Christie’s follow-up to its new 21st century art sale, which grossed $ 211 million on Tuesday, was a slightly larger 20th century art auction with 50 lots and a pre-sale estimate of over 345. millions of dollars. Covering works made between 1880 and 1980, the auction totaled $ 481.1 million, with just one lot unsold. (The prices of works sold include the buyer’s premium; estimates do not.)
This week’s marquee sales were to be tight between Christies’s and Sotheby’s. Before they were held, the two sales of the former were expected to gross $ 490 million, while the three-auction marathon of the latter the day before was estimated at $ 436 million. But last night’s auction made Christies’ new formula a winner. Nine works were valued at over $ 10 million, so the sale was seen as a test of confidence in the high end of the market.
The highest estimate for the week – and a guarantee from third parties – was the 1932 portrait of Pablo Picasso of Marie-Thérèse Walter seated in profile near a window. The painting was last seen at a Picasso exhibition at Tate Modern in 2017, where the lender was named Earth, Light Foundation in Vaduz, Switzerland. The seller of the work bought it from Sotheby’s in 2013 for $ 45 million with a premium, against an estimate of $ 25 million. The elusive owner made a modest gain, having accepted a guarantee and an estimate of nearly $ 55 million.
On Thursday night, auctions began at $ 55 million for the Picasso, with four bidders from London and New York scrambling for the work for 20 minutes. It was ultimately won by a bidder over the phone with Vanessa Fusco, Head of Impressionist and Modern Art at Christie’s in New York City, for a final price of $ 103.4 million. Usually, a big sale like this generates a sense of relief and optimism, but since this auction was done digitally, that was not the case here.
Another Picasso, a guaranteed portrait of Dora Maar in 1941, was among the more expensive lots, with an estimate of $ 15-20 million. The painting belonged to the Nahmad family of art dealers, who bought it in 1984 for $ 390,000 (no premium) and displayed it in their Picasso exhibition in London in 1988. This time it went to a Hong Kong bidder fell short of the low estimate of $ 17.1. million with bonus, after a short competition.
Just behind was the untitled 68-inch tall indigo and dark green abstraction by Mark Rothko from 1970. It was previously part of the prestigious Paul and Bunny Mellon collection. Included in Bunny’s 2014 real estate sale with a low estimate of $ 15 million, he was sued by dealer David Nahmad and advisor Nancy Whyte before selling above the estimate for $ 39.9 million with bonus. The buyer was reportedly London-based venture capitalist Sassan Ghandehari and his wife Yasmin. With an estimate of $ 40 million and a guarantee, it sold below the estimate for $ 38 million.
The featured Impressionist lot was an atmospheric 1903 painting of the Waterloo Bridge in the Mist by Claude Monet, valued at $ 35 million. Sold to a Japanese buyer in the early 1980s by Joseph Nahmad, it remained unsold in 1985 at Sotheby’s in London. In May 1999, following the popularity of a Boston Museum of Fine Arts exhibit on Monet, it was one of six works by the Impressionist to appear on the Sotheby’s gallery in one sale. There, a mysterious telephone bidder embarked on a spending spree and picked up Waterloo Bridge for an amount greater than $ 9.35 million. During Thursday’s Christie’s sale, two of the most active sub-bidders were on the phone with the house’s Hong Kong branch. The job exceeded its estimate of $ 40 million as four bidders from London and New York took it to $ 48.5 million, thanks to a winning bid from Maria Los of the President’s New York office.
The lead post-impressionist role was taken by Vincent van Gogh The Trinquetaille Bridge (1888), which was from the Israeli collector Joseph Hackmey, who had disposed of other works at the Sotheby’s auction in London in March. Hackmey bought this painting in 2004 for $ 11.2 million and was selling it with an estimate of $ 25-35 million on Thursday. Backed by another third-party guarantee, it brought in $ 37.4 million from a commission offer.
Collector Aaron Fraenkel, who also sold a Picasso in March, separates from a 1938 still life by Fernand Léger in Christie’s sale. In 2014, Fraenkel bought it at auction for $ 2.2 million at auction through a European reseller. It sold for $ 4.35 million, almost double his estimate of $ 2.5 million.
The Modernist Flag was an abstraction by Piet Mondrian from 1927. Titled Composition: n ° II, with yellow, red and blue, it found its way to Japan in the 1980s and got caught up in bad debt history when it was sold by Citibank in 1993 for a low estimate of $ 882,500. The work sold below estimate for $ 26.1 million, most likely to the third party guarantor.
The work of pop artists has not gone well. Roy Lichtenstein’s guarantee Interior, perfect pitcher (1994), estimated at $ 20-30 million, sold for $ 21.5 million. Andy Warhol’s Two Marilyns (Double Marilyn), 1962, which was fully guaranteed by Christie’s, also sold below estimate, for $ 15.8 million. This painting belonged to Italian cosmetics giant Dario Ferrari, who was luckier with a large alphabet embroidery by Alighiero e Boetti, which sold above estimate for a record $ 4.6million. dollars.
Christie’s has dotted the sale of pioneering artists whose markets are still rising. A new record was set for Grace Hartigan, normally the preserve of American art sales, whose record price of $ 435,000 was set in 2018. Her imposing and colorful abstraction The Phoenix (1962) had received an estimate of $ 400,000 to $ 600,000 and is expected to exceed this figure. It drew three bidders, including one from Hong Kong, before setting a new record high of $ 687,500.
With a Willem de Kooning carefully placed next to it (which sold for a double estimate of $ 10.4 million), the sale gained momentum with an untitled roughly five-foot square. 1962 abstraction by Lee Krasner. It had been purchased in 2005 for $ 960,000. Krasner’s market has grown considerably since then – a much larger painting of her sold for over $ 11.7 million in 2019 – and that may have helped raise the price of this abstraction. With a low estimate of $ 5 million, it sold for $ 7.2 million.
The Krasner was followed by a painting by Alice Neel of her doctor’s waiting room, estimated at between $ 600,000 and $ 800,000. Neel, who is currently the subject of a retrospective at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, has seen demand increase dramatically over the past decade. Jeremy Lewison, Tate’s former head of collections, advised her succession from 2003 to 2020, negotiating a deal with London gallery Victoria Miro that put her in the same stable as leading living artists like Peter Doig and Chris Ofili , as well as the performance with David Zwirner in New York. Christie’s 1966 painting, which has always been in the doctor’s family collection, had one of the highest estimates to date for Neel, between $ 600,000 and $ 800,000. It drew several bids, including one from Hong Kong, before selling for a record $ 3 million.
The sale then crossed the pond for Barbara Hepworth’s large 94-inch bronze sculpture Parent 11 (1970), from his last series of works known as “The Family of Man”. Estimated at $ 2.5 million, Parent 11 doubled the estimate and generated a new record of a mustache, selling for $ 7.11 million and surpassing the previous record of $ 7.08 million, paid in 2014 for a large bronze sculpture.
The highest estimate among female artists, however, was for a 1970s diptych by Joan Mitchell that was seven feet wide. Title Rain (1989), it included an estimate of $ 10-15 million. Christie’s had sold a slightly larger diptych of the Laurence Fertita collection in 2020, for an average estimate of $ 14.5 million (not far from the May 2018 record of $ 16.6 million), to a Hong Kong bidder. , signaling that Asian interest could be driving the market. after Mitchell’s boom appears to have plateaued. But that passion is still alive, and without any help from Asia this time around, the painting sold within estimate for $ 12.4 million.
For those interested in the distribution of the sale (using the old Christie’s categories), Impressionist and Modern art made up less than half of the lots, but contributed more than half of the proceeds. Among the star Impressionist artists were a pair of studies of sparkling and fresh Seurat oils on the market that had been part of the Robert Treat Paine family collection for almost 100 years. One, made for his famous painting A sunday on The large bowl (1884), sold for an overestimate of $ 13.2 million.