ZURICH—At the age of 86, and after 59 years at the helm of the Galerie Kornfeld, Bern, the leading Swiss auction house for Old Master and modern paintings, drawings and prints, Eberhard W. Kornfeld wielded the gavel for his 250th auction on June 17–18. At his side was Wolf von Weiler, his son-in-law, partner and designated successor.
From the two-day sale, the house realized a total of CHF42.5million ($41million) with nearly 90 percent ($37million) of that total coming from the 120 top lots in the sale of modern art on June 18 (The following prices are hammer).
The top lot was Paul Gauguin’s small Scène tahitienne, 1896, which tripled its CHF 2 million estimate to sell for CHF 5.5 million ($4.9 million) to a Geneva dealer bidding via telephone. Yet the most surprising lot was Sam Francis’s large color composition Deep Blue and Black, 1955, estimated at CHF 700,000, which sold for CHF $2.7 million ($2.4 million) to a Parisian dealer on the phone, against strong competition both in the saleroom and on the phones. Kornfeld had bought this painting from Francis, his friend, in 1956 for CHF 1,000.
Among the comparably inexpensive offerings in this sale were several Impressionist paintings, such as the characteristically foggy Claude Monet landscape Chemin dans le brouillard, 1879, which sold for CHF 1.2 million ($1 million) on an estimate of CHF1.3 million, and two garden landscape paintings by Camille Pissarro: Jardin potager à l’Ermitage, Pontoise, 1879, which was sold for CHF1.3million ($1.2 million) on a CHF1.25million estimate, and Pommiers en fleurs, Eragny, 1888, which sold for CHF 1.04 million ($930,600) on an estimate of CHF 900,000.