ARTnewsletter Archive

Roundup: Fall Prints Auctions Score Robust Prices

Sales of prints at Christie’s, Sotheby’s, Swann Galleries and Bonhams showed healthy demand in late October, particularly for what Mary Bartow, head of Sotheby’s prints department, called “heavy hitters”—works by internationally renowned artists sought after by collectors in Asia, Europe and North America.

NEW YORK—Sales of prints at Christie’s, Sotheby’s, Swann Galleries and Bonhams showed healthy demand in late October, particularly for what Mary Bartow, head of Sotheby’s prints department, called “heavy hitters”—works by internationally renowned artists sought after by collectors in Asia, Europe and North America.

At Christie’s two-day sale of prints and multiples on Oct. 26–27, 357, or 79 percent, of the 454 lots were sold, yielding a total of $8.9 million, slightly under the estimate “in excess of $9 million,” according to a spokesperson. The top lots were Edvard Munch’s lithograph and woodcut Vampire II, 1895–1902, which sold for $662,500 on a $500,000/700,000 estimate; a complete set of Andy Warhol’s 10 color screenprints Endangered Species, 1983, which sold for $530,500 against a $280,000/350,000 estimate, and Marilyn, 1967, a Warhol screenprint, which sold for $194,500 on a $150,000/250,000 estimate.

Bust of a Woman Wearing a Hat, 1962, a color linocut by Pablo Picasso, sold for $278,500 on an estimate of $220,000/280,000, and a black and tan linocut by the artist, Head of Woman with Ornate Hat, 1962, sold for $182,500 on an estimate of $100,000/150,000. Woman Bathing, ca. 1891, a drypoint by Mary Cassatt, sold for $218,500 on an estimate of $200,000/300,000, and the artist’s drypoint The Fitting, ca. 1891, sold for $170,500 on an estimate of $120,000/180,000. Untitled II (Bastian 11), 1967, an aquatint by Cy Twombly, sold for $146,500 on a $120,000/180,000 estimate.

Those strong prices helped ease the disappointment of some of the higher-estimated lots in the sale that failed to find buyers, including Cassatt’s etching Maternal Caress, 1891, which was estimated at $150,000/200,000, and her drypoint Feeding the Ducks, 1894, which was estimated at $80,000/120,000, as well as Jasper Johns’s lead relief 0 through 9, 1970, which was estimated at $120,000/180,000.
Sotheby’s Sees Growing Strength in Prints Market

Sotheby’s two-day (Oct. 29–30) prints sale produced a total of $11.8 million for 383 lots, led by Munch’s lithograph Vampire, 1895, which earned $1.2 million, short of the $1.5million/2 million estimate. The print had been consigned by a private Japanese collector and was purchased by a European dealer for a client.

Bartow said that “the market for prints appears to be getting stronger.” The degree to which bidding and buying took place internationally was also gratifying, she added. Among the top lots were Picasso’s linocut Bust of Woman after Cranach the Younger, 1958, which sold for $434,500 on an estimate of $350,000/550,000, and his linocut Still Life Under Lamp, 1962, which sold for $266,500 (estimate: $180,000/220,000). Ads, 1985, a complete portfolio of 10 color screenprints by Warhol, sold for $350,500 against an estimate of $250,000/350,000, and Marilyn, 1967, a color screenprint by the artist, sold for $218,500 on an estimate of $150,000/250,000.

A complete book of Henri Matisse’s series of pochoirs Jazz, 1947, sold for $326,500 against a $150,000/200,000 estimate. Munch’s woodcut In the Man’s Brain, 1897, sold for $326,500 on an estimate of $150,000/200,000. Roy Lichten­stein’s relief print Nude with Blue Hair, 1994, sold for $206,500 on an estimate of $150,000/200,000, and The Circus, 1967, a portfolio of 38 lithographsby Marc Chagall, sold for $182,500 against an estimate of $125,000/150,000.

Most winning bids stayed within estimates, but there were some lots that considerably outperformed expectations, such as Johns’s lithograph Four Panels from Untitled 72, 1973–74, which sold for $80,500 against a $22,000/28,000 estimate; Picasso’s color lithograph Figure au corsage rayé, 1949, which sold for $104,500 against an estimate of $50,000/70,000; and Picasso’s color lithograph La Femme à la Resille, 1956, which sold for $116,500 against an estimate of $50,000/70,000. Also exceeding expectations was Lichtenstein’s color screenprint Reverie, 1965, which sold for $128,500 against an estimate of $70,000/100,000, and Twombly’s Natural History, Part I (Mushrooms), 1974, a set of 10 lithographs, which sold for $116,500 against a $50,000/70,000 estimate.

The unsold rate by lot for the sale was 15 percent (327 of the 385 lots were sold), and the most significant buy-in was Picasso’s etching La Minotauro­machie, 1935, estimated at $2 million/3 million.
Whistler Leads Swann’s Eclectic Offerings

In Swann’s three-part sale of prints Oct. 27–28, 648 lots were on offer, of which 412, or 64 percent, were sold. The sale yielded a total of $2.5 million, well short of the estimate of $3.3million/5million. James McNeill Whistler was the focus of the first part of the auction, “Whistler and His Influence,” which featured 75 prints by the artist, including drypoints, etchings and lithographs, as well as 75 prints in various media by other artists whose images reflected Whistler’s style and themes. Among those artists were Frank Benson, Edgar Degas, James Ensor, Childe Hassam, Edouard Manet, Auguste Renoir, John Sloan and James Jacques Tissot.

Most of the top prices were for Whistler’s work. Nocturne, 1879–80, an etching by the artist, sold to a Midwestern private collector for $282,000, double the $80,000/120,000 estimate, and the highest price of the entire sale. Count Robert de Montesquiou, 1894, a lithograph, sold for $24,000 (estimate: $20,000/30,000); Exeter Street, 1886–88, an etching, sold for $22,800 (estimate: $8,000/12,000); and Rue des Bon Enfants, Tours, 1888, an etching and drypoint, sold for $21,600 (estimate: $7,000/10,000). Little Smithfield, 1870, an etching, sold for $18,000 against an estimate of $5,000/8,000; Fishing-Boats, Hastings, 1877, sold for $15,600 (estimate: $5,000/8,000); and Fulham, 1879, an etching, sold for $14,400 (estimate: $7,000/10,000).

Works by other artists that sold include Paul César Helleu’s drypoint La Duchesse de Marlborough, 1901, which sold for $18,000 (estimate: $25,000/35,000), and James McBey’s etching Bacarolle, 1926, which brought $6,240 (estimate: $6,000/9,000). Most buyers showed little interest in other artists—a 1906 Auguste Renoir drypoint of a nude woman on a sofa fetched only $1,800 against an estimate of $2,000/3,000, and an Edgar Degas portrait etching of Manet, ca. 1861, went unsold on a $1,200/1,800 estimate.

Twenty-two (or 28 percent) of the session’s lots were bought in, including Whistler’s Venus, 1859, an etching and drypoint that was estimated at $15,000/20,000. The 159 lots that did sell brought in a total of $746,736.

The second and third sales—of Old Master prints and Old Master through modern prints—were up-and-down affairs, producing some good prices but many buy-ins. In all 304 (or 62 percent) of the 489 lots in these two auctions found buyers, for a total of $1.8 million.

The top lot of the Old Master sale was Rembrandt’s etching Descent from the Cross: Second Plate, 1633, which sold for $64,800 against an estimate of $40,000/60,000. Another Rembrandt etching, Self-Portrait with Plumed Cap and Lowered Saber, 1634, sold for $50,400 against an estimate of $25,000/35,000.

In all there were 45 Rembrandts in this session, and 24 found buyers, including the etching Christ Preaching (La Petite Tombe), ca. 1652, which sold for $38,400 against an estimate of $40,000/60,000, and the etching Faust, ca. 1652, which sold for $24,000 against an estimate of $15,000/20,000. Albrecht Dürer’s engraving Adam and Eve, 1504, brought $52,800, below the estimate of $60,000/90,000, whereas William Pether’s mezzotint Three Persons Viewing the Gladiator by Candlelight, 1769, fetched $21,600, almost ten times the estimate of $1,500/2,500.

The last part of the sale, which mixed Old Master with modern prints, was a relatively low-key session, with a top price of $33,600, paid for George Bellows’s lithograph boxing scene Preliminaries, 1916 (estimate: $25,000/35,000). Among the higher-priced lots were Picasso’s color linocut Heads, 1963, which sold for $26,400 on an estimate of $20,000/30,000, and Kees van Dongen’s Femmes, 1927, a portfolio of seven lithographs, which sold for $24,000 on an estimate of $7,000/10,000.

Todd Weyman, director of the prints department at Swann, said that the three sales indicated that “the market is very strong in places—we are setting records and doing very well with some artists—but the market is also becoming much more selective. There is no speculative buying going on.”

Bonhams also held an Oct. 26 sale of prints, divided between its Los Angeles and San Francisco showrooms. The auction, which brought in a total of $1.9 million against an estimate of $1.7 million/2.5 million, included 385 lots, of which 291, or 76 percent, found buyers. The top-selling lots were Woman Wearing a Hat, 1962, a color linocut by Picasso (estimate: $25,000/35,000), and Ed Ruscha’s screenprint Standard Station, 1966 (estimate: $60,000/80,000). Each sold for $48,000.

A color lithograph of a clown, 1968, by Marc Chagall from the artist’s “Circus” series, sold for $39,650, at the top end of the estimate of $30,000/40,000.

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