The Master, Judd Tully, summed up last night’s London sale of Impressionist and Modern art at Sotheby’s with this quote:
“You either had works that were very sought after, or they didn’t go,” said Melanie Clore, Sotheby’s co-chairman of Impressionist and modern art worldwide. “For the right works, there’s really a lot of demand.”
Many of the results showed the uneven market moment. Some works showed strong gains but many chalked up losses, according to Tully:
[ . . . ] the small but power-packed cover lot, Ernst Ludwig Kirchner’s hallucinatory Strassenszene (Street Scene) from 1913, which went to a lone telephone bidder for £5,417,250 (est. £5–7 million). The painting last sold at Sotheby’s London in June 1997 for £1,981,500. It’s a work that comes with a built-in bonus, in that the verso of the canvas contains an eerie portrait from 1914 of Botho Graff, an archeology professor and art historian who admired Kirchner’s work.
[ . . . ] A striking Francis Picabia, Lunis (1929–30), in oil and mixed media from his “Transparences” series, went to a telephone bidder for £529,250 (est. £450–650,000). Although well within the estimate range, the work last sold at Sotheby’s London in February 2006 for £1,072,000, or about double tonight’s result.
[ . . . ] the large and late Joan Miró abstraction Femmes et Oiseaux dans la Nuit, which drew interest from at least half a dozen bidders before selling to international art trader David Nahmad for a robust £2,001,250 (est. £750,000–1 million). The underbidders included two New York dealers, Jose Mugrabi and David Benrimon.
Rene Magritte’s small and stunning Souvenir de Voyage from 1958, depicting the Leaning Tower of Pisa being propped up by a feather, also did well, selling to Abigail Asher of the New York/L.A. art advisory group Guggenheim Asher for £746,850 (£400–600,000).
“With the weak pound and the nervousness of certain buyers, there are opportunities in the market for longtime and savvy collectors who haven’t enjoyed the frenzy of the past few years to step back in and get great things,” said Asher moments after the sale.