ARTnewsletter Archive

Contemporary Art Sales Cap Robust Paris Auction Week

Sotheby’s auctions of Impressionist, modern and contemporary art sales, May 29–30, realized healthy and, at times, stunning, results with combined sales bringing a total of €35 million ($43.8 million).

PARIS—Sotheby’s auctions of Impressionist, modern and contemporary art sales, May 29–30, realized healthy and, at times, stunning, results with combined sales bringing a total of €35 million ($43.8 million). In particular, the Impressionist and modern sale, held May 30, attained €20.7 million ($25.8 million), the highest total achieved at Sotheby’s France for such an auction, and largely surpassing the pre-sale estimate of €14.2 million/22 million.

Sotheby’s contemporary art sale, held in two parts May 29–30, totaled €14.3 million ($18 million), compared with an estimate of €11.6 million/15.8 million—some €9.5 million ($11.9 million) for the evening sale and €4.9 million ($6.1 million) for the following day sale. The auction was 79 percent sold by lot and 84 percent sold by value.

The evening sale, comprised of 170 lots, was topped by Nicolas de Staël’s abstract oil painting Composition, 1947, which sold for €1.5 million ($1.9 million), more than doubling its presale estimate of €700,000/1 million. Jean-Michel Basquiat’s Bird of Paradise, a work in acrylic, oil crayon and collage on canvas, 1984, bettered its estimate of €600,000/800,000 to fetch €912,750 ($1.1 million), and George Condo’s 2002 oil painting Incomprehensible Dream sold for €576,750 ($722,910), well over the €300,000/400,000 estimate.

Other noteworthy results included an oil by Joan Mitchell, Rufus’s Rock, 1966, which sold for €540,750 ($677,787) on an estimate of €550,000/750,000; a collage on paper by Jean Dubuffet, Le Batailleur, which was estimated at €150,000/200,000 and acquired for €372,750 ($467,212); as well as paintings by Maria-Helena Vieira da Silva, Karel Appel, Zao Wou-Ki, and Bram van Velde.

The top sellers from the day sale, comprised of 134 lots, included two works by Dubuffet—an ink drawing and another collage—and works by Simon Hantaï, Roger Bissière, Chu Teh-Chun, Yves Klein, and Jean-Paul Riopelle.

Record-Setting Riopelle Leads Christie’s

At Christie’s France, the Postwar and contemporary art sale, held May 31–June 1, totaled €10.3 million ($12.8 million) and achieved a record for a painting by Riopelle. Among the 90 lots offered, 73 were sold, representing 81 percent by lot, 93 percent by value.

Riopelle topped the sale with Composition, 1951–52, which nearly doubled its low estimate of €1 million/1.5 million to sell for €1.9 million ($2.3 million). Also of note was an elegant set of five sculptures made in epoxy stone and bronze by the late French artist François Xavier Lalanne, part of the artist duo who passed away in 2008, and who was known for his animal themes. Troupeau de trois moutons de pierre et deux transhumants, a flock of life-size sheep—three sheep created between 1977–83, and two created in 1988—sold for €817,000 ($1 million), nearly tripling the low estimate of €280,000/400,000.

The third-highest lot was a 1953 oil on canvas by French painter Pierre Soulages, known as the painter in black. Peinture 92 x 65 cm, 1er juin 1953, more than doubled its low estimate of €300,000/500,000 to fetch €781,000 ($969,065). A still life of pears on a pink plate, one of de Staël’s figurative paintings from 1954, Poires sur une assiette rose, met its low estimate of €500,000/700,000, selling for €553,000 ($686,162).

Triptyque, a three-panel, 1963 mixed-media painting on cardboard, laid on canvas and mounted on board, by Antoni Tàpies, who passed away earlier this year, surpassed its estimate of €250,000/350,000 to sell for €421,000 ($522,377).

The sale also achieved strong results for Chinese painter Chu Teh-Chun and Andy Warhol, whose silkscreen on canvas Flowers, 1964, sold for €241,000 ($299,033) on a €70,000/100,000 estimate. At €337,000 ($418,150), Alighiero Boetti’s 1989 embroidery work on linen, Untitled (Venticinque per venticinque, seicentoventicinque lettere), surpassed its estimate of €170,000/250,000.

Two works by Sam Francis, three decades apart, also made it into the top ten—an untitled acrylic and collage from 1990 that fetched €361,000 ($446,676), compared with an estimate of €200,000/300,000, and a 1960 acrylic and oil, Blue Balls-Blue I, which sold for €337,000 ($416,980) on a pre-sale estimate of €250,000/350,000.

Excellent results were also achieved at Artcurial Briest Poulain Tajan auctions of Impressionist, modern and contemporary art, each held in two parts May 30–31. Highlights of the Impressionist and modern sale included two unique bronze masks by Julio González: Masque dit le Poète, which sold for €744 955 ($948,775) on an estimate of €500,000/600,000; and Femme au chapeau, 1929, which sold for €373,195 ($475,301) against an estimate of €300,000/500,000.

An oil painting on cardboard by French Pointillist painter Maximilien Luce, depicting a nude stretched out with her arms behind her head, Femme nue aux bras relevés derrière la tête, more than doubled its low estimate of €40,000 to fetch €125,355 ($159,652). Luce’s painting of a woman fixing her hair, Femme se coiffant, vue de dos, ca. 1900, sold for €100,571 ($128,087), multiple times the estimate of €15,000/20,000.

Other top sellers included, a set of twelve black plates and a platter by Pablo Picasso depicting female faces, which attained €105,528 ($134,400), more than tripling the high estimate of €30,000 for the set; and an oil painting by Séraphine Louis (known as Séraphine de Senlis) titled Pommier, 1928–30, which sold for €261,667 ($333,259), doubling its high estimate of €130,000.

A drawing by Amedeo Modigliani, Cariatide, sold for €261,667 ($333,259), against a €200,000/300,000 estimate, and an ink drawing on paper by Henri Matisse, Femme, 1944, sold for €131,551 ($167,544), within its presale estmate of €100,000/150,000.

Artcurial’s contemporary art auction, also held May 30–31, attained high prices for Serge Poliakoff, whose abstract painting, Composition (jaune, rouge, noir, blanc), 1954, sold for €767,826 ($134,400) on an estimate of €200,000/300,000. Chu Teh-Chun’s painting Synthese Hivernale, 1985, fetched €682,995 ($869,863) on an estimate of €100,000/150,000. Strong results were also seen here for Soulages and Vieira da Silva, whose oil painting Terrasse ensoleillée, 1952, sold within its estimate of €300,000/400,000 for €373,195 ($475,301). Several works by French sculptor César, also sold well, including La Rambaud, 1990, a piece in soldered bronze that reached €348,411 ($443,737), surpassing its estimate of €250,000/300,000.