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Surrealist Art Scores Lofty Prices at London Sales

Christie’s Surrealist art sale on Feb. 9 consisted of 31 lots, of which 25 were sold for a total of £23 million ($37 million), compared with an estimate of £18.8 million/27.5 million.

LONDON—Christie’s Surrealist art sale on Feb. 9 consisted of 31 lots, of which 25 were sold for a total of £23 million ($37 million), compared with an estimate of £18.8 million/27.5 million.

The sale got off at a cracking pace, as a set of ink drawings by Paul Delvaux, La ville inquiète, études, ca. 1940–41, was bid up by London dealer Alon Zakaim, but finally quadrupled estimates of £20,000/30,000 to sell for £133,250 ($214,000). The next lot, Les bijoux indiscrets, ca. 1963, an ink drawing by René Magritte, also left the £40,000/70,000 estimate in the dust, selling to a phone bidder, against dealer James Roundell, for £205,250 ($329,632).

Two lots later, Russian buyers again appeared to be wielding an impact as Sandra Nedvestkaia, this time waving paddle number 853, bought the top lot, L’aimant, 1941, a female nude by Magritte, for £4.7 million ($7.6 million), compared with an estimate of £3.5 million/5.5 million. Further into the sale she also bought Max Ernst’s painting Ci meurent les cardinaux, 1962, for £993,250 ($1.6 million), compared with an estimate of £500,000/800,000, and Salvador Dalí’s landscape Port Lligat au coucher de soleil, 1959, for £1.3 million ($2 million), compared with an estimate of £1.2 million/1.8 million.

The highest priced Dalí was the more historically important Étude pour ‘Le miel est plus doux que le sang,’ 1926–27, which sold to the Fundació Gala-Salvador Dalí, Púbol, Spain for a record £4.1 million ($6.5 million), compared with an estimate of £2 million/3 million.

Buyers in the room included art adviser Mary Hoeveler, who bought Ernst’s painting Hallucination, 1934, for £735,650 ($1.2 million) on an estimate of £700,000/900,000, and London-based collector Christine Lagrange, wife of the hedge-fund manager Pierre Lagrange, who bought a spindly white-painted bronze, Les asperges de la lune, conceived in 1935; cast and painted in 1973, by Ernst for £1.3 million ($2.1 million), compared with an estimate of £250,000/350,000—the second-highest price for an Ernst sculpture at auction.

The total was a record for Christie’s Surrealist theme sale, said the auctioneers, and added to the £26 million ($41.8 million) of Surrealist art sold by Sotheby’s, amounted to a clear statement of confidence in the Surrealist market.

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