See The Top Impressionist and Modern Lots at Sotheby’s and Christie’s Upcoming Sales
The market is more subdued this time around.
Even before the outcome of the US election was finally determined, the mood going into this year’s major fall auctions was decidedly more subdued than recent blockbuster multi-billion dollar seasons.
There is no question that the art market has been relatively quiet of late, with volume decidedly lower this season than in the past, even when one takes into account the weight that the A. Alfred Taubman sale of “masterworks” last November added to the mix last year.
That sale, which featured work by Amedeo Modigliani and Mark Rothko, accounted for $377 million of the season total, while Sotheby’s traditional standalone evening Impressionist sale took in a lower, though still robust $306.7 million. In comparison, next Monday night’s (November 14) evening sale of Impressionist art, which kicks off a jam-packed auction week, is estimated at $145.8 million to $186.5 million.
Christie’s Impressionist and modern sale, slated for Wednesday November 16, carries an estimate of around $202 million to $283 million. Last year’s evening sale pulled in $145.5 million, though getting a pure apples-to-apples category comparison is no longer so simple given Christie’s recent introduction of “hybrid” category auctions that cater to collectors’ expanding tastes. Last November’s hybrid sale, “The Artist’s Muse,” took in a hefty $491.4 million, of which $170 million was accounted for by a single work, a rare Modigliani nude that sold to a Chinese buyer.
But of course, as always, art lovers can expect some fireworks to watch out for. Here is a look at the expected top lots at Sotheby’s and Christie’s major evening sales.
The top lot at Sotheby’s is a masterpiece by Edvard Munch, Girls on the Bridge (1902), which carries an estimate in excess of $50 million and has a track record that gives insight to how intense the demand for Munch masterworks, as well as the broader Impressionist market, has become in the past few decades.
The work has come up for sale at Sotheby’s two times in the past two decades: in 1996 it scored a record (for the time) $7.7 million; in 2008, it sold for $30.8 million. Sotheby’s holds the record for a work by Munch, having sold The Scream (1895) in 2012, for just under $120 million.
“Munch’s importance to the full breadth of 20th century art cannot be overstated,” said Simon Shaw, co-head of Sotheby’s Impressionist and modern department worldwide. “From the Expressionists to Fauvism and Pop Art, his oeuvre is increasingly prized for its lasting influence on the art of recent times,” said Shaw.
Also among the top lots at Sotheby’s is a later Pablo Picasso painting from 1963, Le Peintre et son modèle, that carries an estimate of $12 million to $18 million and has a third party guarantee, thus lowering Sotheby’s exposure to its sale performance.
In this exploration of the painter and his model, Picasso “paints a female nude reminiscent of the female subjects of Rubens and Ingres.” The work is fresh to the market, having descended through the Oestreich family since it was acquired in 1968 from Galerie Louis Leiris in Paris.
Among the much-anticipated highlights at Christie’s is a rare Wassily Kandinsky painting, Rigide et courbé (1935), estimated at $18 million to $25 million, a price that puts it in potential artist auction record territory.
“There are not many major Kandinsky pictures still in private hands,” said auction expert turned dealer Emmanuel Di Donna, whose eponymous gallery on the Upper East Side currently has two major Kandinsky paintings on display that are on loan from private collections for his museum-caliber show, “Paths to the Absolute.” In addition to Kandinsky, it features works from Kazemir Malevich, Piet Mondrian, Barnett Newman, Jackson Pollock, Mark Rothko, and Clyfford Still.
Di Donna noted a run-up in price for major Kandinsky oils in the mid-2000s, when Russians showed interest before pulling out around 2007, but he notes overall international demand is still robust. He also predicts it will be sought after by a number of major collectors.
The current record at auction for a work by Kandinsky is $23 million, paid for Studie für Improvisation 8 (1909) and sold at Christie’s in November 2012. To date, three works by the artist have sold for over $20 million apiece, and eight works have sold for over $10 million.
Another potential blockbuster at Christie’s is a Monet haystack painting, Meule (1891), which is said to be the last such work in private hands. It carries an estimate in the region of $45 million, and it last appeared at auction in May 1999 at Sotheby’s New York, where it sold for just under $12 million on an estimate of $8 million to $11 million. According to Christie’s catalogue, it was acquired by the current consigner in 2002.
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