Bloomberg spoke to Patrick Legant for a reaction to last night’s sale at Christie’s. Legant repeats the theme of the week which has the Impressionist and Modern market surprisingly healthy with strong demand but also very level-headed. A number of works that sold at both houses were coming back to market at prices similar to their purchase or only for slight gains:
“For a number of works today and yesterday the estimate was quite aggressively set,” said Patrick Legant, an art adviser based in London. “People are being careful. They recognize some of the estimates are high and they don’t just bid blindly.”
Legant was asked why a Monet poplar and Kupka were left on the block:
“Those pictures didn’t sell for a reason,” Legant said. “If you look at the Monet, for example, it’s just not a good picture.”
It’s a reassuring sign, he said, because “it means people aren’t spending money like crazy, but are really looking for quality.”
Judd Tully tracked the works that were most prized and they often came from exceptional collections:
“There’s plenty of demand out there for first-rate things,” said Acquavella as he headed down the stairs to the fresh air. “People seem to be looking for some of the older things now, moving to the classic and modern.”
Miro was richly represented with five other works, including the stunning and serendipitous cover lot, (lot 116) “L’Oiseau au plumage deploye vole vers l’arbre argente” from 1953, that snared £9,154,500/$13,869,068 (est. £7-9 million). It was another member of the Reality and Surreality collection and last sold at Sotheby’s London in February 2006 for £5,160,000.The same provenance accompanied Rene Magritte’s other worldly composition, “Les Compagnons de la peur” from 1942, depicting five owls/plant creatures nestled together on a rocky promontory. The painting sold for £4,114,500/$6,233,468 (est. £2.7-3.5 million). This important and early “leaf-bird” painting had been on loan to the Musee Magritte in Brussels since 2009.
“The Belgians are making Magritte into their saint,” said New York-based Surrealist specialist and private dealer Timothy Baum, as he watched the Magritte prices fly, especially the small-scaled gouaches on paper. Of those, (lot 114) the remarkable seated seer like figure in “Le therapeute” from 1962 sold to New York advisor Abigail Asher of Guggenheim Asher for £,986,500/$3,009,548 (est. £600-900,000). It hailed from the storied Belgian collection of Margaret Krebs and has been in a private collection since 1965. Referring to the Magritte gouaches, Asher said, “They’re the most iconic objects, small jewels of the 20th century, fresh and in gorgeous condition. It’s what everyone would like to have. “Overall, Reality & Surreality contributed £44.3/$67.1 milion of the evening’s tally.
Colin Gleadell points out that these strong sales were aided by new buyers from Asia. With the Russians mostly on hiatus, imagine what the category would be like if all of the interested parties actually showed up?
A notable feature of the surrealist sale was the number of Asian bidders involved. Works by Ernst, Magritte, and Delvaux were all pursued by Asian bidders, which is a new development, according to Christie’s top surrealist expert, Olivier Camu.
Russian bidding on the night, though, was more subdued than in the past. One Russian phone bidder paid a hefty £5.9 million ($8.9 million) against a £2.2–2.8 million estimate for a 1920s Chagall painting, Jeune fille au cheval, of floating figures against a typical Russian townscape. But Russian support for one time favourite, Paul Delvaux, was clearly missing when the top Delvaux of the sale, Le Bout du Monde, featuring five topless maidens, failed to sell.
One just wonders how these sales would have performed had the Russians been out in force.
Cezanne’s Scenic Provence Leads Christie’s $122.1 Million Sale (Bloomberg Business)