Wednesday - 16 April 2014

Trio make for more lucrative auction series in New York

08 November 2010Written by ATG Reporter

RECORD prices for three European artists helped lift the latest round of Impressionist and Modern art sales in New York. With the market much more selective since the downturn two years ago and most of the competition focusing on the biggest trophy lots, the new saleroom highs for Henri Matisse, Juan Gris and Amedeo Modigliani provided further evidence of recovery at the top end.

Making a combined $134.5m (£87.9m), the trio contributed significantly to the auctioneers' rising totals.

Overall Sotheby's and Christie's sales raised $465.5m (£304.3m) hammer (including day sales), significantly up on the $260m (£166m) for the equivalent series last year.

The top lot of the series was Amedeo Modigliani's (1884-1920) Nu Assis sur un Divan (La Belle Romaine) which drew five bidders at Sotheby's evening sale on November 2 and sold to a telephone bidder at $65.5m (£42.8m). This was above the pre-sale estimate "in excess of $40m" and broke the artist's record which previously stood at €38.5m (£33.5m) for the limestone sculpture, Tête, at Christie's Paris in June.

The price for the iconic c.1917 nude was also well above the then-record $15.25m (£9.47m) which the work fetched last time it was auctioned, at Sotheby's New York in November 1999.

The Sotheby's sale made a hammer total of $200m (£131m), just over the lower end of the $195m-266m pre-sale estimate but significantly above last year's $159m (£101m). Of the 61 lots, 46 sold.

Elsewhere in the sale, a Claude Monet (1840-1926) painting from his water lilies series took $22m (£14.4m) against a $20m-30m estimate, selling to an American collector, while the highest price for the seven works by Henri Matisse (1869-1954) was the $18.5m (£12.1m) for the 1942 oil on canvas Danseuse dans le Fauteuil, Sol en Damier. Making its third appearance at auction within the last 10 years, it sold to a buyer bidding by phone through Mark Politmore, chairman of Sotheby's Russian department in London.

That price was trumped the night after when Christie's sold the large Matisse sculpture Back IV for a record $43.5m (£28.4m).

Bought by dealer Larry Gagosian for a client, the 6ft 3in (1.89m) high bronze cast of a woman with a ponytail went well above the $25m-35m estimate and just pipped the previous saleroom high for the artist - the €32m (£28m) seen for the still life Les Coucous at Christie's Yves Saint Laurent sale in Paris in 2009.

The price seemed particularly high considering this was the last of a set of four sculptural reliefs conceived between 1909 and 1930, but not cast until 1978 in an edition of 12. However, it was the first time a work from the celebrated Back series had come to auction.

Another record at Christie's was the $25.5m (£16.7m) for the 1913 Cubist painting Violin and Guitar by Juan Gris (1887-1927) which sold to a European private buyer on the phone. Estimated at $18m-25m, it was the highlight of four works sold from the collection of American financier Henry Kravis and his wife Marie-Josée Kravis who is president of the Museum of Modern Art in New York.

From the same source was Joan Miró's surrealist landscape L'Air which was knocked down below estimate at $9.15m (£5.98m) to London dealer Alan Hobart of the Pyms Gallery.

Overall, Christie's evening sale was patchier than their rival's. Although their $203m (£132m) hammer total was slightly higher, it was from a greater number of lots. The total was just within the $199m-$287m pre-sale estimate but greatly up on the somewhat disappointing $56.9m (£36.2m) seen for the equivalent sale last year.

Of the 84 works on offer, 67 sold.

By Alex Capon

Written by

ATG Reporter

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