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Expansive Buying Enhances Auctions at Galerie Koller

The Swiss Galerie Koller, Zurich, realized CHF 15.2 million ($11.7 million) in its first auction series of the year, from March 20-25. The total was about 35 percent higher than that of comparable sales a year ago.

ZURICH—The Swiss Galerie Koller, Zurich, realized CHF 15.2 million ($11.7 million) in its first auction series of the year, from March 20-25. The total was about 35 percent higher than that of comparable sales a year ago.

More than half this figure was tallied by the paintings and related works from Old Masters through the 19th century, which fetched CHF 8.3 million ($6.4 million) of the total. In all, 156, or about 70 percent, of the 221 paintings offered in the main catalogue, were sold. By dollar value the total exceeded the estimated sum by approximately 50 percent.

As usual the sale was closely followed by a large group of international Old Master dealers fresh from wrapping up their “annual general assembly,” The European Fine Art Fair (TEFAF), Maastricht, on a highly optimistic note.

A small Flagellation of Christ, circa 1570, by Antwerp’s Bartholomäus Spranger (1546-1611), which recently was rediscovered by Galerie Koller in a French private collection, took CHF 1 million ($800,800) from an American collector. This set the top price of the auction series as well as a new auction record for the artist.

The monochrome Still Life with Wine Glass, Crab, Small Breads, Plate and Knife on a White Tablecloth, by Pieter Claesz. (circa 1597-1661), fetched CHF 980,000 ($754,600), about four times its mean estimate. The work—in good condition and originally conserved—was reportedly acquired by London dealer Richard Green.

A new pattern in the buying behavior of Russian collectors and dealers surprised auction- eer Cyril Koller. For some years now his Zurich auction house has been well-known among Russian collectors and dealers as a source for 19th-century paintings by Russian artists, such as the early Impressionist and marine painter Ivan-Konstantinovisch Ajvasovski (or Aivasovsky), whose large marine scene After the Storm, 1892—which once belonged to the Gulbenkian family, New York—fell within estimate for CHF 545,000 ($419,650) to a collector in St. Petersburg.

But this time the Russian collectors and dealers —made knowledgeable by Koller’s Moscow representative Vadim Gontcharenko—broadened their buying spectrum to include classical Dutch and Flemish Old Master paintings and even some 19th-century European pictures.

For instance, a Russian collector acquired the work Still Life with Fruits on a Stone Table, by Cornelis (Jansz.) de Heem (1631-95), for CHF 90,000 ($69,300); and a compatriot paid a rather high CHF 125,700 ($96,789) for the landscape Lac, bouquet de chênes et barque (Lake, Oak Trees and a Boat), by mid-19th-century Swiss artist Alexandre Calame (1810-64), representing a typical upmarket souvenir painting for affluent early tourists traveling through Switzerland at that time.

On the whole, Koller was decidedly pleased by the auction results and noted the reflection of “the generally good market climate.”

CHRISTIAN VON FABER CASTELL

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