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Vibrant Italian Auctions Say Ciao to Previous Records

Both Sotheby’s and Christie’s held 20th-century Italian art sales on Oct. 24. Christie’s did best, taking £12.8 million ($22.7 million), the highest total for a 20th-century Italian art sale in London to date. Sotheby’s responded with a £9.7 million ($17.2 million) sale in which 52 out of 55 lots were sold—realizing the highest-ever total for the

LONDON—Both Sotheby’s and Christie’s held 20th-century Italian art sales on Oct. 24. Christie’s did best, taking £12.8 million ($22.7 million), the highest total for a 20th-century Italian art sale in London to date.

Sotheby’s responded with a £9.7 million ($17.2 million) sale in which 52 out of 55 lots were sold—realizing the highest-ever total for the auction house. (Sotheby’s realized £7 million, or $12.5 million, in its year-ago Oct. 19 Italian sale; Christie’s did not hold one last year.)

Pascali Work Takes $2.4M at Christie’s

The top lot at Christie’s was one of Pino Pascali’s antimilitarist sculptures, Cannone ‘Bella ciao,’ 1965, a construct of painted wood, scrap metal and wheels that was acquired by dealer Daniella Luxembourg for £1.35 million ($2.4 million), below the low estimate of £1.5 million.

Luxembourg also bought Michelangelo Pistoletto’s bicycle-and-rags sculpture Pavone, 1968-74, for £84,000, or $148,700 (estimate: £80,000/120,000), and underbid on Jannis Kounellis’ early alphabet painting Untitled, 1960, which went to another trade buyer at a mid-estimate £433,600 ($767,000).

Seven record prices were set, and all but ten of the 71 lots were sold. A large musical-notation painting by Kounellis, Untitled, 1971, originally part of a musical performance, sold for £512,000, or $906,240 million (estimate: £250,000/350,000) to a trade buyer. Alighiero Boetti’s sculpture Cubo, 1968, was acquired by a U.S. collector for £433,600, or $766,000 (estimate: £120,000/180,000); and Fausto Melotti’s gold-plated stainless-steel sculpture Canone variato II, 1971, went to an Italian phone bidder for £120,000, or $212,400 (estimate: £35,000/50,000).

Emilio Vedova’s triptych Scontro di situazioni I, 1959, fell on a commission bid for £288,000, or $509,760 (estimate: £250,000/350,000). Renato Birolli’s abstract painting Incendio alle Cinque Terre, 1957, was purchased by a bidder on the phone for £131,200, or $232,225 (estimate: £110,000/140,000).

An Enzo Cucchi construct of oil, sheet metal on canvas and iron wheels, Untitled (Abitato dal fuoco), 1986, fell to a phone bidder for £176,000, or $311,520 (estimate: £60,000/80,000). And Sandro Chia’s Nostalgic Figures, 1983, took a useful markup when it sold for £125,600, or $222,312 (estimate: £50,000/80,000), more than twice its sale price in 1999.

A new face in the crowd at this sale was London contemporary art dealer Karsten Schubert, who bid on several lots and won the highest-selling painting by Lucio Fontana—a red slash painting, Concetto spaziale, attese, 1965, for the price of £523,200, or $924,000 (estimate: £500,000/600,000).

Marini Sculpture Stars at Sotheby’s

At Sotheby’s, 70 percent of the lots on offer achieved selling prices over their estimates. The top lot was Marino Marini’s bronze Cavaliere, 1952, at £1 million, or $1.5 million (estimate: £900,000/1.2 million), which was won by a private European collector. The top lots were sold to a mixture of European and U.S. private and trade buyers.

A record for a Marini work on paper was set when London dealer Peter Osborne bought Cavallo e acrobata, a 1950 gouache, for £204,000, or $361,080 (estimate: £120,000/180,000). Other record prices were set for Getulio Alviani’s 1964 steel sculpture Rilievo speculare ad elementi curvi (£50,400, or $89,208) and Gianni Colombo’s 1967 Spazio elastico, using aluminum, nylon thread and electric motor (£25,200, or $44,604)—both falling to the same buyer; Francesco Lo Savio’s iron Untitled, 1959 (£102,000, or $180,540); Enrico Castellani’s Superficie bianca, 1977 (£164,800, or $291,696); Gio Pomodoro’s marble Intercettatore quadrato, 1966 (£36,000, or $63,720); Giuseppe Uncini’s L’Arco con l’Ombra, 1971 (£69,600, or $123,192); Mimmo Paladino’s Canto I, 1995, an oil, mixed-media and canvas collage (£164,800, or $291,696); Ettore Spalletti’s pigment-on-board Untitled, 1994 (£24,000, or $42,480); and Mario della Vedova’s 2001 construct in neon light on handmade fabric “I am not sorrowful, but only tired of everything that ever I desired” (£19,200, or $34,000).

Sotheby’s also claimed an extra £2.2 million in sales of 20th-century Italian art from the Liliane and Michel Durand-Dessert sale in Paris last month (see ANL, 10/25/05). The top lot in this sale, Pascali’s $961,000 La decapitazione della scultura, 1966, was purchased by French art adviser Hugues Joffre.

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