LONDON—As in earlier seasons, Christie’s led its Impressionist and modern art sale on June 20 with possibly its strongest suit—a catalogue of 29 works by German and Austrian artists that realized £24.3 million ($44.7 million). Here, five new record prices were achieved. A 1935 self-portrait drawn by Christian Schad (estimate: £100,000/150,000) attracted a record £254,400 ($469,000) from London dealer James Holland-Hibbert.
The highlight of the German and Austrian section, and indeed of the whole sale, was Egon Schiele’s recently rediscovered and restituted sunflower painting Herbstsonne, 1914. Estimated at £4/6 million, it brought £11.8 million ($21.7 million) from New York dealers Eykyn Maclean.
A war painting, Kampf, 1918, by Josef Dobrowsky (estimate: £20,000/ 30,000), soared to £187,200 ($345,000) after a contest between London dealers James Roundell and Richard Nagy, who eventually won out. Ernst Ludwig Kirchner’s painted-wood carving Stehendes Mädchen, Karyatide, 1909-10 (estimate: £250,000/350,000), was acquired by Daniella Luxembourg, bidding against dealer Jan Krugier of New York and Geneva, for £1.46 million ($2.7 million).
Emil Nolde’s Rotblondes Mädchen, 1919 (estimate: £1/1.5 million), last sold in 1998 for $927,000 hammer, now made £2.1 million ($3.8 million) from a phone buyer bidding against Nagy; and Schad’s Portrait of Eva von Arnheim, 1930 (estimate: £250,000/350,000), sold for £456,000 ($840,000)—a record for an oil painting by Schad. According to one trade observer in the room, the buyer was New York dealer Alberto Mugrabi, bidding against Swiss dealer Doris Ammann.
Also performing strongly in this section: Gabriel Munter’s Mädchen mit Roter Schleife, 1908 (estimate: £120,000/180,000), which went to London’s Pyms Gallery for £321,600 ($593,000); and four other works by Schiele. Among these were a double-sided erotic drawing, circa 1912-13 (estimate: £450,000/650,000), which sold to Nagy for £1.1 million ($2 million); a recently restituted small oil on cardboard, Hafen von Triest, 1907 (estimate: £150,000/ 250,000), which brought £1 million ($1.9 million) from Martin Zimet of French & Co., New York; and two of Schiele’s gouache drawings from the collection of Frederick and Ilona Gerstel—Farmhouse on a Hill, 1917 (estimate: £250,000/350,000), which fell to Luxembourg for £523,000 ($964,000); and Female Nude with White Border, 1911 (estimate: £300,000/400,000), which was sold to Eykyn Maclean for £456,000 ($840,000).
However, three other Schiele drawings from the Gerstel collection that had been on long-term loan to the Museum of Modern Art, New York, had over-optimistic estimates of up to £2.4/3.2 million and were bought in.
The rest of the sale was dominated by Pablo Picasso. No fewer than 12 of his works, mostly late, were included, four of them among the top-selling lots. The highest price here was £4.3 million ($7.8 million), given by Krugier for Homme à la pipe assis et amour, 1969 (estimate: £2.8/3.8 million).
Among the top lots was Picasso’s early Au Moulin Rouge (Le Divan Japonais), 1901 (estimate: £3.2/3.8 million). The painting, sold in 1989 to a Japanese buyer for $7.5 million hammer, returned to the market in 1995, when it was bought by Jose Mugrabi for $3.6 million. This time around, the work went to an anonymous buyer for £3.6 million ($6.6 million). It was one of five Picassos consigned by Mugrabi to the auction; three of them found buyers.
Also starring at Christie’s was Amedeo Modigliani. Homme assis sur fond orange, 1918 (estimate: £2/3 million), fell to a European dealer on the phone for £3.6 million ($6.7 million), and Le buste rouge (Cariatide), 1913 (estimate: £1/1.5 million), won a double-estimate £3.5 million ($6.4 million) from Gilbert Lloyd of Marlborough Fine Arts.
Christie’s sale ended with a section devoted to Surrealist art. The star lot, Max Ernst’s rediscovered La horde, 1927 (estimate: £2.5/3.5 million), in which Christie’s had taken a financial interest, failed to sell. Another Ernst, Fleurs-ècaille, 1928 (estimate: £300,000/500,000), sold at a top-estimate £512,000 ($943,616) to the Nahmad family.
The buying profile at the sale, in which 71, or 79 percent, of the 90 lots were sold, saw European and U.K. buyers dominate with 75 percent of the lots. That percentage included an overall 7 percent of lots sold to Russian buyers; 24 percent went to the Americas, and 1 percent to Asia.