Friday - 29 August 2014

Giacometti at $44.5m lifts mood amid mixed fortunes in New York

08 November 2013Written by ATG Reporter

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.

Italian Futurist

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 $20m-30m estimate.

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, Wang Jianlin.

Giacometti Painting

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

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.

Back to top