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London’s Strong Greek Auction Draws ‘Very International’ Demand

Sotheby’s auction of Greek art in London, on April 17, realized a record £9.6 million ($18.9 million), surpassing the £8.7 million high estimate, and was the strongest total to date since the house inaugurated Greek art auctions in 2001.

NEW YORK—Sotheby’s auction of Greek art in London, on April 17, realized a record £9.6 million ($18.9 million), surpassing the £8.7 million high estimate, and was the strongest total to date since the house inaugurated Greek art auctions in 2001. Of 176 lots on offer, 147, or 83.5 percent, were sold. By value the auction was 92 percent sold.

Sotheby’s senior director and specialist in charge of Greek sales, Constantine Frangos, says the market is “flourishing. . . . Bidding came from a very international crowd.”

Noting healthy demand for works ranging from 19th-century paintings to modern 20th-century pieces, Frangos reports that more than 60 percent of the lots sold above their high estimates, with 19 auction records set.

The top lot was an 1886 oil on canvas by Georgios Jakobides (1852-1932), Grandpa’s New Pipe, depicting a young boy perched on a chair, pretending to smoke a pipe. It fetched £535,700, or $1.1 million (estimate: £200,000/300,000), an artist’s record.

Ten Volanakis Works Score $3.9M

Works by the 19th-century Greek artist Constantinos Volanakis (1837-1907) met with particularly strong interest and featured prominently in the sale’s top lots. These included the maritime paintings Along the Coast (estimate: £300,000/500,000), which sold for £423,700; and Along the Coast, Volos (estimate: £200,000/300,000), which brought £334,100 ($659,000). In all, ten works by Volanakis made more than £2 million ($3.9 million).

A Tree-Lined Road, a 1900 painting by Constantinos Parthenis (1878-1967) from a private collection in Czechoslavakia, took £276,500, or $545,000 (estimate: £80,000/120,000).

Also setting a record was the £276,500, or $545,000 (estimate: £150,000/200,000), given for Seated Greek Sergeant, a tempera on canvas by Diamantis Diamandopoulos (1914-95).

Among the sale’s modern offerings, a paper-and-plexiglass work by Pavlos Dionyssopoulos (b. 1930), titled Champ (Field), 1988, sold for £90,500; and Receding Landscape, 1959, by Nicos Hadjikiriakos-Ghika (1906-94), garnered £106,100, or $209,155 (estimate: £50,000/70,000).

Sotheby’s reports that the annual turnover for sales of Greek art has increased more than five-fold in recent years, from £2.4 million in 2001 to £15.6 million in 2007.

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