Witches, a 1950 painting by the Surrealist Kurt Seligmann (1900–62), one of the lesser-known people in the movement, set a record for the artist last night at the Surrealist Art Evening Sale at Sotheby’s London, going for £173,000 (about $262,000), with premium, on an estimate of £40,000 to £60,000 ($60,500 to $90,700).
That haul trounced his previous record, of $200,500, which was five times its high estimate at Sotheby’s New York in October 2012.
Seligmann—who is known for dark, richly colored scenes involving fluid, abstracted figures (one sees secret, fantastical plots transpiring in them)—is on a bit of a tear in auction houses lately, with four of his five top finishes coming in the past three years. (Given the money that has flowed into Surrealist art in recent years, it is perhaps not surprising that more minor figures are also experiencing an uptick, as buyers hunt potentially undervalued artists.)
What’s more, the artist’s top seven prices at auction all been above their high estimates. Last night’s record even came on a relatively modestly sized canvas, measuring just 35 by 35 inches, a bit smaller than the majority of the works in his price top 10. (All figures come from Artnet’s price database.)
Seligmann fell in with the Surrealists in 1930, according to the house’s catalogue. He died in 1962 on his farm in Sugar Loaf, New York, after accidentally shooting himself.