• ARTnewsletter Archive

    Strong German Auctions Reflect Vibrancy of European Art Market

    German auction houses reported solid autumn sales across the board, allaying fears about the impact of the subprime mortgage crisis on U.S. and European demand for both historic and contemporary artworks.

    BERLIN—German auction houses reported solid autumn sales across the board, allaying fears about the impact of the subprime mortgage crisis on U.S. and European demand for both historic and contemporary artworks.

    Lempertz of Cologne, in its Nov. 17 auction of Old Masters and works of art, realized a total of €7 million or $10 million. (All prices are hammer.) The house was able to place a bathing scene, Les baigneuses, by Claude Joseph Vernet, that had once belonged to Madame de Pompadour, in an unnamed royal European collection. The hammer resounded at €620,000 ($885,000)—above the €600,000 high estimate, albeit below what a fine Vernet might fetch.

    A virtuoso performance by Abraham Janssens, an Allegory of the Four Elements, carrying an estimate of €60,000/70,000, was lifted, by means of spirited bidding that included eight people on phones, to €240,000 ($342,000).

    Drawings also attracted buyers. A work on paper by Roelant Savery, Small Group of Sheep, a small charcoal drawing estimated at €1,000 ($1,425), jumped to €40,000 ($57,000).

    Campendonk Work Takes $1.4M at Lempertz

    At Lempertz on Nov. 29, a modern and contemporary art sale realized more than €15.5 million, ($22 million). Heinrich Campendonk’s Three Riders with Lasso, 1911, fetched €1.15 million ($1.43 million), within the €1/1.4 million estimate. Alexej von Jawlensky was not of much interest, which is an exception. His works were sold within, or below, the expected range. An early Serge Poliakoff, however, estimated at an already stiff €400,000/450,000, didn’t stop until it reached €540,000 ($770,000).

    Villa Grisebach, Berlin, saw a number of record prices, albeit in the lower range. The jubilee auction on Nov. 30 proved a great success for Carl Eduard Biermann, an early German-industry painter. His view of Berlin’s Borsig machine works is an icon of German industry painting. It rose above the €200,000 high estimate to bring €245,000 ($350,000).

    A painting by Max Liebermann was sold at €420,000 or $600,000, compared with an estimated €200,000/300,000; and a Jawlensky picture, with the same estimate, took €430,000 ($612,500). The top price was given for August Macke. His Woman with Parrot—painted in 1914, shortly before he was killed in action in World War I, and taken from the collection of the Dresden Museum in 1937 by the Nazis—rose to €2 million ($2.85 million). However, it fell short of the expected €2.5/3.5 million.

    Karl & Faber, Munich, achieved a record price for a painting by Erich Heckel when his early-Expressionist, Brücke-period work Dillborn Park II, 1914—which the auctioneer had sold to a U.S. collector in 1971—fell to a Swiss buyer for €670,000, or $955,000 (the estimate was not publicly disclosed). Like Villa Grisebach, Ketterer offered a Macke painting—Blond Girl with Book, 1912—but here the bidding was stopped at €410,000 ($585,000), against an estimate of €300,000/500,000.

    The up-and-coming Munich auction house Hampel was pleased with the result of a painting, Noah’s Ark, by Frederick Bouttats, which fetched €250,000 ($356,000), two-and-a-half times the high estimate of €100,000. Hampel also sold a still life by Jan Brueghel the Younger, with assistants, for €255,000 ($363,000); and An Allegory of Painting and Drawing, by Jan Brueghel the Elder, with Hieronymus Francken the Younger, for €260,000 ($370,500) to a collector from Russia. Said auctioneer Patrick Hampel: “You can’t go wrong buying Old Master paintings. They aren’t even expensive when compared to a field like contemporary art that will still have to prove its value.”

    Other houses, such as Neumeister and Ruef, also did well. Neumeister had a Pierre-Auguste Renoir landscape, Cagnes-sur-mer, which brought €360,000, or $513,000 (estimate: €280,000/300,000). Given the strength of demand, observers say, expectations for the upcoming spring sales season are high.