The report on Sotheby's October 28th Livestream Evening sale includes the seller of a Magritte and two Picassos and the details of the van Gogh. It is available to AMMpro subscribers. (The first month of AMMpro is free and subscribers are welcome to sign up for the first month and cancel before they are billed.)
Following Sotheby’s $142.8 million contemporary art sales, all 36 lots in the Impressionist & Modern Art sale sold for $141 million against an estimate of $111 million to $160 million after the withdrawal of 3 lots. For those who think the Impressionist and Modern market is in decline, the average lot price from the samplings provided was not very different from the contemporary art sold earlier. In fact, the high end did rather better.
Here, the major lots going into the sale were two lifetime cast bronze sculptures by Alberto Giacometti estimated at $20 million–$30 million and $12 million–$18 million. Both were being sold by Revlon chief Ron Perelman, and both were guaranteed. The cheaper of the two was withdrawn because it had been sold privately before the sale, while the other, Femme Leoni (1947) from an edition of six, sold for $25.9 million (prices include the buyer’s premium, estimates do not). Six-and-a-half-foot casts of Femme Leoni are rare on the market. Number 5 from the edition of 6 sold fifteen years ago for $8.4 million during a Christie’s New York Impressionist and modern art sale. Perelman’s was number 3 from the edition, and sold to an Asian buyer for a mid-estimate $25.9 million.
After a flurry of additional third-party guarantees were announced before the sale, it turned out that Sotheby’s had covered the ground on more than half the lots. In addition, 23 lots had their reserves lowered sufficiently to allow that many winning bids below estimate. Result? A well-managed crisis and a 100 percent sell-through.
Among the top lots selling below estimate and to a third-party guarantor was a van Gogh floral piece from 1890, which had been at auction previously in 1998, as part of the Reader’s Digest Collection when it sold at Sotheby’s for $4.4 million. Two years later it went to a Japanese collector, who purchased it for $4.6 million at a Sotheby’s New York sale. Since then, its estimated value had increased to $14 million-–$18 million—not much for a van Gogh, you might think. But it was said by some to have had a condition issue, which would explain why the bidding was thin, and it sold below estimate for $16 million.
There was a strong Surrealist section in the sale led by a 1913 de Chirico, Ariadne’s Afternoon, one of his few early metaphysical paintings left in private hands. Though not as arresting as Il Ritornante (1918), the de Chirico, which sold from the Yves St. Laurent collection back in 2009 for a record $14.1 million, Ariadne’s Afternoon stole the record spot to sell for a mid-estimate $15.9 million.
From the same collection came an early 1915 Man Ray painting, Black Widow (Nativity), which was set to break a record at $5 million–$7 million, but didn’t quite get there, selling for $5.8 million.
Four Magrittes were offered to hungry Surrealist collectors, who snapped up three below estimate. Considered a safe bet, all had third-party guarantees. Le Traite des Sensations (1944), which was acquired 20 years ago for $358,000, attracted a third-party guarantor well in advance of the sale to give the American owner a decent profit, based on the $1.8 million–$2 million estimate. But the guarantor appeared to be the only bidder, as it fell below estimate to a bid of $1.35 million ($1.6 million with premium).
Slightly more competition came for Magritte’s L’Ovation (1962)—an empty beach stage set with drawn curtains—estimated at $12 million–$18 million. Described as coming from “a private European collection,” the painting came from the holdings of British collector Pauline Karpidas, who acquired it from Greek dealer Alexander Iolas, in 1985. Karpidas, a leading patron of modern and contemporary art, is best known for selling Andy Warhol’s 200 One Dollar Bills (1962) at Sotheby’s for $43.8 million, during the 2009 financial crisis. Now, with the market bracing for another price correction, L’Ovation saw only brief bidding from London and New York before the latter won the painting on the low estimate for $14 million.
Also from the Karpidas collection were two Picassos. An early primitive colored drawing, Tête de Femme (1907), didn’t stir much competition, selling below estimate for $1.35 million. But a late gouache, Le Peintre I (1963), which Karpidas had bought at auction in 1984 for $66,000, saw Japanese and European bidders chase it to a double-estimate $2.9 million, a nice return for Karpidas and a nice upside for the guarantor.