The art market awakens from its slumber….

[17 Jan 2017]

Sotheby’s is kicking off this year’s calendar of major sales on 20 January with a themed auction in Hong Kong entitled Boundless: Contemporary Art. The sale will be a curated mix of design, art and photography from East and West. Works by Claude Lalanne, Yayoi Kusama, Lee Ufan, Georges Mathieu, Sam Francis, T’ang Haywen, Zao Wou-Ki, Max Ernst and Pablo Picasso will be presented side-by-side in a boundary-free spirit of openness that has become a regular feature of Sotheby’s annual programme over the last fews years. The sale will be a good test for some of the top signatures in Western photography (works by Lucien Clergue, Edward Weston, Andre Kertesz and Helmut Newton) on an Asian market where demand for photography still lags behind the West.

In the meantime, Sotheby’s will be dispersing a selection of “Important American Folk art” from the Ralph and Susan Katz collection on 21 January 2017 in New York, and – on the same day in Paris – 71 comic strip lots including a number original plates signed Hergé and Franquin Huderzo (among others) in a sale that should be very well attended.

Three 3 days later in New York (24 and 25 January) Christie’s and Sotheby’s will both be offering Old Master drawings with Christie’s proposing A group of figures standing by a column by 16th century Italian artist Girolamo Francesco Mazzola (better known as PARMIGIANO (1503-1540)). This small rarity (15 cm) is expected to fetch between $200,000 and $300,000. There will also be Guido RENI’s Assumption of the Virgin ($20,000 – $30,000) and two drawings by Tiepolo, each estimated between $15,000 and $20,000. Alongside these works, a whole plethora of ‘little bits of history’ are available for $2,000, $3,000 or $4,000. Likewise at Sotheby’s, their Old Master drawings sale on 25 January will offer works in a wide price range of prices from $3,000 to $300,000.

On the evening of 25 January the sales move upmarket with Christie’s dispersing old prints while Sotheby’s, alone, will hold a prestige Old Masters sale. The star lot of the latter is Orazio GENTILESCHI’s Head of a Woman (42 x 37 cm), an important piece that has been exhibited at the Royal Academy of Arts, the National Gallery in London and the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York. The work is considered a ‘gem of incredible modernity’ and is expected to fetch between $2 and 3 million… Remember that Gentileschi is one of the rarest and most sought-after signatures on the art market (only 10 works have changed hands at auction in 30 years). In January 2016, Sotheby’s sold his Danaë for $30.49 million setting a new record for the artist. Other works expected to sell above the million-dollar threshold will include a painting by Adam DE COSTER (A Young Woman Holding Distaff Before a Lit Candle) that might set a new record for the artist, a still-life attributed to Diego Rodríguez Silva y Velázquez (Kitchen Still Life), a work by Jean-Honoré FRAGONARD (The Fountain of Love) and a painting by Francisco de Zurbaran (the Mystic Marriage of Saint Catherine of Alexandria). The catalogue also includes a ‘Madonna and Child’ by Sandro BOTTICELLI and his workshop, a version of Pieter Bruegel’s famous The blind Leading the Blind by a ‘follower’ of Pieter Bruegel (circa 1600); a fine portrait of a woman by Jan Cornelisz VERSPRONCK and another female portrait attributed to Rembrandt. Acquired for less than £6,000 at Christie’s in London on 31 May 1902 (lot 410), the latter work is now expected to fetch between $300,000 and $500,000. Fragonard, Rubens and Turner also have works in this superb catalogue which has a lowest estimate at $40,000 and a couple of high estimates above the $2 million mark.

The 237 ‘old prints’ offered on the same day at Christie’s include some rare plates that are just as pricey as certain unique works (notably a number of 16th century wonders estimated at over $100,000, including that of Mair von Landshut). There will also be 12 lots signed Francisco José DE GOYA Y LUCIENTES, including plates from his famous Caprices series that fetch an average of $1,000 per print, and, above all, 50 plates by Albrecht DÜRER estimated $2,000 – $6,000 for the less rare ones and ten times more for the others… which would be an ideal place to start (or continue) a refined art collection.