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Impressionist & Modern Art sales in London: maintained confidence

[31 Jan 2011]

As usual, the first major dates in the global auction calendar are the prestigious sales organised by Christie’s and Sotheby’s in London.

First to go will be Sotheby’s, on 8 February, with 42 lots in its Impressionist & Modern Art sale including seven works by Pablo PICASSO, five by René MAGRITTE and two by Alberto GIACOMETTI. Naturally, the ferocious battle for Alberto Giacometti’s L’Homme qui marche I on 3 February 2010 – that ended with a hammer price of £58m – is still fresh in our memories. This year, Picasso is very much in the limelight at Sotheby’s with a sensual portrait dated 1932 entitled La lecture and representing Marie-Thérèse Walter, the artist’s secret lover. The painting sold for the equivalent of £3.4m ($5.7m) in 1989 and then failed to sell in 1996 against an estimate of $6m – $8m (£3.9m – £5.2m). However, that estimate is now dwarfed by a new estimate of £12 – £18m after the exceptionally good results generated by the Spanish master in 2010: Nude, Green Leaves and Bust fetched 95m$ (£62.3m) at Christie’s New York and Portrait d’Angel Fernandez de Soto sold for £31m chez Christie’s in London.

Top 10 estimates

Rank Artist Hammer Price Artwork Sale
1 Pablo PICASSO £12 000 000 – 18 000 000 La lecture (1932) 02/08/2011 (Sotheby’s)
2 Paul GAUGUIN £7 000 000 – 10 000 000 Nature morte à L’Espérance (1901) 02/09/2011 (Christie’s)
3 André DERAIN £4 000 000 – 6 000 000 Bateaux à Collioure (1905) 02/09/2011 (Christie’s)
4 Georges BRAQUE £3 500 000 – 5 500 000 Nature morte à la guitare 02/09/2011 (Christie’s)
5 Edgar DEGAS £3 000 000 – 5 000 000 Danseuses jupes jaunes 02/09/2011 (Christie’s)
6 Alberto GIACOMETTI £3 000 000 – 5 000 000 Diego (1958) 02/08/2011 (Sotheby’s)
7 Alberto GIACOMETTI £3 500 000 – 5 000 000 Grand buste de Diego avec bras 02/08/2011 (Sotheby’s)
8 Claude MONET £3 000 000 – 5 000 000 La berge du Petit-Gennevilliers 02/09/2011 (Christie’s)
9 Marino MARINI £3 700 000 – 4 500 000 L’idea del cavaliere (1955) 02/08/2011 (Sotheby’s)
10 Claude MONET £3 500 000 – 4 500 000 Argenteuil, fin d’apres-midi 02/08/2011 (Sotheby’s)

The following day (9 February 2011) Christie’s will be offering 46 lots including 10 by Pablo Picasso, 4 by Fernand LÉGER and 3 by Pierre BONNARD. The star lot is Paul GAUGUIN’s Nature Morte à L’espérance estimated at between £7m and £10m. This work failed to sell when it was presented at auction in April 1996, but the success of the major Gauguin retrospective at the Tate Modern (which has just closed) will no doubt have whetted collector’s appetites. Christie’s will also be presenting Bateaux à Collioure André DERAIN (£4m – £6m), Nature morte à la guitare (rideaux rouge) by Georges BRAQUE (£3.5m – £5.5m) and Danseuses jupes jaunes (Deux danseuses en jaune) by Edgar DEGAS (£3m – £5m). All these works – of an undeniable quality – are also auction debutants, unlike roughly twenty other lots.
Fernand Léger’s Une femme devant le paysage, which fetched £72,000 in December 1978 and sold for $800,000 (£537,000) in November 1993, is being offered for between £2.2m and £2.8m; Claude MONET’s La berge du Petit-Gennevilliers fetched $360,000 in 1980 then £2,871,830 nine years later. In February 2011 it will be carrying a price tag of £3m – £5m

Sotheby’s expectations are just as optimistic: Claude Monet’s Argenteuil, fin d’apres-midi, which failed to sell in November 2002 against a pre-sale estimate of $5m – $7m (£3.2 – £4.4m), is being offered at roughly the same price (£3.5 – £4.5m). Marc CHAGALL’s Les maries et le bouquet de fleurs rouges has been announced at £1.3m – £1.8m compared with a hammer price of £580,685 in 1997.
A number of other exceptional works will be making their auction debuts such as Magritte’s La Joconde, estimated at £1.8m – £2.5m, and Giacometti’s Grand buste de Diego avec bras (£3.5m – £5m), as well as 26 other lots.

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