The state of the Impressionist and Modern market remains a bit of a mystery. Although Sotheby’s showed again last week that the Modern market was anything but moribund, prices (an opinions) seem to be all over the place. Scott Reyburn picked up these comments:
“Names like Malevich, Léger, Manet are here to stay. These artists aren’t going to be debunked,” said Guy Jennings, the managing director of the Fine Art Fund in London. “But they are expensive, so if you invest in them, it will take time. Prices are historically very high.”
Although the restituted Klimt that led the sales was a strong seller at nearly £25m, the trade remained unimpressed:
Dealers regarded this as plenty of money for a painting that wasn’t an instantly recognizable Klimt. “It looked a little too much like a Whistler,” said the London dealer Richard Nagy, who specializes in early 20th-century German art. “I would have liked a little more color and movement. But it did give a collector the opportunity to buy a big name.”
And once again the market seemed to be dominated by a big buyer:
The anonymous buyer of the Klimt seemed to have plenty of money to spend on names. The same bidder paid £15.8 million for a version of Degas’s posthumous 1922 bronze and muslin sculpture “Petite danseuse de quatorze ans,” and £10.8 million for the circa 1927 Chaim Soutine painting, “Le Valet de chambre.” That kind of billionaire art shopping would suggest that the “trophy” end of the Impressionist and modern market is still booming after last month’s sales in New York.
Colin Gleadell suggests the whale was not Chinese as has become the expectation:
one buyer, believed to be a wealthy Briton based overseas, who was bidding through an agent in the room and spent over £54 million on some of the top lots.
Gleadell also suggests that the Chinese and Russians were more subdued in London than they were in New York:
Strongest prices were in the mid-market range where American buyers were prepared to pay slightly over the odds at £1-£2 million for works on paper by Magritte and smaller sculptures by Henry Moore and Henri Laurens. Russian bidding was notable on paintings by Monet, Cezanne and Gauguin, while Asian bidding was evident for a wider range of paintings and sculptures by Chagall, Signac, Gauguin, Rodin and Dali, but both were restrained.
Finally, Judd Tully adds some historical perspective that shows the diverging paths of much Impressionist and Modern art where some works have seen strong appreciation and others are merely treading water:
Claude Monet’s “Iris mauves” from 1914-17, a grandly scaled (78 7/8 by 39 1/2 inches) vertical format composition stamped (not signed) with the artist’s signature. It sold to a telephone bidder for the top lot price of £10,834,500/$17,216,021 (est. £6-9 million). It is one of some 20 views of irises Monet painted that flanked the banks of his beloved lily pond and was included in the traveling exhibition “Monet’s Years at Giverny: Beyond Impressionism,” which landed at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in 1978. The picture last sold at Christie’s New York in May 1997 for $3,852,500. Telephone bidders from America, Asia, and Russia chased the big painting, according to Christie’s.
Camille Pissarro’s watchful “La servant assise dans le jardin d’Eragny” from 1884, depicting two of the artist’s eight children minded by a nearby nanny, brought £1,762,500/$2,800,613 (est. £1.6-2.2 million). The painting was backed by a third party guarantee and represents a settlement between the seller and the heirs of the previous owner, storied art dealer and French Resistance fighter Rene Gimpel, who perished in a Nazi concentration camp in 1945. It last sold at auction at Christie’s London in June 1990 at the height of that era’s art market bubble, for £1,650,000.
Canonical Names at Auction (The New York Times)
Art Sales: London’s Impressionist and Modern head-to-head (Telegraph)
Christie’s London Season Opener Brings Solid Results Without a Big Bang (BLOUIN ARTINFO)