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Buyer Demand Remains Strong At London Prints Auctions

Sotheby’s and Christie’s sales of Old Master, modern and contemporary prints in London April 7–8 took in £3 million ($4.4 million), a steep drop from the £9 million ($17.9 million) total realized last April (ANL, 4/15/08).

NEW YORK—Sotheby’s and Christie’s sales of Old Master, modern and contemporary prints in London April 7–8 took in £3 million ($4.4 million), a steep drop from the £9 million ($17.9 million) total realized last April (ANL, 4/15/08).

However, sell-through rates by lot and by value held up well: Sotheby’s auction on April 7 sold 149, or 77 percent, of the 193 lots offered, and was 81 percent sold by value. Christie’s auction on April 8 found buyers for 143, or 75 percent, of the 190 lots offered, and was 78 percent sold by value.

At Sotheby’s the top lot was Roy Lichtenstein’s relief print Nude with Blue Hair, State I, 1994, which sold for £106,850 ($157,119), within the estimate of £80,000/120,000. That was followed by The Dogs Let Loose on the Bull, an unrecorded working proof of an etching by Francisco José de Goya, which cleared the £80,000 high estimate (with premium) to sell for £85,250 ($125,357) to a European dealer. Another Lichtenstein work was also among the top lots; Reflections on The Scream, 1990, sold for £51,650 ($75,949), also clearing the high estimate of £45,000.

Two works by Pablo Picasso also figured among the top lots: The linocut Femme accoudée, 1959, sold for £37,250 ($54,774) against an estimate of £30,000/50,000, and a drypoint, Minotaur caressant une dormeuse, 1933, brought an identical £37,250 against an estimate of £35,000/45,000. A printer’s proof of Andy Warhol’s screenprint Lenin, 1987, sold for £43,250 ($63,597), within the £35,000/45,000 estimate. James Mackie, Sotheby’s specialist in charge of the sale, noted “strong prices and sell-through rates across the Old Master, modern and contemporary parts” of the prints sale.

At Christie’s the top price was the £73,250 ($107,649) paid for Imaginary Portraits, 1969, a complete set of 29 color lithographs after gouaches by Pablo Picasso published by Harry N. Abrams. With premium included, the set just cleared the low estimate of £70,000. This was followed by Picasso’s lithograph Femme au Fauteuil No. 4, 1949, which sold for £61,250 ($90,065) to a European private buyer (estimate: £40,000/60,000) and Femme Au Fauteuil No. 1 (“Le Manteau Polonais”), 1949, which was bought for £57,650 ($84,772) by a European dealer (estimate: £35,000/45,000).

Auguste Renoir’s Enfants jouant à la Balle, 1900, sold for £49,250 ($74,420) to a private European buyer (estimate: £30,000/50,000), and Jean Etienne Liotard’s large self-portrait, circa 1780, was bought for £42,050 ($61,832) far surpassing the £10,000/15,000 estimate. Richard Lloyd, Christie’s head of prints in London, said the results “demonstrate the continuing strength and demand for works of the highest quality.”

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