The best Impressionist and Modern results


In London, on 27 and 28 February, Christie’s and Sotheby’s hosted their much anticipated first prestige sales of the year, offering works by lots of top Impressionist and Modern artists. The sessions generated a number of impressive results…

Christie’s: $158 million

Christie’s February 27 sale generated an honorable total from 81 lots sold. The low unsold rate (19%) was logical in view of the high quality of the works. Twenty-eight works fetched 7-digit (dollar) results and the evening’s star lot, Pablo PICASSO’s Mousquetaire et nu assis, sold for $19.1 million. The second-best result was hammered for Edgar DEGAS’ Dans les coulisses (1882 – 1885). One of Degas’ favorite subjects (the world of live shows and entertainment), the work fetched $12.5 million.

The sale generated two new auction records, the first for the Belgian painter and sculptor Georges VANTONGERLOO (1886-1965), an artist involved in avant-garde experimentation at the beginning of the 20th century, notably alongside Mondrian and Van Doesburg. Extremely rare at auctions, his Composition dans le carré avec couleurs jaune-vert-bleu-indigo-orangé, measuring 50 centimeters and dated 1930, generated his first-ever result above the million-dollar line. Doubling its high estimate, it reached $1.4 million.

The second record of the evening rewarded the work of the famous Russian Constructivist Anton PEVSNER, whose works are also particularly rare on the secondary market. The work offered by Christie’s was a metal sculpture entitled Deux cônes dans un même plan (c.1939), a small museum-worthy masterpiece. And like Georges Vantongerloo, it generated Pevsner’s first-ever 7-digit result.

Following these strong results, Christie’s sold 74% of the lots in its Art of the Surreal sale for a total turnover of $42.1 million. Picasso again scored the best result of the session with a Surreal canvas from 1930 entitled Figure that fetched $11.6 million, $4 million above its high estimate.

Christie’s offered no less than nine works by Picasso on 27 February, but the star of the two sales was another work by Picasso in the Sotheby’s sale the following day, expected to fetch around $50 million.

Sotheby’s: 187 million, of which, $100 million forPicasso

At Sotheby’s last Wednesday (28 February), bidders and art market professionals eagerly awaited the presentation of Picasso’s Femme au bére et à la robe quadrillée, a portrait of Marie-Thérèse Walter, painted in 1937 (the same year as Guernica). Sotheby’s catalogue devoted 16 pages to this 55 by 46 cm portrait carrying an estimate-upon-request of around $50 million. The painting finally sold for $68.5 million, much to Sotheby’s satisfaction.

In fact the evening saw three Picasso works on the podium that together generated $100 million, i.e. more than half the proceeds from Sotheby’s Impressionist & Modern Art sale. Proof, if proof was needed, of the extraordinary market power of the world’s most sought-after artist. And demand for Picasso’s work is actually intensifying with new Asian buyers targeting his works “when they start getting interested in Western art” according to Keith Gill, a specialist at Christie’s. This additional demand has maintained Picasso’s position at the very top of the global art market. During 2017, Picasso’s work generated more than $446.4 million in auction turnover, from 2,879 lots. This exceptional total compares, for example, with the annual Fine Art auction turnover of Germany ($255.9 million) and Italy ($172.5 million) combined. If it hadn’t been for da Vinci’s Salvator Mundi, which fetched $450.3 million on November 15 at Christie’s in New York (the new world auction record for an artwork), Pablo Picasso would have been number 1 in our Top 500 artists ranked by auction turnover in 2017.