Before the art world settles down to a quiet summer, we can look forward to some profitable auction results in London at the sale of the Polaroid collection (to pay its debts) on 21 and 22 June, the Impressionist & Modern Art sales of 23 and 24 June and the Contemporary Art sales of 28 and 29 June. The star pieces in these sales have been published for several weeks or even months. After the recent Alberto GIACOMETTI and Pablo PICASSO records, there are great hopes for Picasso’s Portrait d’Angel Fernández de Soto and Claude MONET’s Nymphéas, each announced at £30-40m at Christie’s. At Sotheby’s, the high point of the sale could be a new record for André DERAIN’s whose Arbres à Collioure was discovered in the famous Vollard safe-box.
The Vollard safe-box: a dream come true for collectors
The Vollard safe-box contained a true masterpiece by André Derain. The other pieces, comparatively minor, possess the double advantage of a perfect origin and a Romanesque adventure. These works, signed Paul CÉZANNE, Pierre-Auguste RENOIR and Edgar DEGAS belonged to the great art dealer Ambroise Vollard. After his death in 1939, a friend of Vollard, Erich Slomovic, deposited part of Vollard’s collection in a bank safe. After 40 years, because of unpaid rental charges, the bank decided to open the safe, triggering a long and laborious legal battle that finally resulted in Sotheby’s being mandated to sell the contents in two rounds, the first in London on 22 June, and the second in Paris the following week.
Although the French market is certainly capable of attracting international collectors and has posted new records at its most recent June sales (the exceptional result of Amedeo MODIGLIANI‘s tête sold for €38,5m on June 14th, and the €1.25m for Joy by Jean-Michel BASQUIAT on 2 June), Sotheby’s has decided to include Derain’s masterpiece in its London sale and has reserved the less important works for Paris.
The masterpiece in question is Derain’s Arbres à Collioure, a perfect example of fauvism painted in 1905. If the work fetches within its £9m – £14m estimated price range in London on 22 June, it will set a new record for the artist. The painting has been included in Sotheby’s Impressionist & Modern Art sale of 22 June. Among the other important works in the sale, we note an exceptional self-portrait by Édouard MANET (est. £20-30m), Les Fleurs à Vétheuil by Claude Monet (est. £4-6m), Odalisques jouant aux dames by Henri MATISSE (£10-15m), Femme au chat assise dans un fauteuil by Pablo Picasso (est. £4-6m) and Grand cirque by Marc CHAGALL (est. £2.4-3.2m).
On 29 June in Paris, Sotheby’s is expecting a total of just €3m from the rediscovered Vollard collection. The star piece in the Paris sale is an unfinished portrait of Emile Zola by Paul Cézanne estimated at €500,000 -800,000. The safe-box also contained an Edgard Degas monotype, La Fête de la patronne, which is expected to generate between 200,000 and 300,000 euros; a superb proof of Pablo Picasso’s Repas Frugal, offered at between 180,000 and 300,000 euros; a number of paintings signed Louis VALTAT and Jean PUY, and numerous drawings and lithographs by Mary CASSATT and Renoir. Some snatches of art history are available from €400 such as the Portrait of Ambroise Vollard by Raoul DUFY, an etching printed in red chalk.
Christie’s offers two works with chequered histories
The Impressionist & Modern Art sale at Christie’s also carries some interesting background stories. Picasso’s exceptional Portrait of Angel Fernández de Soto and Gustav KLIMT’s portrait of Ria Munk were both confiscated by the Nazis. The ownership battles now settled, they are finally being offered to buyers from all over the world. The Gustav Klimt painting, Portrait of Ria Munk III, returned in 2009 to the model’s heirs by the City of Linz, carries a price estimate of £14m – £18m. The blue period Picasso work carries the same price range as Monet’s Nymphéas i.e. £30m to £40m Two months after Christie’s of New York’s generated a new world record of $95m from Pablo Picasso Nude, Green Leaves and Bust, the melancholic absinthe drinker represented in the Soto portrait could go far beyond its estimate.
Apart from the four Picasso paintings carrying a combined high estimate of £66.5m, Christie’s is also expecting £8m – £12m from Vincent VAN GOGH’s Parc de l’hôpital Saint-Paul and £5.5m – £8.5m from a superb Nu à la chaise longue by Henri Matisse.
As for the contemporary art sales, Yves KLEIN, Lucio FONTANA and Gerhard RICHTER are heading the bill at Sotheby’s, with Jeff KOONS, Andy WARHOL and Basquiat at Christie’s. As usual, the record result is expected from an Andy Warhol work, a Silver Liz dated 1963 and offered in a £6m to £8m price range. On 11 May last in New York, Christie’s sold a larger Silver Liz dated 1965 for $16.3m, i.e. £10.9m.