PARIS—In an auction on April 5, Sotheby’s Paris presented Sources et Affinités, auctioning works from the collection of Florence Loeb, the daughter of Pierre Loeb, the visionary Paris dealer and founder of the Galerie Pierre in Paris, which closed in 1963. The sale included works by such artists as Pablo Picasso, Joan Miró and Alberto Giacometti.
Mostly inherited from her father and dedicated to members of the Loeb family, the 88 lots included drawings, illustrations and books, as well as African, Oceanic and Native American art from Pierre Loeb’s private collection.
Estimated to bring between €1.7 million/2.4 million, the auction realized €4.8 million ($6.3 million), with 100 percent sold by lot and by value.
The event presented books and drawings by Antonin Artaud, a French playwright, poet, actor and theater director, whose drawings were first shown at the Galerie Pierre in 1947. Among the pieces were five rare and important Artaud drawings, the most important ensemble of drawings by Artaud in a private collection ever presented at auction, according to Thomas Bompard, director of Impressionist and Modern art at Sotheby’s France.
The top lot, a self-portrait drawing by Artaud dated December 17, 1946, sold to a private French collector for €2 million ($2.8 million), tripling the high end of the €500,000/700,000 estimate and establishing a world record for a drawing by Artaud. Delicately drawn in graphite, the frontal self-portrait graces the covers of several of his books and has been widely shown. It was made shortly after he was released from confinement in an asylum in Rodez, where he underwent electroshock therapy, and shows the writer with a piercing gaze, vulnerable and tormented. Recently declared a national treasure by the French Ministry of Culture, Bompard calls the drawing “incontestably the most important drawing Artaud ever made.”
Other drawings by Artaud presented at auction included the writer’s portrait of Florence Loeb, dated December 4, 1946, the year of their first meeting when she was 16 years old. It sold for €552,750 ($724,368) on an estimate of €200,000/300,000. His small drawing of her father Pierre, dated October 6, 1946, and measuring 8 by 10 inches, sold for €192,750 ($252,595) against an estimate of €150,000/200,000.
A sheet with several sketches of head studies, Esquisses de têtes, 1947, estimated at €200,000/300,000, fetched €288,750 ($378,401). And the writer’s portrait of their friend Sima Feder, estimated at €180,000/250,000, sold for less than its estimate but remained in the top ten of the sale, bringing €120,750 ($158,240).
Several books by Artaud, dedicated to members of the Loeb family, were also auctioned off, including Van Gogh, le suicidé de la société, 1947, dedicated to Florence Loeb, which was estimated at €7,000/10,000 and sold for €16,250; Le Theatre et son double, 1944, which sold for €9,375 ($12,350), on an estimate of €4,000/6,000; and Au pays des Tarahumaras, from the collection l’Age d’Or, 1945, which sold for €8,750 ($11,500), well above the estimate of €1,000/1,500.
African, Oceanic and Native American art also surpassed expectations. Estimated at €30,000/50,000, an American Kachina doll (from Arizona) representing a Hopi “Snake Priest,” tripled its low estimate to sell for €96,750 ($126,789). A miniature Fang, Gabon head, estimated at €20,000/30,000, attained €144,750 ($189,692). A sculpted, wooden Korwar plank, once in the collection of the writer and film director Jacques Viot, sold for €30,750 ($40,510) on a €500/1,000 estimate.
Other artworks in the sale included Giacometti’s 1946 portrait of Pierre Loeb, which was estimated at €120,000/180,000 and sold for €288,750 ($378,401); a very small still life in gouache by Picasso, ca. 1919–20, measuring 47⁄8 by 17⁄8 inches, which sold for €55,950 ($73,700) against an estimate of €20,000/30,000; and Sans titre (Microbe) by Max Ernst, which was estimated at €4,000/6,000 and sold for €13,750.
A small, 1882 pen and ink drawing by Pierre-Auguste Renoir of a young girl—a gift to Florence Loeb from her father on her twenty-first birthday—fetched €58,350 ($76,467) on a €10,000/15,000 estimate. Zao Wou-Ki’s ink and watercolor work on paper, 1920, estimated at €15,000/20,000, fetched €58,350 ($76,467), nearly tripling its high estimate.