NEW YORK—On Sept. 16 in London, Sotheby’s set a record for one of the most expensive prints ever sold at auction, when a pristine example of Pablo Picasso’s etching La Minotauromachie, 1932, sold for £1.273million ($1.98million), double the estimate of £400,000/600,000.
The price also set a record for a print by Picasso at auction. In pounds sterling the price was a record, comparable to the price paid at auction house Grev Wedels Plass, Oslo, Norway, in 2007 for Edvard Munch’s print Vampire II, a color lithograph that fetched 14.2million Norwegian kroner, or about £1.271million.
Emmanuel Benador, director of graphics at Jan Krugier Gallery, New York, who had sold the print several years ago, called it a “superb impression,” noting that it came from the collection of Marina Picasso. The print, the seventh state of a highly prized series on this subject, had previously been in the artist’s estate. Picasso “kept the best impressions for his collection,” Benador said, adding that the print was “extremely difficult for the printmaker, Lacourière,” to execute because of its scale and the fact that it was so deeply etched.
Sotheby’s specialist James Mackie said Picasso “was the most important and innovative printmaker of the Modern period. …La Minotauromachie is considered to be the artist’s masterpiece of printmaking. It reflects key themes of the artist and demonstrates a mastery of technique that is unsurpassed.” Mackie added that “nearly all recorded impressions of this subject are now in public or permanent collections around the world.”
Sotheby’s also achieved a strong price for Picasso’s La femme qui pleure I (Weeping Woman), 1937, an etching with aquatint, drypoint and scraper, also from the Marina Picasso collection, which sold for £1.1million ($1.7million) against a £500,000/700,000 estimate.
Prints by Munch also figured in the top lots, with Vampire II, 1895–1902, a lithograph and woodcut in colors, selling for £802,850 ($1.25million) on a £400,000/600,000 estimate, followed by Madonna, 1895–1902, which took £713,250 ($1.1million) on a £350,000/400,000 estimate.
Three other Picasso prints were among the top-selling lots: Buste de femme de jeune fille, d’apres Cranach le Jeune, 1958, a linocut printed in colors, sold for £265,250 ($414,029) on an estimate of £200,000/300,000, and La femme à la fenêtre, 1953, an aquatint, which sold for £229,250 ($357,836) against a £60,000/80,000 estimate. L’Egyptienne, torse de femme, 1953, an aquatint, sold for £157,250 ($245,452) against an estimate of £70,000/90,000.
Andy Warhol’s The Scream (After Munch), 1984, a screenprint in colors, took £445,250 ($694,991) on an £80,000/120,000 estimate. Grande Odalisque à la culotte bayadère, 1925, a lithograph by Henri Matisse, sold for £229,250 ($357,836) on an estimate of £150,000/200,000. In all the sale realized £8.9million ($13.9million) for 174 lots offered, of which 142, or 82 percent, were sold. By value, the auction was 95 percent sold.
Ups and Downs at Christie’s
Christie’s sale of Old Master, modern and contemporary prints in London on Sept. 15 met with uneven demand, with 143, or 67 percent, of the 213 lots finding buyers. By value, the auction was 76 percent sold, bringing in a total of £2.25million ($3.5million). The top lot was Marc Chagall’s Four Tales from the Arabian Nights, 1948, a complete set of 12 lithographs in colors, which sold for £217,000 ($336,738) on an estimate of £200,000/300,000.
Queen Elizabeth II, 1985, a set of four screenprints with diamond dust by Andy Warhol from the series “Reigning Queens,” sold for £145,250 ($225,138) against an £80,000/120,000 estimate.
An aquatint by Picasso, Torse de femme (L’Egyptienne), 1953, depicting the artist’s lover Françoise Gilot, sold for £133,250 ($206,538), exceeding the £70,000/100,000 estimate. Another work by Picasso, Le chapeau à fleurs, 1963, a linocut in colors, sold for £67,250 ($103,500) against an estimate of £40,000/60,000.
Andy Mouse, 1986, a set of four screenprints in colors by Keith Haring, sold well, bringing £133,250 ($205,000) against an estimate of £70,000/100,000. Work by William Kentridge also fared well, with a set of four etchings with aquatint and drypoint, Sleeper I, Sleeper and Ubu, Sleeper Black and Sleeper Red, 1997, selling for £46,850 ($72,102), within the estimate of £30,000/50,000. Thinking Nude, 1994, a screenprint in colors by Roy Lichtenstein, sold for £55,250 ($85,000), exceeding its estimate of £25,000/35,000.
After the sale, Richard Lloyd, Christie’s international head of prints, said the auction “saw the established names in printmaking perform well across all categories, with particular demand for the highly iconic images of the 20th century.” Lloyd said that bidding came from the United States, Europe and the Middle East, and that 45 percent of the sale (by value) was conducted through the house’s online platform Christie’s LIVE.