Christie’s ran a marathon sales series that lasted over three hours in total today, starting in London with a major offering of Impressionist, Modern and Contemporary art titled ’20th / 21st Century: London Evening Sale’, before completely changing countries and moving the procedure to Paris.
There, the two-part offering included the prestigious private collection of Francis Gross, much of which had not been seen for nearly three decades, as well as a targeted group of works by artists closely associated with Paris, such as Pierre Soulages, Zao Wou -ki, and Jean Dubuffet.
The relay series was also distinguished by the use of no less than four separate auctioneers, two in London and two in Paris. Three of them were women.
After veteran auctioneer Jussi Pylkkänen kicked off in London, he handed the reins to Veronica Scarpati midway through. Then, Cécile Verdier and Camille de Foresta took over, respectively in charge of Gross sales and “Paris: Evening sale”.
The three sales generated a cumulative total of 153.6 million pounds sterling ($ 212.6 million). The main London sale made a total of £ 119.3million ($ 166million). Of the 52 lots offered (one lot, a Banksy, was withdrawn), 88% were sold. London’s total fell right in the middle of the Presale estimate of £ 93 million to £ 136 million. (Final prices include buyer’s premium, unless otherwise stated; estimates do not.)
The Brut collection made 26.5 million euros (31.6 million dollars) against expectations of 14 to 21 million euros and 96% of the 24 lots found buyers.
The ensuing Paris sale featured 14 lots (two were withdrawn) and made 13.3 million euros (15.8 million dollars), against a pre-sale estimate of 9.9 million euros at 14.3 million euros.
In particular, there were no guarantees on the lots from Paris but there were many on the lots from London: a total of 17 lots were guaranteed, all by third parties with the exception of a direct guarantee from the auction house.
The highest lot of the sale, which was the subject of an irrevocable auction but raised stiff competition, was that of Picasso The Embrace (1969).
The tender for the work opened at £ 9million ($ 12.5million) and the action ended in a war between department heads Giovanna Bertazzoni and Alex Rotter serving as proxies for customers. Rotter won the Picasso for his collectors with a final bid of £ 12.6million ($ 17.5million), or £ 14.7million ($ 20.4million) with bounty.
Among the highest prices was also a Alberto Giacometti sculpture of a falling man, Capsized man (designed in 1950 and cast by Alexis Rudier in 1951). It sold for £ 13.7million ($ 19million). Christie’s Vice President Sara Friedlander has stood up to competition from a London specialist to win the job for her client, regularly bidding £ 10million up to the hammer price of £ 12.4million. pounds ($ 17 million). Offered this time by a private collection, the same work appeared at a Sotheby’s auction in New York in November 1998, where it sold for $ 2.6 million, according to the Artnet price database. .
Wassily Kandinsky’s work was once again a highlight, as was the case yesterday at the Sotheby’s sale. This time it was Variegated black (1935), a work of prestigious provenance, having belonged to the Maeght family at one time and having recently been part of the same private collection since 2007. It sold for £ 8.8 million (12.2 million dollars) with premium. The auction was relatively short, opening at £ 6.8million before being sold to a Bertazzoni customer for £ 7.8million ($ 10.8million).
An untitled 1984 Jean-Michel Basquiat with extensive auction experience sold today for £ 5.9million ($ 8million) with bounty. It was last sold four years ago at a Poly auction in Hong Kong, where the current shipper had acquired it for $ 5.7 million. Previously, at Christie’s London in 2013, it had sold for $ 2.8 million and even earlier, at Sotheby’s London in 2007, it had sold for $ 1.4 million.
Another highlight of the London sale was a blank painting by Bridget Riley, Zing 2, which had been acquired directly from the Galerie Beyeler in Switzerland after being painted in 1971 and had been rarely seen since. The artist herself even came to Sotheby’s presale in the London gallery to see her long-unseen work, saying she was “delighted” to see it again in person, a specialist said. Zing 2 sold for £ 3.3million ($ 4.6million), beating the high estimate of £ 2.2million and marking the second highest auction price for Riley to date.
The auctions from Asia were sustained throughout the auction, especially for Yayoi Kusama, whose Pumpkin (2009) the sculpture was chased by no less than three Hong Kong specialists on telephone banks, among other bidders. It was eventually sold to a client of specialist Eric Chang for £ 2.7million ($ 3.7million).
Bidding through Chang, a buyer won the Fernand Léger prize Composition with dominoes (1947) for £ 718,500 ($ 998,000), followed several lots later by that of Paul Klee Kleines Blumenstilleben (1926) for £ 500,000 ($ 694,000).
The Gross collection, which was assembled over a decade by the successful businessman and discreet collector, had not been seen since his death in 1992.
A technical problem spoiled the live viewing of the star lot of this offer, the classic by René Magritte Revenge (1936), which auctioned off at 5 million euros ($ 5.9 million). Nonetheless, auctioneer Cécile Verdier remained calm under the pressure, and viewers saw the bids rapidly climb to double digits on the screen. Revenge sold for a final price of 14.6 million euros ($ 17.4 million).
The connection was reestablished shortly after. In a post-sale press conference, Christie’s executives acknowledged the viewing problem but assured listeners it had not affected any buyer’s ability to bid – a claim that the lot’s performance certainly supports. .
A rare Picasso collage, Head of a woman (1941), was the second highest prize in the Brut collection, realizing 3.6 million euros ($ 5 million). It sparked competition between five buyers before selling to a European collector.
A bust of Giacometti, Bust of a man (Lotar II), made 3.3 million euros ($ 3.9 million). It was a representation of photographer Eli Lotar, the last subject to sit for Giacometti in his “damp, cramped studio on rue Hippolyte-Maindron ”, according to Christie’s catalog.
“We are very happy here in Paris,” said Pierre Martin-Vivier, responsible for obtaining the Brut batch, during the after-sales press conference. “It is clear that the market is happy to buy fresh and very good quality parts.
The Parisian evening sale which crowned the series was led by sober works, mostly abstract or semi-abstract, including the flagship work, that of Jean Dubuffet Laundry, Pharmacy (urban site with six figures) (1962), which was sold for 1.5 million euros ($ 1.8 million) to a London buyer. It was followed by a prize of just over 2 million euros ($ 2.4 million) for a Pierre Soulages Painting 162 x 114 cm, April 17, 1972 (1972), which a London specialist from Christie’s won for his client.
After the sale, Bertazzoni was enthusiastic that “London and Paris are such an important duo,” noting that the dual city setup has meant much greater flexibility for the home both in terms of the challenges presented by the pandemic. , as well as concerns about Brexit.
Christie’s CEO Guillaume Cerutti agreed.
“It means a lot to our customers when we build these sales in London and Paris to say that we are working together,” he said. “It is true that they have questions about, for example, the complexity of exporting works from the EU to the UK. We have a unified concept: we are a platform with two different teams of auctioneers, all working together. It is a powerful tool for us.
On a final note, Bertazzoni, 25 year old Christie’s veterinarian, commented “how important it is to me to see wonderful female auctioneers on the podium at an evening sale. I’m so glad I saw this.
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