ARTnewsletter Archive

Paris Auctions End Year on a High Note

The Paris auction market ended 2010 with a flourish, as sales of Postwar, contemporary and Impressionist and modern art at Christie’s, Sotheby’s and Artcurial all achieved strong total results.

PARIS—The Paris auction market ended 2010 with a flourish, as sales of Postwar, contemporary and Impressionist and modern art at Christie’s, Sotheby’s and Artcurial all achieved strong total results. As Alexandre Carel, Christie’s head of Postwar and contemporary art in France, remarked after their successful auctions, “The market has responded very positively to the choice of European and international works proposed. The results of this session reconnect with the percentages and value of lots sold before 2008.”

Artcurial Briest-Poulain-F. Tajan also announced a stunning turnaround: The final results for the year 2010 represented strong increases in several departments. In the contemporary-art department, an increase of 104 percent over 2009 sales—a total of €20.6 million ($27.2 million) for the year, compared with €10.1 million ($14.1 million) the previous year—surpassed the year’s sales of modern art, which totaled €18.3 million ($24.1 million).

A sale of Postwar and contemporary art at Christie’s Paris on Dec. 8 brought in a total of €14.1million ($18.7million). With 156 lots sold out of the 188 lots offered, the sale achieved sell-through rates of 83 percent by lot and 94 percent by value.

The top lot was an untitled 1982 painting by Jean-Michel Basquiat in acrylic and oil stick on a blanket tied to a wooden frame. The work sold for €1.5million ($1.9million), just below the high end of the €1million/1.5million estimate. Zao Wou-Ki’s painting 22-11-63, Hommage à John F. Kennedy, 1963, sold for €865,000 ($1.14million), doubling its estimate of €300,000/400,000. The third-highest-selling lot was Maria Elena Vieira da Silva’s oil painting L’issue lumineuse, 1983–86, which sold for €865,000 ($1.14million) on an estimate of €700,000/1million.

Other top sellers of the night included Joan Mitchell’s painting The Lake, 1981, which fetched €697,000 ($923,177) and fell just short of the estimate of €700,000/1million; Christopher Wool’s painting Untitled (P93), 1989, which was sold for €601,000 ($796,025), far exceeding its estimate of €250,000/350,000; and Cy Twombly’s Untitled (Scenes from an Ideal Marriage), 1986, a painting in oil stick, oil, and watercolor on paper, which was sold for €529,000 ($700,661), within its €450,000/650,000 estimate.

Two paintings by Pierre Soulages, the 91-year-old French artist known as the “painter of black,” were in the top ten. The oil on canvas Peinture 130 x 81 cm, 12 avril, 1989, one of his celebrated “outrenoir” pictures (paintings saturated in black), sold for €286,600 ($374,400) against an estimate of €250,000/350,000, and the oil Peinture 55 x 38 cm, 6 novembre 1958, sold for €247,000 ($327,151) on an estimate of €220,000/280,000.

The sale also set new artist records for André Cadere, Annette Messager and Thomas Schütte. Cadere’s Round Wood Stick Red, Blue, Orange, Green, Yellow and Violet, 1975, crafted from 42 painted and assembled wooden segments, fetched €103,000 ($137,189), surpassing its estimate of €60,000/80,000. Messager’s Mes vœux (My vows), 1988–90, a mixed-media sculpture of colored pencil on paper and acrylic on small photographs of body parts and string, sold for €235,000 ($313,003), surpassing its estimate of €100,000/150,000. Schütte’s gouache and pencil Study for Die Fremden, 1992, sold for €169,000 ($225,096), solidly in the middle of the estimate of €140,000/180,000.

Masson Painting Leads Sotheby’s Imp/Mod Sale

Sotheby’s auction of Impressionist and modern art on Dec. 8 realized a total of €15.5million ($20.4million). Of 88 lots offered, 77 were sold, yielding a sold-by-lot rate of 87.5 percent and a sold-by-value rate of 96.4 percent.

The top seller was Andre Masson’s major oil painting Gradiva, 1939, which sold for €2.4million ($3.2million), a record for the artist at auction, against an estimate of €1.5million/2million. Man Ray’s Les beaux temps, 1941, an oil on canvas painted in Hollywood, sold for €1.5million ($2million), three times its estimate of €300,000/500,000 and also an auction record for the artist.

Other top sellers include Alberto Giacometti’s bronze portrait of his brother, Diego (Tête au col roulé), conceived in 1954 and cast in 1980. Estimated at €600,000/900,000, it fetched €696,750 ($931,673). An oil painting by Wifredo Lam, Fruits tropicaux, 1969, far surpassed its estimate of €250,000/350,000, selling for €624,750 ($835,397).

An untitled 1947 gouache, ink and graphite drawing by Joan Miró, dedicated on the back to Alexina “Teeny” Matisse, the wife of the artist’s dealer Pierre Matisse, sold for €780,750 ($1million) against an estimate of €500,000/700,000. Le Plongeur, 1926, an oil painting by Toyen, sold for €600,750 ($803,305), within its estimate of €500,000/700,000 and a new auction record for the artist.

Several works by Pablo Picasso were snatched up by buyers, including two 1950 ceramic vases painted with images of dancers, which sold for €312,750 ($418,200) each, an auction record for Picasso ceramics. Each lot was estimated at €120,000/180,000.

The artist’s ink-and-wash drawings also found buyers—Tête de femme (Marie-Thérèse), 1934, a portrait of Picasso’s mistress Marie-Thérèse Walther, met its estimate of €200,000/300,000, selling for €228,750 ($305,878), and a 1926 drawing of a model posing for the artist sold for €300,750 ($402,154) against an estimate of €250,000/350,000.

Fernand Léger’s oil painting Composition, 1930, surpassed its estimate of €250,000/350,000, fetching €456,750 ($610,752). An oil painting by Max Ernst, Aux antipodes du paysage, 1936, sold for the same amount against the higher estimate of €300,000/400,000. Maurice de Vlaminck’s painting of an old bridge, Le vieux pont et le Côteau, ca. 1911, an oil, also sold for €456,750 ($610,752) just within the estimate of €400,000/600,000.

Antonio Chaves “Chavito,” 1984, a portrait of the matador by Fernando Botero, sold within its €400,000/600,000 estimate for €504,750 ($672,877). Maison de Clamart, ca. 1918–19, a painting by Chaim Soutine of a house in the Paris suburbs, and one of the artist’s oldest landscapes, sold for €252,750 ($337,970) on an estimate of €200,000/300,000. Francis Picabia’s oil on cardboard French Cancan, ca. 1941–43, well exceeded its estimate of €200,000/300,000, selling for €432,750.

Many other works in the sale achieved solid prices, including L’écuyère en rouge, ca. 1970, an oil and ink on board laid down on canvas by Marc Chagall, which fetched €384,750 ($514,476) against a €280,000/350,000 estimate, and Sonia Delaunay’s painting Le marché au Minho, ca. 1915, which sold for €456,750 ($610,752) against an estimate of €300,000/400,000.

Basquiat Tops Sotheby’s Contemporary, Too

Sotheby’s sale of contemporary art, held on Dec. 7–8, realized a total of €13.7million ($18.3million). As at Christie’s, the top lot of the sale was a painting by Basquiat, who is the subject of a major retrospective at the Musée d’Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris (through Jan. 30). Basquiat’s acrylic, oil stick, silk-screen ink and metal on panel Water-Worshipper, 1984, sold for €2.4million ($3.2million), meeting its estimate of €2.3million/3million. The artist’s acrylic and silk screen on canvas Logo, 1984, was estimated at €700,000/1million and sold for €840,750 ($1.1million).

Other top lots included Métalogie aux Tur­bulences, 1971, a monumental sculpture by Jean Dubuffet in vinyl and acrylic on klegecell panel, from his celebrated “Hourloupe” series. The work sold for €1.4million ($1.8million), above the estimate of €700,000/900,000.

Dubuffet’s Bouteille III, 1965, a painting of a bottle in vinyl on paper laid down on canvas, sold for €420,750 ($560,898), well exceeding the €250,000/350,000 estimate.

The auction achieved record prices for two European artists: Germany’s Emil Schumacher, whose oil painting Solluk, 1962, nearly doubled its estimate of €180,000/250,000 to sell for €480,750 ($640,883), and Czech artist Josef Sima, whose oil painting Fall of Icarus II, 1959, was sold for €288,750 ($384,930), above the €180,000/250,000 estimate.

The auction also achieved strong prices for works by Robert Indiana. A 1998 173⁄4-inch-high cast of Indiana’s sculpture Love, 1966, brought €228,750 ($304,945) against an estimate of €120,000/180,000. Sculpture by the late French artist César also did well; Shock Red 165, 1998, one of the artist’s compressed automobiles, sold for €202,350 ($269,751) at the top end of the €150,000/200,000 estimate. Oiseau de jardin à bascule, 1974, a polished, coppered steel sculpture of a rocking bird by François-Xavier Lalanne, sold within the €300,000/400,000 estimate for €360,750 ($480,912).

Artcurial Wraps Up a Banner Year

Artcurial’s winter auction of contemporary art, held in two parts on Dec. 6–7, also included some impressive performances, and brought in a total of €6.5million ($8.6million). Among the top works in the sale were Dubuffet’s painting Escalier VIII, 28 avril 1967, which sold for €403,278 ($513,615) on an estimate of €300,000/400,000; Soulages’s black painting Peinture 202 x 125 cm, 1975, which sold for €297,946 ($379,464), at the high end of its estimate of €250,000/300,000; and an untitled static sculpture, ca. 1962, by Alexander Calder, from the series he called “Stabile-mobile.” Estimated at €250,000/350,000, the sculpture sold for €297,946 ($379,464). An untitled oil on canvas by Simon Hantai, painted in 1955, far surpassed its €50,000/70,000 estimate, fetching €105,870 ($134,836). Serge Poliakoff’s abstract oil painting Composition Abstraite, 1967, also surpassed its estimate of €150,000/200,000, selling for €264,450 ($336,804).

Strong Showing for Sculpture

Several works by French Nouveaux Realiste sculptors César (César Baldaccini) and Arman did extremely well, including César’s Plaque I iron, 1960, which more than doubled its estimate of €50,000/60,000 to sell for €149,242 ($190,075). The same price was attained for Arman’s Cyclofiat, 1960, a sculpture made from bicycle headlights assembled in a wooden box, estimated at €90,000/120,000. Arman’s Accumulation Renault, no. 153, La Cathedrale, 1968, made from body parts taken from gray Renault automobiles, sold for €124,458 ($158,510), at the low end of the estimate of €120,000/150,000, and his untitled sculpture of a violin embedded in resin, 1971, doubled its estimate of €12,000/15,000 to sell for €32,757 ($41,720).

Toboggan, 1969, an oil painting by Jean-Paul Riopelle estimated at €130,000/180,000, reached its high estimate, selling for €180,222 ($229,531).

Certain works on paper also did well, such as a charcoal drawing on paper by Nicolas de Staël, Composition, 1945; estimated at €8,000/10,000, it sold for several times more, at €62,498 ($79,598).

Among works by younger artists included in the sale, one of the more surprising prices was that paid for a sculpture by Algerian-born, Paris-based artist Adel Abdessemed. Sphere I, 2006, a steel ring estimated at €15,000/20,000, was sold for €30,279 ($38,563).