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Eclectic Offerings Fuel Healthy Demand at Midseason Imp/Mod Sale

Sotheby’s wide range of offerings at its midseason Impressionist and modern art sale, which included Latin American and Russian art, exceeded expectations and was a bright spot in a market that has recently been marked by cautious, uneven demand.

NEW YORK—Sotheby’s wide range of offerings at its midseason Impressionist and modern art sale, which included Latin American and Russian art, exceeded expectations and was a bright spot in a market that has recently been marked by cautious, uneven demand.

The auction drew a wide range of buyers from Western and Eastern Europe, the U.S. and South Africa, and realized $6.4 million, clearing the top of the $4.2 million/6.1 million total estimate. Of 326 lots on offer, 263, or 81 percent, found buyers. By value, the sale was 89 percent sold.

The highest price of the sale was the $314,500 given by a European dealer for Nous ne sommes pas les derniers, 1973, a painting by Zoran Antonio Music (1909–2005), which had been acquired directly from the artist by collectors and philanthropists Everett and Patti Birch, and was now being sold by the Patti Birch Trust. The final price far surpassed the estimate of $60,000/90,000. Two other works with the same title, dated 1970 and 1987, also landed among the top ten lots in the sale, earning $194,500 and $122,500 respectively.

Bidding was also competitive for Sinfonie 23, 1919, an oil by German artist Rudolf Bauer (1889–1953), which sold for a record $254,400 (estimate: $30,000/50,000). Bought by an American dealer, the work had previously been owned by the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York, when it was still known as the Museum of Non-Objective Painting.

According to Sotheby’s specialist Jennifer Roth, “Bauer is a figure who has been marginalized in the history books; however he was painting at a crucial time in the development of abstract art in the 1910s and 1920s and had a strong relationship with friend and mentor Wassily Kandinsky.” The painting was the first by Bauer to come on the auction market in many years.

Russian art was also a strong point of the sale. Pavel Tchelitchew’s gouache and sand on paperboard Clown, 1929, which had been exhibited in a solo show at the Museum of Modern Art, New York, in 1942, sold for $134,500 to a European dealer (estimate: $50,000/70,000). A small 1909 gouache of a fortress by Nikolai Konstantinovich Roerich (1874–1947) soared past the estimate of $12,000/18,000 to eventually sell for $116,500.A copper sculpture with gold patina by Ukrainian-born artist Alexander Archipenko (1887–1964), The Past, circa 1926, realized $128,500 (estimate: $30,000/40,000). Sotheby’s noted the work will be included in a forthcoming catalogue raisonné being prepared by Frances Archipenko Gray.

Malay Boy with Pigeons, an oil on board by South African artist Maggie Laubser (1886–1973), sold to a dealer from the same country for $110,500 (estimate: $30,000/40,000).

Vases de fleurs sur gueridon, 1998, an oil by Bernard Buffet (1928–1999), also easily cleared its estimate of $50,000/70,000 to take in $92,500.

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