ARTnewsletter Archive

German Auction Roundup: Prices Are Strong Across The Board

Autumn sales at German auction houses pointed to thriving markets for photographs as well as Old Masters, 19th-century, modern and contemporary art.

BERLIN—Autumn sales at German auction houses pointed to thriving markets for photographs as well as Old Masters, 19th-century, modern and contemporary art. For the most part, private collectors dominated the scene.

Villa Grisebach, which is celebrating its 25th (jubilee) year, held its auctions in Berlin Nov. 23–26. They offered more lots than in any previous sale, achieving a record turnover of €28 million ($37.5 million), including the 22 percent premium. The year’s figures total €55 million ($73.7 million), the highest result in the house’s history.

The main auction of “Chosen Works” made €17 million ($22.8 million), with four works selling for more than €1 million each. The top lot was Emil Nolde’s Sonnenblumen im Abendlicht, 1943, which sold for €1.46 million ($1.96 million), compared with an estimate of €1.2 million/1.5 million, to a private collection in Southern Germany.

The photography auction achieved a total of €445,100 ($609,800), failing to reach its low estimate of €485,500 ($650,570). The top lot was Thomas Ruff’s 1030, from his “machine” series, which sold to a German private collector for €18,300 ($24,500), compared with an estimate of €15,000/20,000.

Lempertz, Cologne, said it expects the 2011 annual turnover to total about €50 million ($67 million), though final figures were not available as ARTnewsletter was published. The 19th-century art auction last month was marked by Ludwig Richter’s Gewitterstimmung, 1839. Estimated at €200,000/220,000, the piece was the subject of fierce bidding and achieved a final price of €468,000 ($627,120), which, according to the database, is the highest price ever paid at auction for a work by this artist.

In the Old Masters sale, prices largely lingered in the five-figure range with a few exceptions including a Jan Brueghel the Elder and Hans Rottenhammer collaboration, Baptism of Christ, which achieved €180,000 ($241,200), compared with an estimate of €130,000/150,000.

A Japanese collector bidding via phone bought a very large Meissen figure of a seated lioness (originally called a tigress). The figure, ordered by Augustus II the Strong for the Meissen menagerie of white porcelain animals in the Japanese Palais, was executed in 1733 by Johann Gottlieb Kirchner. With an estimate of €800,000/1 million, the piece sold for €1.1 million ($1.47 million), an auction record for a German porcelain figure.

Contemporary art was particularly strong. Practically all offers carrying a six-figure price tag were sold. There was intense competition for the top lot, a 1999 abstract painting by Gerhard Richter, which sold to a private German collector for €276,000 ($369,800), compared with a €90,000/100,000 estimate. Also, Max Beckmann’s large work on paper titled Löwenbändiger, 1930, sold to a bidder from Germany for €864,000 ($1.16 million), nearly triple the €300,000 estimate.

At Lempertz’s photography auctions, two portfolios were the top lots in the sale. The first was August Sander’s “Köln und sein Siebengebirge,” which featured some of the artist’s most well-known images of landscapes taken in the 1920s and 1930s (executed in the 1950s). Estimated at €18,000/20,000, the 16 print portfolio sold for €38,000 ($50,920). The second portfolio, “Recuerdo de Mexico y Chapultepec,” contained 37 vintage prints by Guillermo (Wilhelm) Kahlo, the father of Frida Kahlo. The portfolio sold to a German collector for €27,500 ($36,850), against an estimate of €20,000/25,000.