LONDON—Of the 73 lots offered at the Sotheby’s Impressionist and modern art sale on Feb. 7, 53 were sold, including most of the high-value lots.
As at Christie’s, the sale began with a separate catalogue for German and Austrian art. Here the market proved strong but selective. Old records tumbled when Blumenstauden, a 1928 garden scene by Max Liebermann, fetched £2.1 million, or $3.7 million (estimate: £600,000/900,000) from an unidentified private buyer. It was followed by another floral work, Emil Nolde’s Blumengarten: Steifmütterchen, 1908, one of three paintings sold by Anne Marion, the wife of former Sotheby’s chairman John Marion, which fell to a phone bidder for £1.9 million, or $3.3 million (estimate: £1/1.5 million).
From the collection of Janet and Marvin Fishman came Ludwig Meidner’s Apocalyptic Landscape, 1913, which realized a record £1.8 million, or $3.1 million (estimate: £900,000/1.2 million) from London dealer Richard Nagy. Nagy outbid Christopher Eykyn to buy Egon Schiele’s 1911 watercolor Kniender Halbakt for £1.6 million, or $2.76 million (estimate: £750,000/1 million). He also bought Schiele’s Mädchen in blauem Kleid for £792,000, or $1.4 million (estimate: £400,000/600,000).
But with an abundance of Schiele material on the market that week, six more drawings by the artist, perhaps without sufficient appeal, failed to sell. Nonetheless the sale, which also saw a record set for a George Grosz watercolor and a painting by Lesser Ury, underlined the strength of the German market seen the previous night at Christie’s.
The auction then moved into overdrive with the sellout of eight paintings by Edvard Munch from the Thomas Olsen Collection. The top lot was Summer’s Day, 1903-04, which took a record £6.2 million ($10.8 million). The same buyer also acquired Munch’s The Wave, for £1.6 million, or $2.8 million (estimate: £700,000/900,000). The second- and third-highest lots by Munch were purchased by Sotheby’s former Austrian head Agnes Husslein, who works closely with the Rupertinum Museum of Modern Art, Salzburg, as well as with private clients. Husslein bought Munch’s Self Portrait with Spanish Flu for £1.7 million, or $2.9 million (estimate: £750,000/1 million) and his Self Portrait Against a Two-Coloured Background, circa 1904, for £3.6 million, or $6.3 million (estimate: £2/3 million), bidding against Oslo’s Galleri K. The total for the Olsen collection ran up to £16.9 million ($29.7 million) against the presale estimate of £7.95/11.2 million.
$12.3M Gauguin the Top Attraction
The highest price of the evening, however, was the £12.3 million ($21.6 million) given by an anonymous U.K. collector for Paul Gauguin’s Tahitian painting Deux femmes or La chevelure fleurie, 1902 (estimate: £11/14 million). The painting, sent for sale by Marion, had previously been at Acquavella Galleries, New York, with a $25 million price tag.
Another work offered by Marion was Joan Miró’s L’Oiseau au plumage déployé vole vers l’arbre argenté, 1953, which she had bought in 1989 for $9.3 million. This time the painting went to a phone bidder, against competition from Galleri K and David Nahmad, for £5.2 million, or $9 million (estimate; £4.5/6.5 million).
Other buyers at the sale included Gilbert Lloyd of Marlborough Fine Art, who bought Pablo Picasso’s Homme à la pipe, 1968, for £3.1 million, or $5.5 million (estimate: £2.8/3.8 million); Marc Blondeau, who acquired Auguste Rodin’s bronze Ève for £736,000, or $1.3 million (estimate; £300,000/400,000); and Abigail Asher, who bought René Magritte’s Golconde, 1955, for £624,000, or $1.1 million (estimate: £250,000/350,000) in the Surrealist section.
Although Surrealist records were achieved for a painting by Man Ray (£736,000 or $1.3 million) and for a work on paper by Dali (£400,000 or $711,743), eight of the final 16 Surrealist lots were unsold.
“In these sales,” dealer James Roundell told ARTnewsletter, “we have seen quantum leaps in prices for Soutine and Munch, and a response to the feeling that German modern art is still cheap compared to modern French pieces. But take away those factors and they were otherwise quite ordinary sales.”