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Euro-Rich and Eager Buyers Boost Mid-Season Auctions

Mid-season sales of Impressionist, modern and American art—including numerous works from prominent collections—have met with strong demand not only from U.S. buyers but from Europeans, owing to the strength of the euro against the dollar.

NEW YORK—Mid-season sales of Impressionist, modern and American art—including numerous works from prominent collections—have met with strong demand not only from U.S. buyers but from Europeans, owing to the strength of the euro against the dollar.

At Sotheby’s on Sept. 12, the top lot of its Impressionist and modern sale was a work by Jean-Pierre Cassigneul (b. 1935), L’heure du thé—a portrait in varying shades of green and blue of a slim woman wearing a large hat and seated at a tea table—which fetched $180,000, tripling the $60,000 high estimate.

Noting that the artist had been a follower of Kees van Dongen (1877-1968), Sotheby’s senior vice president and head of mid-season sales Jennifer Roth told ARTnewsletter that competition is intense for Cassigneul’s portraits of women. “This was a very fine example of an elegant society woman in a wonderful pose—that is what the market is looking for,” she says. “The artist is fairly prolific, and we usually have one or two in every sale, but the ones that go over $100,000 tend to be examples such as this.”

Roth points to a softer picture by the artist that depicts a woman napping, La Sieste, which realized a price of $69,360—lower than L’heure du thé yet still nearly double the $35,000 high estimate.

At Sotheby’s a $4.5M Total

In total the Sotheby’s sale brought $4.5 million, or 87.6 percent by value. Of the 250 lots that were on offer, 198, or 79.2 percent, found buyers.

Noting that the auction total came near the high $4.7 million estimate, Roth said there was “a tremendous amount of bidding from all over the world,” but particularly from European buyers. Given the current strength of the euro, she observes, “it’s an ideal opportunity.”

Three sculptures by Henry Moore (1898-1986) were among the top lots, including Interior Form, a polished bronze executed in 1966 that sold for $78,000 (estimate: $20,000/30,000); and Seated Figure: Thin Head, a bronze with dark-brown patina made in 1984, which took $72,000 (estimate: $30,000/40,000). A maquette for Warrior Without Shield, in bronze with green patina, made $66,000, more than quadrupling the high $15,000 estimate.

Pointing out that Moore was prolific, with a scale of works running from small to very large, Roth says, “There is work available at every single price range—and there are many collectors in the twenty-, thirty- and forty-thousand-dollar range.”

A wool tapestry by Pablo Picasso, Le peintre et son modele, 1970, took $132,000 (estimate: $50,000/70,000); and a watercolor by Marc Chagall, Prophete, 1949, realized $66,000 (estimate: $40,000/60,000).

Avery Painting Triples Estimate

The Sotheby’s mid-season sale of American paintings, drawings and sculpture on Sept. 13 made $3.9 million and was 69.4 percent sold by lot, 82 percent by value. The leader, Woman Seated in a Chair, 1949, by Milton Avery (1885-1965), fell for $204,000, more than three times the high estimate of $60,000.

Sheridan Square, 1922, by Niles Spencer (1893-1952), an oil on canvas that had been exhibited at numerous museums, including the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, and the Portland Museum of Art, Maine, sold for $114,000, more than doubling its high estimate.

Competition was fierce for a work by William Henry Johnson (1901-1970), Street of Cagnes sur mer, estimated at $5,000/7,000 and acquired by a U.S. buyer for $102,000.

According to the Sotheby’s catalogue, Johnson was hospitalized with mental illness from 1947 until his death. Many of his works were saved from dispersal by the Harmon Foundation (active until 1967 in supporting African-American artists) and later donated to the Smithsonian American Art Museum, Washington, D.C.

An auction of American paintings, drawings and sculpture at Christie’s on Sept. 12 realized $3 million for 162 lots on offer. A total of 119, or 73 percent, found buyers. By value the auction was 88 percent sold.

Four artists’ records figured among the top lots, and several works went far past presale estimates. Among the records: Scabbies Are Welcome, circa 1937, by Ben Shahn (1898-1969), brought $262,400 (estimate: $20,000/30,000); and The Gallants, 1940, by O. Louis Guglielmi (1906-56), soared to $192,000 against an estimated $15,000/25,000. The work was sold from the collection of the Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago, to benefit its acquisitions fund.

The top lot was Coffee Pot #2, by Stuart Davis (1894-1964), which fetched $284,800 (estimate: $80,000/120,000).

Modernists Out Front

Aaron Bastian, head of the Christie’s sale, reports that “top prices were paid for a wide array of works sourced from prestigious private collections and institutions . . . with modernist paintings leading the way.”

Other artists’ records included: $168,000 (estimate: $30,000/50,000) for The White Schooner, by Frederick John Mulhaupt (1871-1938), which had been exhibited at several major museums; and $54,000 (estimate: $10,000/50,000) for We Can See the Mountains, 1953-54, by Stephen Morgan Etnier (1903-84). The Etnier work came from the collection of the Los Angeles County Museum of Art and was sold to benefit its acquisitions fund.

Imp/Mod Art Makes $2.3M at Christie’s

On Sept. 14, Christie’s auction of Impressionist and modern art realized $2.3 million and was 78 percent sold by lot, 89 percent by value. Of 181 lots offered, 142 were sold. The top price was $102,000 (estimate: $35,000/45,000), given for Portrait de femme en profil, another Expressionist-influenced profile of a woman by Cassigneul.

Sculpture also figured prominently among the top lots: Baigneuse assise se tenant les pieds, étude avec tête, petit modèle, by Auguste Rodin (1840-1917), a bronze version cast between 1955-56 (conceived in 1888), sold for $96,000 (estimate: $20,000/30,000); and Reclining Figure, Umbilicus, by Moore (conceived and cast in 1976), brought $78,000, well over the $20,000/30,000 estimate.

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