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Bumper totals at Impressionist and Modern sales

05 February 2010Written by ATG Reporter

SERIOUS levels of demand emerged for works at the very top end of the art market as this month’s flagship Impressionist and Modern art auction series raised a combined hammer total of £225.8m, massively up on the £108.8m for the equivalent series last year.

The £58m Giacometti at Sotheby's was just one of a number of works at the series that demonstrated a renewed confidence among both buyers and sellers of top-end art.

While the record-breaking sculpture came to Sotheby's from the Dresdner Bank in Germany, an important landscape by Gustav Klimt (1862-1918), which went missing during the Second World War, was consigned to the same saleroom after the auctioneers brokered a restitution agreement between the anonymous owner and the heirs of the Viennese collectors Paula and Viktor Zuckerkandl.

Estimated at £12m-18m, it drew four bidders and sold on the telephone at £24m.

Sotheby's also had Paul Cézanne's (1839-1906) oil-on-paper Pichet et Fruits sur une Table, which was being sold by a European collector.

Although it had failed to sell at Sotheby's New York in May 2001 against an estimate of $14m-20m, it sold here at £10.5m to a telephone buyer, just above its £10m low estimate.

These three works helped Sotheby's to a £130.5m hammer total for their evening sale, the highest ever for an auction staged in London.

This result was well above the £69.1m-102m pre-sale estimate and substantially ahead of rivals Christie's Impressionist and Modern evening sale on February 2, which made £66.7m and included £8.51m from the 38-lot Art of the Surreal sale.

Top lot at Christie's was the 1963 Tête de Femme (Jacqueline) by Pablo Picasso (1881-1973) that was consigned by the daughters of the Chicago collectors Kenneth and Bernice Newberger, who had been victims in the Bernard Madoff scandal.

With a £3m-4m estimate, it attracted six bidders, including Russian buyers, but sold to a UK private telephone bidder at £7.2m.

Russian interest also emerged on Natalia Goncharova's (1881-1962) Espagnole from c.1916, which was knocked down to a telephone bid via a member of Christie's Russian art department.

Consigned by a Swiss collector who had owned it since the early 1980s, it sold for a record £5.7m, the highest price for a painting by a female artist.

With serious levels of demand again emerging at the very top of the market, the overall amount of money raised at the Impressionist and Modern series was £225.8m, massively up on the £108.8m for the equivalent series last year.

By Alex Capon

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