PARIS—With a total of €24.56 million ($32.9 million), Christie’s sale of contemporary art on May 30-31 yielded an all-time high for such an auction in France. Sotheby’s first contemporary sale in Paris on May 31 was not as large, bringing €5.89 million ($7.9 million) in total, with 79 percent sold by lot, 90 percent by value.
The Christie’s auction generated the highest-ever price there for a postwar work: €6.9 million ($9.25 million) for Francis Bacon’s Untitled (Figure on a Dais), painted in Tangiers in 1958-59 and one of the few works to have survived Bacon’s destructive frenzy following his stormy relationship with presumed sitter Peter Lacy.
After the sale Florence de Botton, Christie’s international director of postwar and contemporary art, told ARTnewsletter, “Backing international artists in Paris has helped us attract foreign collectors. These excellent results confirm the health of the art market in France.” The buyer breakdown: European, 83%; American, 12%; and Asian, 5%. The Bacon took the top auction price in France to date in 2007.
Record for Mitchell at Auction
The sale yielded auction records for Joan Mitchell—€5.18 million ($6.96 million), paid by a European collector for a 1971 Untitled, twice Mitchell’s previous high (achieved at Artcurial in Paris in October 2006); and for Pablo Atchugarry—€144,000 ($193,000), given for his 2004 painting Untitled.
Amid keen interest in Chinese artists, there was also an auction record for Kazuo Shiraga—€300,000 ($403,000) for his Chizosei Shomenko; and for Chu Teh-Chun, whose Mille Vies se cachent dans le Bois, 1960, fell to an Asian collector for a breakaway €838,400 ($1.12 million), against an estimate of €100,000/150,000.
Christie’s scored further on May 23 with a 230-lot sale of Impressionist and modern art that yielded €13.45 million ($18.1 million) and was 87 percent sold by lot, 96 percent by value. The buyer split: Europeans, 71%: Americans, 29%.
An auction record was set for an Edouard Manet nude: €5.63 million ($7.6 million) for his 1879 Femme nue se coiffant, paid by an American collector bidding by phone. Achieving another record was the €234,000 ($314,500) given by an American institution for Armand Seguin’s Fleurs du mal, circa 1894.
At Sotheby’s the highlight was the double-estimate €816,000 ($1.1 million) paid by an anonymous buyer for Martial Raysse’s Tableau cassé, 1964, a record for the nouveaux réaliste. Another record was the €198,000 ($266,000) paid by a French collector for François Morellet’s 1963 work 4 Panels with 4 Different Lighting Rhythms. —Simon Hewitt