This past week, Christie’s conducted a set of live sales in Paris, the first in-person auctions among the top houses since the pandemic lockdown in March. The works on paper and impressionist and modern sale reached a combined total of €15.4 million ($17.3 million). The auctions total 189 lots on offer achieved a lower than average 79 percent sell-through rate, seeing solid numbers for select mainstays of the category against conservative estimates. The works on paper sale realized €3.2 million with a sell-through rate of 85 percent. The results come just over last year’s combined Paris impressionist sales staged in March which brought in a total of $14.8 million.
Among the leading sellers were a pointillist outside scene by French painter, Théo van Rysselberghe titled À Thuin ou La Partie de Tennis which sold for €5,166,500 against a presale estimate of €2,000,000–€3,000,000, the third highest selling work for the artist at auction to date. The star lot came from the collection of French artist and illustrator Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec. The highlight of the works on paper sale was a large-scale pastel drawing by Louis Anquetin, Avenue de Clichy, which sold for €742,000 on an estimate of €350,000–€450,000. The van Rysselberghe painting was the only lot to reach more than seven figures.
With buyers still adjusting to a remote collecting method, auction houses are tasked with bringing in a wave of online traffic for their live sales in order to maintain year-on-year targets. The Paris impressionist sales were a test of the market’s acclimation to the changing landscape leading up to the marquee June and July 20th Century art sales. Christie’s reported that this year’s Paris sale saw a new record of bidders coming through its online bidding platform, which accounted for 35 percent of the lots sold virtually. Another 45 percent of the lots were sold via telephone bidding and the remaining 20 percent through live bidding in the salesroom. “These results demonstrate that the art market remains strong despite the complex situation, with an unprecedented participation of Christie’s LIVE bidders,” said Antoine Lebouteiller and Valérie Didier, heads of Impressionist and Modern Sales in Paris.
At the high end of the sale, impressionist works met expectations but with few stand-out results. A bronze sculpture by August Rodin once in the collection of the Musée Rodin in Paris sold brought in €490,000, meeting its low estimate, and Francis Picabia’s landscape, Lever du soleil dans la brume, Montigny, went for four times its high estimate of €100,000, realizing a total selling price of €442,000. Chaim Soutine’s Maison dans un paysage met its low estimate at €322,000.
Modern artists outside the French school saw higher demand. Moise Kisling’s portrait of a woman from 1924 went for €206,250, more than four times its low estimate of €60,000. Leonard Foujita’s Chat endormi went for €200,000, a staggering result over its $25,000 low estimate. The high record came with the work’s impressive provenance, having never before come to market and hailing from the collection of Belgian nobles, Count Amaury de Mérode and Princesse de Cröy. Gustave Loiseau’s river landscape went for €93,750, making three times its high estimate of €30,000. Among the leads in the works on paper sale, Christie’s also boasted a preemption by Musée Fabre for a work by Frédéric Bazille. Suzanne Valadon’s floral still life from 1936 sold for double its presale high estimate, reaching €32,500.