PARIS—Amid the solid—at times stunning—prices attained in Paris this month, Artcurial auction house also had its share of success at its last major sales of the year.
Sales of modern and contemporary art on Dec. 6–7 realized a total of €17 million ($23 million), surpassing the presale estimate of €11.7 million. The contemporary section of the sale totaled €13.5 million ($18.1 million) for 33 lots.
On Dec. 6, Nu Couché, a rare painting of a reclining nude by Nicolas de Staël, fetched €7 million ($9.4 million), more than double the presale estimate of €3 million/3.5 million. According to the auction house, the de Staël painting thus became the most expensive work of art sold in Paris in 2011. The price marked a new auction record for the artist as well.
Nu Couché, a large-format oil painting on canvas, depicts the artist’s lover, Jeanne Mathieu. It was painted at Ménerbes, in the south of France, the year before the artist’s death by suicide at the age of 41. Experts said nudes are quite rare in the oeuvre of de Staël; there are only 20 among the 1,100 works recorded in the catalogue raisonné of his paintings.
“This reclining nude is a marvelous painting—a trophy work in the history of art, with Nicolas de Staël at the height of his power,” said Francis Briest, co-chairperson of Artcurial. “Bidders pulled out all the stops in their attempts to acquire it. That comes as no surprise.”
The sale also achieved high prices for two works by Jean-Michel Basquiat: Santo, 1985, an acrylic, ink, oil crayon and collage piece on panel, which surpassed its estimate of €900,000/1.3 million to sell for €2.6 million ($3.5 million), a record for a work by Basquiat sold in France; and Untitled (Call Girl), 1983, an acrylic and oil crayon on canvas, which fetched €1.4 million ($1.8 million), against an estimate of €1.2 million/1.6 million.
A kinetic work by Martha Boto achieved a record when Déplacement lumineux, 1967, sold for €83,565 ($112,200) against an estimate of €80,000/120,000.
A work by Venezuelan artist Carlos Cruz-Diez, Chromointerférence, 1970, made of silkscreen on Plexiglas with an electrical system in a wooden box, reached €186,418, falling within its estimate of €150,000/200,000.
The modern art component of the auction totaled €3.6 million ($4.8 million) with 15 of the 24 lots on offer finding buyers.
These included works by Pablo Picasso, Fernand Léger, Raoul Dufy and Henri Matisse. With it’s share of strong prices, the sale was highlighted by a few records including one for a rare copy of Matisse’s album “Jazz.” Edited by Tériade in 1947, the offer, which contained 20 stencils in color and was published at 100 copies, sold for €521,002 ($700,000), against an estimate of €270,000/330,000.
A gouache and ink of an open window by Marc Chagall, Fenetre ouverte-Le Village, ca. 1928–29, was one of three works offered from the collection of opera singer Luciano Pavarotti. It sold for €372,298 ($508,000), within its presale estimate of €300,000/400,000.
An ink drawing by Balthus, Study for the guitar lesson, 1934, sold for €409,474 ($549,970), well above the estimate of €60,000/80,000.