and Modern Art Sale in London tonight was thin in quality but still sold 42, or 84 percent, of 50 lots for a mid-estimate of £71.5 million, or $112.9 million.

There were few gains, but a good result overall for a mediocre hand.

“Considering there were no masterpieces and Sotheby’s tomorrow has the stronger sale, this was a healthy if not very exciting result,” said art advisor Guy Jennings, a former Impressionist and Modern art specialist at both Christie’s and Sotheby’s.

Claude Monet (1840-1926), Iris mauves. Painted in 1914-1917. Estimate: £6,000,000 - 9,000,000. © Christie’s Images Limited 2015.

Claude Monet (1840-1926), Iris mauves.
Painted in 1914-1917.
Estimate: £6,000,000 – 9,000,000.
© Christie’s Images Limited 2015.

The top lot was Claude Monet’s rather straggly, vertical Iris Mauves (1914-17), which was bought back in 1997 by Ernst Beyeler for a client for $3.85 million, and returned to auction in 2011 when it was unsold at Christie’s New York with a $15-20 million estimate.

This time, with a much reduced estimate of £6-9 million or $9.5-14.3 million, it attracted strong bidding from Russia and America, before selling to the American phone bidder for £10.8 million, or $17.1 million.

Other top lots in the sale ignited less interest. A late Pablo Picasso, Tete (1969), that was bought in 2010 for $6.8 million at Christie’s in New York now carried a third party guarantee and sold below the estimate for £4.45 million, or $7 million.

Pablo Picasso (1881-1973), Tête. Painted on 14 December 1969. Estimate: £4,800,000 - 6,500,000. © Christie’s Images Limited 2015.

Pablo Picasso (1881-1973), Tête. Painted on 14 December 1969.
Estimate: £4,800,000 – 6,500,000.
© Christie’s Images Limited 2015.

Christie’s would not have taken a loss on that, but would have done with the next two top lots which had previously been bought-in (i.e., unsold), carrying guarantees and were therefore now being sold with Christie’s stating its direct financial interest. Kees van Dongen’s Anita en almee (1908), had been bought-in at Christie’s New York in 2008 with a $12-18 million estimate and returned just £4.1 million, or $6.5 million tonight.

Joan Miro’s The Stem of the Red Flower Grows Toward the Moon (1952), had similarly been bought-in at Christie’s in London in 2013 with a £5.2-5.7 million estimate, and returned a disappointing £3.8 million.

René Magritte (1898-1967) Le chant d'amour signed 'Magritte' (lower right) and titled '"LE CHANT D'AMOUR"' (on the reverse) gouache on paper 10 ½ x 14 in. (26.7 x 35.5 cm.) Executed circa 1962 Estimate: £300,000 - 500,000            Price Realised: £1,022,500/$1,615,550/€1,432,523. © Christie’s Images Limited 2015.

René Magritte (1898-1967) Le chant d’amour. Executed circa 1962
Estimate: £300,000 – 500,000
Price Realised: £1,022,500/$1,615,550/€1,432,523.
© Christie’s Images Limited 2015.

Most lots to exceed estimates were around the £1 million mark.

A René Magritte gouache, Le Chant d’Amour (1962), sold to advisor, Mary Hoeveler, for £1 million over a £300,000 low estimate. Another Magritte gouache, Le Baiser (c.1957), showed an improvement on its last outing in 2010 when it doubled estimates to fetch £1.2 million. With an increased estimate of £1.2-1.8 million, it sold to New York dealer, David Benrimon, for £2 million.

Two other lots to breach their high estimates came courtesy of New York’s Acquavella Galleries which bought Henry Moore’s Reclining Figure, No.2 (1953) for £1.5 million, and Henri Laurens’ voluptuous lifetime cast nude, La Lune, for £1 million.

But half the sale was selling at below the low estimate. Ever the opportunist, David Nahmad snuck in a bid at 290,000 for Miro’s 1974 sculpture, Tete, which had a £400,000-600,000 estimate, and won it.

Joan Miró (1893-1983) Tête signed and numbered 'Miró 4/4' (on the right side of the base); inscribed with the foundry mark 'SUSSE FONDEUR. PARIS' (on the back of the base) bronze with dark brown patina Height: 86 5/8 in. (220 cm.) Width: 49 ¼ in. (125 cm.) Depth: 57 1/8 in. (145 cm.) Conceived in 1974 and cast in an edition of four Estimate: £400,000 - 600,000            Price Realised: £350,500/$553,790/€491,051. © Christie’s Images Limited 2015.

Joan Miró (1893-1983) Tête
Conceived in 1974 and cast in an edition of four
Estimate: £400,000 – 600,000
Price Realised: £350,500/$553,790/€491,051.
© Christie’s Images Limited 2015.

Russian bidding was evident, said Christie’s for works by Soutine, and on the top lot, the Monet. But it failed to materialize on a painting of a sailboat by Natalia Sergeevna Goncharova titled Volier, which had been bought in a Russian sale at Bonhams before the crash in 2007 for £1.7 million but now went unsold with a £1.5 million low estimate.

There was notable Asian bidding on works by Marc Chagall, Paul Signac, and Paul Gauguin, with Asian buyers accounting for a 2014 Auguste Rodin cast, Aphrodite, grand model, sent for sale by the Musée Rodin, which sold on the low estimate for £722,500 including premium, and for Salvador Dali, whose 1957 painting, Chevauchee celeste, sold for a mid-estimate £2.9 million, only slightly more, after deducting commissions, than the £2.2 million it fetched in 2010.

One of the best gains of the night was the £3.7 million paid by an Asian buyer for Signac’s Marseilles le Port, which the Swiss based seller bought ten years earlier for £736,500.

Otherwise gains were nowhere near those chalked up in contemporary sales. Still, the sale proved that the demand is there for the second best, if the price is competitive.

Henri Laurens (1885-1954) La Lune signed with initials and numbered ‘HL 2/4’ (on the right of the base); stamped with the foundry mark ‘C. VALSUANI CIRE PERDUE’ (on the back of the base) bronze with brown and green patina Height: 35 ½ in. (90 cm.) Conceived in 1946 and cast in the artist’s lifetime in an edition of five numbered 0/4 to 4/4, plus one artist's proof and an additional cast marked 'M.N.' for the Musée National d'Art Moderne, Paris Estimate: £400,000 - 600,000            Price Realised: £1,022,500/$1,615,550/€1,432,523. © Christie’s Images Limited 2015.

Henri Laurens (1885-1954) La Lune
Conceived in 1946 and cast in the artist’s lifetime in an edition of five numbered 0/4 to 4/4, plus one artist’s proof and an additional cast marked ‘M.N.’ for the Musée National d’Art Moderne, Paris
Estimate: £400,000 – 600,000
Price Realised: £1,022,500/$1,615,550/€1,432,523.
© Christie’s Images Limited 2015.


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