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Private Collectors Lift Prices at London Print Sales

London auctions of Old Master, modern and contemporary prints at Sotheby’s and Christie’s from March 28-29 yielded several records and ignited fierce bidding for top lots. Christie’s realized £3.8 million ($6.6 million) on March 29, selling 399, or 92 percent, of 433 lots on offer. The sale was 97 percent sold by value.

NEW YORK—London auctions of Old Master, modern and contemporary prints at Sotheby’s and Christie’s from March 28-29 yielded several records and ignited fierce bidding for top lots. Christie’s realized £3.8 million ($6.6 million) on March 29, selling 399, or 92 percent, of 433 lots on offer. The sale was 97 percent sold by value.

The previous day, Sotheby’s grossed £6.1 million ($10.8 million), its highest total ever for a sale of prints in London. Of 441 lots on offer, 385, or 87.5 percent, were sold. The auction was 92 percent sold by value.

At Christie’s a British dealer paid £142,400, or $248,203 (estimate: £80,000/120,000), for the top lot—Christ Presented to the People, 1655—by Rembrandt Harmensz. van Rijn. This was followed by “La Tauromaquia,” 1816, by Francisco de Goya y Lucientes, which fetched £136,800 ($238,442), a record for this series (estimate: £40,000/60,000).

A dealer paid £114,000 ($198,702) for Cy Twombly’s Untitled (Bastian 29-34), 1971 (estimate: £40,000/60,000).

Richard Lloyd, Christie’s director of prints, London, says “competitive bidding was seen in all sections of today’s hugely successful sale. The high sale percentages reflect the strength of the current market.”

Roy Lichtenstein’s Reverie (Corlett 38), 1965, sold for £76,800 ($133,862), setting a record for a print by the artist (estimate: £35,000/45,000).

Sotheby’s sale was led by Pablo Picasso’s 1935 etching La Minotauromachie, which sold within estimate for £556,800, or $973,119 (estimate: £550,000/750,000). The work, which Sotheby’s describes as of the “utmost rarity” in the sale catalogue, bears the stamp of the Picasso estate and was formerly in the collection of his granddaughter Marina Picasso. The lot was from part of a group of 69 works in a private collection of prints by the artist that fetched £2.1 million in total.

Buste de femme au chapeau, a 1962 linocut by Picasso, also figured among the top lots, taking £136,800 ($239,085) against an estimate of £70,000/100,000.

Edvard Munch’s 1902 lithograph Madonna: Liebendes Weib sold far above estimate when it realized £388,800, or $679,506 (estimate: £100,000/ 150,000), from a private buyer. The price was a record for a print by Munch.

Susan Harris, Sotheby’s head of prints in London, notes the strength of demand from private buyers at the sale. Seven of the top lots were purchased by private collectors, according to Sotheby’s.

Double Mickey Mouse, a 1981 screen print by Andy Warhol, went for £108,000, or $188,752 (estimate: £60,000/70,000), while the artist’s Myths: Superman, also a 1981 screen print, brought £78,000, or $136,321 (estimate: £32,000/35,000). Harris says the prices realized for Warhol prove his market is “stronger than ever.”

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