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Modigliani and Léger Loom Large At Christie’s $90M Imp/Mod Sale

Christie’s Impressionist and modern art sale on Feb. 6 realized £89.7 million ($175.9 million), its highest total in that category to date and well within the presale estimate of £74/105 million. In all, 126 lots were offered, compared to 90 last June when the Part One sale made £86.98 million, or $160.3 million (ANL, 7/05/06),

LONDON—Christie’s Impressionist and modern art sale on Feb. 6 realized £89.7 million ($175.9 million), its highest total in that category to date and well within the presale estimate of £74/105 million. In all, 126 lots were offered, compared to 90 last June when the Part One sale made £86.98 million, or $160.3 million (ANL, 7/05/06), and 101 works, or 80 percent, were sold.

Three works by Egon Schiele were sold directly from the collection of Neue Galerie cofounder Ronald Lauder, who also is chairman emeritus of the Museum of Modern Art. Among them was Schiele’s 1909 oil self-portrait, sold on a single phone bid for £4.5 million ($8.8 million) to one of the most active buyers at the sale, described by Christie’s as a private European, who spent more than £10 million buying eye-catching works by Edgar Degas, Maurice de Vlaminck and Pablo Picasso.

Also from Lauder came a sensual drawing by Schiele, Bildnis einer Frau mit schwarzem Haar (Woman with Black Hair), 1914, which brought £1.5 million, or $2.9 million (estimate: £750,000/950,000); and a watercolor by the artist, Die Träumende (Gerti Schiele), 1911, which fell to dealer Richard Nagy for £2.15 million, or $4.2 million (estimate: £1.2/1.8 million).

Three works in the German and Austrian art section set records: a watercolor, Auf der Strasse, 1914, by August Macke (£535,200, or $1 million, above the £350,000 high estimate); theportrait Frau aus Pozzuoli, 1925, by Christian Schad (a mid-estimate £636,000, or $1.2 million, falling to dealer Ivor Braka); and Der Dichter-Däubler, 1917, by Heinrich Maria Davringhausen (at the high estimate of £150,000, or $294,000, going to a private Greek collector).

Among the major casualties was The Procession, 1911, a somber and unusual semi-religious painting by Schiele that carried the highest estimate of the sale, £5/7 million. The painting was being sold by the estate of dealer Serge Sabarsky, of which Lauder is a trustee.

Fernand Léger’s Les maisons dans les arbres, 1914, elicited strong bidding from dealer Ivan Wirth and a phone bidder who eventually won out at £6.3 million, or $12.34 million (estimate: £2.8/3.5 million). A portrait, Jeune fille au béret, 1918, by Amedeo Modigliani, brought an above-estimate £6 million ($11.9 million) from Swiss dealer Doris Ammann. And a suggestive still life, Compotier et guitare, by Pablo Picasso, doubled estimates to sell to a phone bidder, against dealer David Nahmad, for £3 million ($5.9 million).

Other buyers in this section included: dealersChristopher Eykyn and Nicholas Maclean, who bought Chaïm Soutine’s Le jeune homme au petit chapeau for £647,200 ($1.3 million); Wirth, who paid a record £1.1 million, or $2.1 million (estimate: £450,000/650,000), bidding against dealer Ezra Nahmad, for a Giorgio Morandi still life that had sold for one-third of that price ten years before; and Richard Green, who bought two paintings by Berthe Morisot—La jeune fille au chat (£1 million, or $1.96 million); and Jeune fille à l’éventail (£860,000, or $1.68 million).

The final, Surrealist art portion of the sale saw a better performance than at Sotheby’s, with René Magritte’s Le Pretre Marié, 1961, doubling estimates to sell to a European collector for £5.3 million ($10.26 million)—the second-highest price for the artist at auction. Of the 44 lots offered, only three were unsold. Among the highest bidders was Zurich dealer Andrea Caratsch, who bought two paintings by Giorgio de Chirico—Il trovatore, 1960 (£490,400, or $961,200); and Canto d’amore, early 1960s (£276,000, or $541,000).

The most prolific buyer was Swiss collector Madame Georges Marci, who acquired two works by Salvador Dalí—a drawing, Personnage fantastique en costume médieval, circa 1937 (£216,000, or $423,360) and a sculpture, Venus de Milo aux tiroirs,conceived in plaster in 1936 and cast in 1964 in an edition of six (£240,000, or $470,400); a tiny drawing, Entre dans les continents, by Max Ernst (£30,000, or $58,800); an oil, Ame démonocratique, 1943, by Victor Brauner (£102,000, or $199,920); and La Traversée Difficile (II), 1946, a gouache on paper by Magritte (£156,000, or $305,800).

The buyer ratio for the entire sale was European (including Russian), 49%; United Kingdom, 22.5%; United States, 22.5%; and Asia, 6%. The U.S. buying rate was the lowest in a very long time, commented Jussi Pylkkänen, auctioneer and president of Christie’s, Europe, and was probably due to the weakness of the dollar.

London dealer Guy Jennings, formerly of Sotheby’s, said it was remarkable how much money was spent at the two Impressionist sales, “considering how few masterpieces there were.”

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