A thin head by Alberto Giacometti (1901-66) was one of a handful of market-fresh works that helped lift the latest Impressionist & Modern art sales in New York.
If truth be told however, the general
offering across the week overall was also a little thin in terms of
top quality and market-fresh material.
In spite of this, the hammer total for the
week at $533.5m (£348.7m) was up on the equivalent series last
year, although a significant contribution of $79.1m (£51.7m) came
from the collection of Geneva-based dealer Jan Krugier which formed
a separate 155-lot sale at Christie's.
Christie's, though, saw both the Krugier
offering and their Impressionist & Modern evening sale on
November 5 post totals well under their pre-sale estimates with a
number of big-ticket items going unsold.
The market reacted more positively to Sotheby's evening sale on November 6 where the
hammer total of $253.02m (£165,375) fell within predictions of
$212.9m-307.9m. Overall, 52 of the 64 lots got away (81%).
Here some encouragement was garnered from a
few select lots, most notably the Giacometti bust (pictured) which
sold for $44.5m (£29.1m) against a $35-50m estimate and was the top
lot of the series. Grande tête mince (Grande tête de
Diego) was a 2ft 2in (65cm) high sculpture which came from a
'distinguished European collection' after having been purchased
privately in 1980. It was one of six bronzes cast in 1955 and had
never been auctioned before.
The subject was the artist's brother Diego
and, with the edition being the most highly prized of all
Giacometti bronze busts, it sold to New York dealers Acquavella
Galleries bidding on the phone. The price fetched was marginally
shy of the $47.5m (£32.5m) seen the last time one of the busts
appeared at auction, at Christie's New York in May 2010.
Also providing a useful $56m (£36.6m)
at Sotheby's was an anonymous collection of 14 avant-garde
paintings. Eleven works sold including Giacomo Balla's
(1871-1958) Automobile in corsa, which went
below estimate but made a record for the Italian Futurist at $10.1m
(£6.6m), and Francis Picabia's Volucelle II which also made an
artist's record at $7.7m (£5.03m).
Sotheby's also had the highest-selling
Picasso of the week - Tête de femme from 1935, a portrait
of Marie-Thérèse Walter that fetched $35.5m (£23.2m) against a
The performance of Picasso at Christie's was
more mixed, with the failure of two works both estimated at
$25m-35m: the 1963 oil painting
Le peinture et son modele dans un paysage at their
Imps & Mods evening sale and the unusual steel sculpture
Tête (Maquette pour la sculpture en plein air du Chicago Civic
Center) from 1962-64 which was the highest-pitched lot of
the Krugier collection.
The Krugier sale, though, was led by the
artist's painting of his two youngest children, Claude et
Paloma, which rose above its $9m-12m estimate and sold at $25m
(£16.3m) to a phone bidder. The buyers were later revealed to be
the Dalian Wanda Group, owned by one of China's wealthiest men,
Meanwhile, Christie's Imps & Mods
evening sale was led by an Alberto Giacometti, although here it was
a painting rather than a sculpture.Diego en chemise écossaise(which
also depicted the artist's brother) was estimated at $30m-50m but,
being subject to a third-party guarantee, it was always bound to
sell on the night. It got away to a single bidder at $29m (£18.9m)
which, although below expectations, was still a significant record
for a Giacometti painting.
Overall, Christie's evening sale saw 35 of
the 46 lots get away (76%) for a hammer total of £125.13m.
The buyer's premium at both Sotheby's and
Christie's was 25/20/12%.
£1 = $1.53