Christie’s press release on the suprisingly strong A Surreal Legacy sale is below:
Christie’s sale A Surreal Legacy: Selected Works of Art from the Edward James Foundation achieved £6,719,500 / $8,419,533.47 / €8,002,924 in a lively auction that sold 86% by lot with spirited bidding in the room, on the phones and online.
The funds raised at the auction will contribute towards a permanent exhibition space and a transformation of how the archives are managed and used at West Dean House, continuing the educational legacy of the distinguished patron of the arts and collector Edward James.
World auction records were set for a number of artists including Christian Bér ard, Salvador Dalí, Pavel Tchelitchew and Edward James himself. An icon of Surrealism and one of the most instantly recognisable works of the 20th Century, Lobster Telephone (white aphrodisiac), realised a world record for a Surrealist object by Salvador Dalí (£845,000 / $877,100 / €833,700). It was designed in collaboration with Edward James in 1938, and together they created a range of highly theatrical, surreal interior schemes in his homes in both London and the country. Also included in the auction were Mae West Lips Sofa, a sofa in the shape of scarlet red lips inspired by the screen siren, Mae West (1938, £725,000 / $751,800 / €714,600) andA pair of Champagne standard lamps, formed from a tower of golden Champagne coupes (1938, £425,000 / $438,550 / €416,850).
Pavel Tchelitchew was another artist whose career Edward James nurtured. The group of 26 works offered in the auction was led by the top lot of the sale, The Concert (1933), which achieved £1,315,000 / $1,440,950 / €1,369,650 against an estimate of £250,000-350,000, a world record for the artist at auction. The painting was the culmination of Tchelitchew’s pictorial studies of the magical world of the circus, a subject he never returned to upon its completion. Further highlights by Tchelitchew include Children fighting among summer flowers (Childhood of Lenore) (1939) which achieved £281,000 / $288,190 / €273,930 against a pre-sale estimate of £60,000-80,000 and Portrait of Charles Henri Ford (1908-2002), which sold for seven times its high estimate to realise £245,000 / $250,600 / €238,200. The French artist, fashion illustrator and designer, Christian Bérard’s Portrait of a boy also set a world record for the artist at auction (£81,250 / $81,445 / €77,415).
Competitive bidding from collectors around the world was present across all categories from Surrealism and Tchelitchew to Antiquities, Chinese Porcelain and English Furniture. Alongside 20th century, traditional works of art also achieved strong results, including a Doccia (Carlo Ginori) white portrait bust of the Emperor Vitellius, circa 1754-60, after the Antique (£161,000 / $201,733 / €191,751), Portrait of a boy playing golf by the shore by Bartholomeus van der Helst (1613-70) (£161,000 / $201,733 / €191,751) and an Egyptian Greywacke head of a priest, late period, 26th dynasty, reign of Ahmose, circa 570-526 B.C. (£125,000 / $156,625 / €148,875).