ARTnewsletter Archive

London Sales Soar to Record Levels

Christie’s and Sotheby’s London series of Impressionist and modern art auctions brought in £256.7million ($405.6 million), up from the year-ago total of £248million ($399 million).

LONDON—Christie’s and Sotheby’s London series of Impressionist and modern art auctions brought in £256.7 million ($405.6 million), up from the year-ago total of £248 million ($399 million).

Christie’s led the series with a total of £160.6 million ($253.8 million) for one evening and two day sales, as compared with Sotheby’s total of £96.1 million ($155 million) for evening and day sales of Impressionist art. Christie’s added another £30.1 million ($47.6 million) to the total with another evening sale on Feb. 9, “Living With Art – A Private European Collection,” followed by a £2.8 million ($4.4 million) day sale, of work from the same collection, to achieve a final week’s total of £193.5 million ($305.7 million).

Eclectic Collection Caps Robust Week at Christie’s

Christie’s added to its usual Impressionist and modern art sales with the auction of a private collection at the end of the week, which included modern, contemporary and Old Master artworks valued in excess of £25 million ($39.5 million). The part one evening sale on Feb. 9 realized £30.1 million ($47.6 million), selling 43 of the 52 lots offered.

The largest proportion of sales came from modern art, which brought £15.8 million ($25 million) against a presale estimate of £12 million/19 million. As the collection is thought to have been from Spain, it was not surprising to find a predominance of Spanish artists throughout. That this was a highly decorative collection (including many medieval and tribal artworks) was emphasized by the elaborate Baroque frames which surrounded most of the modern art. Christie’s titled the sale, “Living With Art.”

The top lot was Joan Miró’s Personnage et oiseaux devant le soleil, 1946, which sold to a private phone bidder for £5.1 million ($8 million), compared with an estimate of £4 million/7 million. Pablo Picasso’s portrait of Françoise Gilot, Femme au fauteuil, 1949, sold for £4.7 million ($7.5 million), against an estimate of £4 million/6 million, to another private buyer against New York dealer Nicholas Acquavella, who was in the room. The buyer was bidding through Maria Los of Christie’s, who represents many Latin American clients, and also acquired a second Picasso; a small pastel Buste d’Homme, 1964, for £769,250 ($1.2 million), compared with an estimate of £350,000/500,000.

A Spanish collector bidding through Christie’s managing director in Madrid, Juan Varez, claimed the top-two Postwar works. Eduardo Chillida’s twisted iron sculpture, Enchained, 1956, made the second-highest auction price for the artist selling for £1.9 million ($3.1 million), on an estimate of £1 million/1.5 million, while Miquel Barceló’s Crosscurrent, 1991, sold for £1.5 million ($2.4 million), compared with an estimate of £500,000/800,000.

Three works by Antoni Tàpies, who died earlier in the week, at age 88, were sold. White Relief with Two Holes, 1963, comfortably exceeded its estimate of £120,000/150,000 to sell for £205,250 ($324,300), with Fernando Mignoni of Spain’s Elvira González Gallery as an underbidder. One of the few buyers in the room was London dealer Timothy Taylor, who bought Gabriel Orozco’s Samurai Tree Invariant 4, 2005, for £169,250 ($267,415) on an estimate of £150,000/250,000.

Other work by Anselm Kiefer and Takashi Murakami also sold at hammer prices below estimates. Murakami’s square painting, Van Gogh, 2001, was underbid by the Gagosian Gallery (which had sold the work to the collector) before selling for just £313,250 ($500,000), compared with an estimate of £350,000/450,000. Notable unsold works were Damien Hirst’s photorealist painting Incision, 2004–5, bought from Gagosian in 2007 (estimate: £180,000/250,000), and a 2002, untitled limestone and pigment sculpture by Anish Kapoor (estimate: £300,000/400,000).

The highest rate of unsold works was for the Old Masters, mostly Spanish still lives acquired through London dealer Derek Johns. The only stand out result here was a record £3.5 million ($5.6 million), compared with an estimate of £2 million/3 million, for a painting of oranges, spices and nuts on a table by 18th-century painter Luis Meléndez.

In the part two, day sale on Feb. 10, 80 percent of the lots from this collection, led by modern drawings and paintings by Fernand Léger and Miró, were sold to add a further £2.8 million ($4.4 million) to the total.