LONDON—Sotheby’s main Impressionist and modern art auction on June 19 came in just above the low estimate of £80.1 million with £80.4 million ($159.5 million).
Although this total trailed the highest-ever London Impressionist sale total of £94.9 million ($186.5 million) set last February (ANL, 2/20/07), it was achieved with fewer than half the number of lots—45, compared with 98 then. Melanie Clore, deputy chairman of Sotheby’s Europe and cochair of Sotheby’s Impressionist and modern art worldwide, stresses that the average price per lot sold in this latest sale score a record £2.17 million ($4.3 million).
Sotheby’s reports that 50 percent of the lots sold above their high estimates, with first-time buyers comprising 11 percent of the total. Of the 37 lots sold, the highest price went, as it had at Christie’s, for a work by Claude Monet, Nymphéas, 1904, which fell to an Asian buyer competing against U.K. collector Sir Philip Green for £18.5 million, or $36.7 million (estimate: £10/15 million)—the second highest price ever for a Monet in pounds sterling and a record in dollar terms.
This was followed by a late Henri Matisse, Danseuse dans le fauteul, sol en damier, 1942, which last had been sold in 2000 for £4.95 million ($8.95 million). It now fetched a mid-estimate, record £10.99 million ($21.8 million). Pursued by Asian and Russian bidders, it was brought by a European collector.
$9.1M Rodin Leaves Estimate in the Dust
An important record was the £4.6 million ($9.1 million) paid by an American collector for Auguste Rodin’s bronze Iris, messagère des dieux. Estimated at just £400,000/600,000, the sculpture was one of seven lifetime casts, only two of which are in private hands.
Yet another record-setter was the abstract composition Z IV, 1923, an oil on canvas by Hungarian constructivist Laszlo Moholy-Nagy, which captured £804,000, or $1.6 million (estimate: £600,000/800,000).
The highest, noticeably Russian, purchase was Monet’s Camille à l’ombrelle verte, 18776, which sold to Ghar Ivanishvili for £4.1 million, or $8.3 million (estimate: £2.5/3.5 million). Ivanishvili also underbid on a Paul Gauguin still life, Bouquets et céramique sur une commode, 1886, which fetched £2.5 million, or $4.9 million (estimate: £1/1.5 million); and on Alexej von Jawlensky’s Die Sinnende (The Thinking Woman), ca. 1912, which earned £2.1 million, or $4.2 million (estimate: £1.5/2.5 million).
Works by Pablo Picasso were less evident in this round of sales than before, but two of his late paintings made it to the Sotheby’s top-ten list, both underbid by the Nahmad family of art dealers.: Le peintre, 1967, scored £3.3 million, or $6.5 million (estimate: £2.2/3.8 million); and Tête d’homme, 1967, sold for £2.2 million, or $4.5 million (estimate: £800,000/1.2 million).
The buyer breakdown makes interesting reading: U.K., 40% (unusually high); U.S., 27% (low); Switzerland, 16% (rarely noted in these breakdowns but now, perhaps, including the Russian element); Asia 6%; continental Europe, 8% (as compared to Eastern Europe, which can include the Russian satellite states); and Russia, only 3% (presumably Russians living in Russia rather than in the U.K. or Switzerland).