London’s flagship June Impressionist and Modern sales saw Christie’s and Sotheby’s notch up a premium-inclusive total of £298m between them in three days.
Christie's June 24 evening sale saw 66 of the 81 lots sell for
£126.9m, a record for a European auction, proving that, at the
highest echelons at least, the London art market is still
But polarisation of the exceptional and the mediocre is becoming
ever more apparent and it was the lower-value secondary works by
major artists which saw shakier results.
Whilst super-rich collectors, some of whose business lies in
natural resources, see their wealth continuing to escalate, those
who might consider spending between £100,000 and £1m on a piece,
with wealth founded upon financial services for example, seem to be
feeling the pinch.
At Christie's, Claude Monet's 1919 Le Bassin aux
Nympheas bore testament to his enduring commercial appeal by
selling for £36.5m, an auction record for the artist.
Estimated at £18m-24m, the iconic canvas, perhaps the best of
the Waterlilies series to appear at auction, was knocked
down to London-based art advisor Tania Buckrell Pos. She sat in the
front row of the saleroom taking instructions from an anonymous
client on the phone, after a battle against an American phone
This result almost doubled the previous auction record for
Monet, achieved at Christie's New York on May 6, where his 1873
Le Pont du Chemin de Fer à Argenteuil made $37m
Le Bassin aux Nympheas was part of a stellar collection
of 17 works, from the estate of the late J. Irwin and Xenia S.
Miller from Columbus, Indiana, unseen on the market for several
decades, which led the sale.
A weak dollar combined with strong demand from both Russian and
European buyers has encouraged Americans to sell works in London.
Christie's chief executive Edward Dolman, buoyed by the exceptional
results, said: "This was the first time a really important American
collection of Impressionist and modern art has been sold in London.
The market backed up that decision."
As a condition for consigning to London, the Millers requested
that Christie's US-based honorary chairman Christopher Burge should
be at the rostrum to sell this section of the sale.
Christie's had guaranteed both the Miller collection and the
eight 20th century avant-garde works from the German collection of
Alfred and Elisabeth Hoh, a gamble that seems to have paid off. All
25 guaranteed lots sold, with three quarters of them going at or
above estimate, including the Monet.
By contrast, the following evening only two of the 55 lots in
Sotheby's offering were guaranteed. This solid sale saw 50 of the
lots sell for a total of £89.5m, with Gino Severini's 1915 canvas
Danseuse, one of the two guaranteed works, achieving the
top price at £13.4m, a record for a Severini and for any Futurist
work at auction.
Expected to fetch £7m-10m, four telephone bidders competed for
Danseuse before it sold to a buyer represented by
Sotheby's Phillip Hook.
These strong sales will have boosted confidence in the run-up to
this week's heavily guaranteed contemporary sales, with Christie's
guaranteeing 14 out of 59 lots compared to Sotheby's 26 out of
By Anna Brady
Antiques Trade Gazette is the weekly bible of the fine art and antiques industry. Read articles like this every week in the Antiques Trade Gazette or ATG app. Click here to subscribe today.