BERN—With a total of $23.3 million, or about 23 percent more than last year, the annual paintings and print sale of the Galerie Kornfeld, held in Bern on June 16-17, was well-timed, coinciding as it did with the Art Basel fair, and produced solid results in nearly all categories. Kornfeld partner Christine Stauffer said that “it was a good and healthy sale, with the usual ups and downs.” At the main Part One sale on June 17 of 19th- and 20th-century art, 80 percent of 150 lots found buyers.
The highest price attained was $1.31 million for Paul Klee’s watercolor Water Pyramids (Wasserpyramiden), 1924. It went to a private Swiss collector against fierce competition by Geneva’s Jan Krugier Gallery, Wolfgang Wittrock, Düsseldorf, and Helmut H. Rumbler, Frankfurt. Rumbler later won an example of Francisco de Goya’s Los Caprichos, with 80 etchings in its first 1799 edition, for a rather low $208,000, against an estimate of about $196,000, while Wittrock secured Emil Nolde’s Mother with Child, 1913, for a below-estimate $379,000 (estimate: $406,000).
The second-highest price was achieved by Max Beckmann’s landscape Ostende in Stormy Weather . . ., 1932 (reworked by the artist in 1945), at $1.22 million on a commission bid left with the auctioneer. The most active and visible buyer at this sale was London’s Helly Nahmad Gallery, which bought, among other works, nearly all the approximately seven paintings by Marc Chagall (1887-1985) on offer, led by his late work The Offering to the Painter (L’offrande au peintre), 1983, for $641,000, doubling the estimate of $312,000.
Other highlights: a painting of children by Augusto Giacometti (1877-1947)—Peace, created in 1915, during World War I—that fell for $1.18 million; a bronze Head of Diego on Pedestal, by his renowned second cousin Alberto Giacometti (1901-66), which took $863,000; and the Surrealist Variation on the Theme Wind Bride (Variation über das Thema Windbraut), 1928, by Max Ernst, which fetched $794,000.
Among the few exceptions to the otherwise strong sale were a handful of works by German Expressionists, including Nolde’s Girl in the Garden, 1915, and Otto Müller’s Three Bathing Girls, circa 1913, that failed to find buyers.
With nearly all its 192 lots sold—the few remaining works were taken by the Galerie Kornfeld on their own stock—the special sale of Lotar Neumann’s collection of works by German artist Käthe Kollwitz, held on June 16, underscored the healthy demand for prints of the early 20th century. The top lot was her Self portrait en face, ca. 1904, priced at $144,400.
CHRISTIAN VON FABER CASTELL