On Monday, the first edition of Sotheby’s Impressionist and Modern online Day sale achieved a solid total of $9.9 million, following a recent online sale record of $13.7 million set last week with the firm’s Contemporary art online Day sale. Offering a total of 103 lots, the sale saw a sell-through rate of 84 percent, and competition for artists long undervalued as demand for Impressionist works fades.
The highest selling lot of the auction’s offerings was Giorgio Morandi’s Natura Morta from 1951, one of the painter’s signature neutral still lifes that went for $1.58 million, just achieving its high estimate with a total of 9 bids. Edgar Degas’s small-scale 1876 portrait, Bust du jeune femme presque nue, which saw a total of eight bids and sold ultimately for $596,000, surpassing its low estimate of $450,000. Renoir’s countryside landscape from 1915 also met its high presale estimate of $500,000 after collecting 9 bids. Camille Pissarro’s 1882 winter farm picture sold for $560,000, landing well above its high estimate of $350,000.
The online day sale featured lots that illustrated the divide in demand between the impressionist works and later works. Among the high performing works was art deco darling Tamara Lempicka’s 1938 Une Rose. The small still life, which was acquired directly from the artist’s estate by the consignor, sold for $275,000, more than doubling its low estimate of $100,000 after drawing 14 bids. A new record was set for Dominican surrealist painter and illustrator, Ivan Tovar, whose large-scale La Menace achieved a staggering result of $250,000 after gathering 33 bids, surpassing its high estimate of $40,000 by six times and nearly tripling its previous record of $87,500. A gouache on paper from 1974 by Marc Chagall, a stalwart of the modern sales, landed within its estimate at $250,000, but only seeing 3 bids total over the two-week long sale.
Joan Miro’s bronze sculpture brought a solid $250,000 with 11 bids total, doubling its low estimate of $120,000. A painting by Raoul Dufy, consigned for the benefit of the San Diego Museum of Art which acquired the painting through a donation from the Grant-Munger collection in 1972 saw 13 bids from collectors realizing a total of $118,750, far exceeding its high estimate of $80,000. Spanish modernist Angel Zárraga’s Cubist portrait depicting Nobel Prize recipient Spanish poet Juan Ramón Jiménez with an estimate of $160,000-180,000 realized a total of $162,500 after 6 bids. Another work benefiting the acquisition fund of the San Diego Museum was a 1941 landscape work by Mexican artist Alfredo Ramos Martinez acquired directly from the artist in 1946. That went for $112,500, well above its high estimate of $60,000 and drew a total of 18 bids. Gustave Loiseau’s 1920 painting of a French town road realized a total of $81,250, almost double its purchase price of $43,750 achieved when it sold to the consignor in a Christie’s impressionist sale in 2016. Another similar work by Loisaeu’s went for $68,750, at five times its low estimate of $12,000.
At the lower price range in the sale, works produced by modernists in the early 20th century consistently met low estimates against conservative value ranges for familiar names. Polish-french painter, Moise Kisling’s 1919 canvas Portrait de Mme Rene Kisling went for $87,500, more than twice the low estimate of $40,000 drawing 12 bids total and competing with seven other works by the artist on offer in the sale, including a depiction of a female nude reclining in a landscape, which achieved $93,750, more than doubling its low estimate of $40,000.
With auction houses swiftly establishing online sales as the new primary collecting method, the modern market’s online day sale shows safe bidding for works by classics of the category with long-standing auction records and high bidding for select emerging markets that hold promise for the future in a volatile market.