PARIS—Sotheby’s Paris held two days of vibrant auctions May 31–June 1. The first was of contemporary art, the second of Impressionist and modern art, producing a total of €41 million ($58.9 million), the highest amount ever for a series of auctions at Sotheby’s Paris, and largely exceeding the cumulative high estimates for the sales, of €34.9 million ($50.1 million). The auctions set new records for Pierre Soulages and Nicolas de Staël; a total of 11 works sold for more than €1 million ($1.4 million).
The auction at Sotheby’s Paris on June 1 of Impressionist and modern art, was one of the most successful of its type in history, bringing in a total of €16 million ($23.3 million), against an estimate of €12.5 million/18.1 million. Among the works showcased in the sale were Surrealist works by artists including André Masson, Toyen, Victor Brauner and Max Ernst, as well as works by Pablo Picasso, Alberto Giacometti, and Marc Chagall, and Cubist works by Juan Gris and Georges Braque. In all, two-thirds of the 98 lots were sold, with the sale realizing 91.5 percent by value. Thomas Bompard, director of the Impressionist department at Sotheby’s Paris, said the house was pleased with the results, which “reinforce the position Paris now holds on the international scene for Impressionist and modern art.”
The top seller was a monumental 1942 composition in pastel, ink and gouache on flocked velour paper by Joan Miró, entitled Femmes et oiseau devant le soleil, which had once been acquired by dealer Pierre Matisse. Estimated at €2 million/3 million, it sold for €2.3 million ($3.3 million). Another top lot, a bronze by Giacometti, Homme à mi-corps (Diego assis) of his brother Diego, sold for €1.5 million ($2.2 million) compared with an estimate of €800,000/120,000.
Broc et verre, 1959, by Picasso, a bold, colorful oil painting estimated at €900,000/1.3 million, sold for its high estimate, bringing €1.4 million ($2 million). A Surrealist oil painting by René Magritte from 1947, La Terre de Feu, 1947, surpassed its high estimate (€700,000/900,000), selling for E960,750 ($1.4 million). Gris’s still-life oil painting Verre et fruits, 1920, sold for €600,750 ($863,698), surpassing its estimate of €350,000/550,000.
The two-part contemporary-art sale totaled €24.9 million ($35.7 million), more than doubling the estimate of €11.9 million/16.8 million. In all, 85.6 percent of the 159 lots were sold, representing 98 percent by value, and 61 percent of lots surpassed their high estimate. The evening sale realized a total of €19.3 million ($27.7 million), against an estimate of €8.9 million/12.7 million; 96.2 percent of the lots were sold, representing 99.6 percent by value. In the evening sale, two records were established: for Soulages, for the painting 130 x 162 cm, 12 novembre 1956, which brought €2.3 million ($3.3 million), against the estimate of €800,000/1.2 million; and for de Staël, a record auction price of €2.5 million ($3.6 million) for his painting Agrigente, painted three years before the artist’s death in 1954.
Other records were set for La Flamme, 1946–47, by Wols, a record in France for the artist, of €1.5 million ($2.2 million), on an estimate of €600,000/800,000; and for Martial Raysse, also a record in France, at €1.7 million ($2.5 million), against an estimate of €1.3 million/1.8 million, for an untitled mixed-media work executed in 1962.
Top sellers also included François-Xavier Lalanne’s sculpture of 12 sheep, Moutons de Laine (Troupeau de 12), 1974, designed as part sculptures, part furniture so that visitors to the “Young French Painting Exhibition” in 1966 could sit on them. Estimated at €700,000/1,000,000, they sold for €1.2 million ($1.7 million).