Big and bold is how many of the world’s wealthiest like their art.
This was certainly the case for the late Walid Juffali (1955-2016), the Saudi billionaire businessman whose exuberant collection of art and antiques was dispersed in a white-glove sale at Bonhams (25/20/12% buyer’s premium) on March 26.
The marathon 10-hour auction drew in items from three of Juffali’s UK properties and was held in the lavish interiors of the largest, the 42-acre Bishopsgate House estate in Egham, Surrey (reportedly on the market earlier this year with an asking price of £50m).
All 414 lots, many of which had been acquired in more recent years, found new homes to total £7.14m with premium, well over the £4m estimate. Sales of several expensive modern and post-war pictures sold separately at Bonhams earlier in March meant the overall total rose to more than £9.5m with premium.
Botero in bronze
The biggest lot across the collection in both size and money was a pair of Fernando Botero’s (b.1932) monumental stocky bronze figures of Adam and Eve, from an edition of three in 2003.
The 12ft (3.65m) high works, which featured on the catalogue cover, drew eight bidders on the phones before being knocked down for over double the top guide at a record £1.7m (just over £2m with premium). This surpassed the premium-inclusive £1.64m paid at Christie’s in November 2014 for another, earlier, pair of Adam and Eve sculptures of slightly different design made in 1990.
The Colombian sculptor is famed for his signature large exaggerated figures, coined Boterismo, and draws inspiration from traditions in Latin American folk art, as well as the dense shapes and bold movements of European Baroque art.
Two further Botero sculptures, both reclining bronze female nudes over 11ft (3.5m) long, took second and third on the price list. Against identical estimates of £350,000- 550,000, Reclining Nude (2003) sold for £900,000, while Reclining Nude (1993) made £650,000.
Juffali also had a particular fondness for the unique style, bright colours and signature shapes of Joan Miró (1893-1983) and owned nearly a dozen works by the Spanish painter.
Returning to the market after a relatively short time was a 3ft 5in x 2ft 5in (1.05m x 75cm) coloured pencil artist’s proof titled Equinoze, 1967. It took £65,000 hammer – well up on the premium-inclusive £45,000 it made at Christie’s South Kensington in September 2014.
This was not the case for all the Mirós, however. The most expensive, a small gouache from 1968, was separated and offered in a sale of Impressionist and modern art in London on March 1.
It had been acquired by Juffali from Christie’s in June 2012 for a premium-inclusive £106,850, but at Bonhams failed to ignite any serious bidding and sold just above bottom estimate for £75,000.
Also holding their value despite making a recent return to the auction block were two pairs of trademark Lynn Chadwick (1914-2003) maquette figures. They sold for £20,000 and £16,000 respectively – almost identical to the sums they had sold for at Swiss auction house Koller in December 2012.
The star seller among the contemporary art was Marcello Lo Giudice’s (b.1957) abstract Expressionist-style work Red/Rosso, 2011. The 4ft 11in (1.5m) square oil on canvas took a multi-estimate £65,000 – a new auction record for the artist, according to the Art Sales Index database.
As well as buying modern art, Juffali dabbled in more traditional fields. An example was a 19th century oil by German Orientalist painter Conrad Kiesel (1846-1921) of a scantily clad mandolin player in opulent surroundings, a composition that the artist returned to several times in his career.
This signed 2ft 8in x 4ft 7in (82cm x 1.1m) example was probably the same one that sold at Sotheby’s New York in May 1998 for $110,000 (then around £66,000). Easily Kiesel’s most commercial work, The Mandolin Player at Bonhams took £85,000 against an estimate of £40,000- 60,000.
Another 19th century painting to sell for five figures was Joyous Summer by Philip Hermogenes Calderon (1833-98), the leading light of the artist group known as the St John’s Wood Clique.
It was painted in 1882, during a period when much of Calderon’s work depicted women bathing, often in a woodland setting.
Executed in the same year as his celebrated childhood image Captain of the Eleven, which sold in the same rooms in July 2012 for an artist’s auction record of £240,000, Joyous Summer sold below estimate at £55,000.