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​London: the countdown has begun…

[13.02.2018]

London’s prestige auction houses are preparing their first major sales of the year with, amongst the lots on offer, a Baiser by Auguste Rodin, a bouquet of flowers by Georges Braque and a meadow by Claude Monet.

This year, Christie’s is opening the proceedings on 27 February 2018 with an Impressionist & Modern Masters sale followed by a second session devoted exclusively to Surrealist works. The following day Sotheby’s is hosting exactly the same programme. The two rivals have adopted the same rhythm of two sales the same day, with a number of signatures in common in their respective catalogues. Two weeks before these sales, we take a look at some of the works selected for auction.

 

Picasso

Pablo PICASSO (1881-1973) reigns supreme at both auctioneers (with both showing his works on their catalogue covers). The decision is logical since Picasso is a sure guarantee of success. At Christie’s, the most anticipated work is his Mousquetaire et nu assis (1967). Carrying a broad pre-sale estimate of $16 – 24 million, it was acquired in 2007 for $13.3 million by a private European collector (Christie’s).

At Sotheby’s the following day, a portrait of Mary Therèse Walter is probably the star lot of this season. The catalogue devotes no less than 16 pages to the work. The estimate for this powerful painting from 1937 – which has never been sold publicly before – has not yet been disclosed. An 8-digit result is obviously expected.

Picasso and London: Picasso’s most important works are often sold in New York, but London remains the second-best marketplace for this major artist, capturing 34% of Picasso’s total auction turnover over the last 10 years.

Picasso’s summit: in May 2015, in New York, Christie’s hammered a truly historic result: over $179 million for his Women of Algiers (Version ‘O’). This version is one of 15 canvases that the artist devoted to this subject. The painting became the most expensive artwork ever sold at auction (since beaten). In 1997 the work fetched $32 million. It therefore added $147 million to its value in less than 20 years.

 

Edgar Degas

Edgar DEGAS’s pastels are very rare on the secondary market. The bold composition of his drawing, Behind the scenes, should fetch over $10 million at Christie’s (estimated between $11 and 16 million), a result that would represent an excellent capital gain on its previous public price of $4.23 million on 27 November 1997 in Paris (at Ferri-Beaussant-Lefèvre via Drouot Montaigne).

Degas and London: London and New York have roughly equal shares in Degas’ auction market. Over the last 10 years, the UK has generated more than 47% of the artist’s turnover compared with just 4% in France.

Degas’s summit: the most expensive Degas ever sold at auction is one of his Danseuse au repos in gouache and pastel (c. 1879). The off-balance and poised ballerina has made this 64cm drawing his most famous work ever sold at auction. Already in June 1999, the work fetched $25.3 million (Sotheby’s), before rising to $37 million in November 2008 (Sotheby’s), a record that still holds today.

 

Kandinsky

In the light of his new auction record last year, it’s certainly not a bad time to sell works by the godfather of abstraction. On February 27, lot 44 at Christie’s is a colorful landscape study expected to fetch between $4 and $6.7 million. Never auctioned before, this painting from a German private collection has remained in the same family since the 1960s. However, having been selected for several exhibitions in Austria, Germany and Switzerland, it is not unknown to the public.

Kandinsky and London: London is Wassily KANDINSKY’s principal marketplace. The UK capital generates half of the artist’s auction turnover, versus 44% in the US.

Kandinsky’s summit: Kandinsky’s all-time auction record is only a few month sold. On 21 June 2017 Sotheby’s offered his 1913 masterpiece Bild mit weissen linien (Painting with white lines). Bidding for the canvas continued up to $42.2 just minutes after one of Kandinsky’s Fauvism-influenced paintings entitled Murnaü. Paysage avec maison verte fetched over $26.8 million.

 

Magritte

René MAGRITTE (1898-1967) is the star of the two Surrealists sessions in February with no less than seven paintings at Christie’s and six at Sotheby’s. This abundance is perfectly coherent with current demand after a year 2017 that generated his best-ever annual auction turnover total ($77.8 million). With three new auction records during 2017, owners of Magritte’s works are aware that this is the right time to sell at the best price.

Magritte and London: 59% of Réné Magritte’s auction turnover is hammered in London, versus 34% in the US and 5% in France. London is clearly where supply and demand are best matched.

Magritte’s summit: in 2017, the Belgian Surrealist’s works generated no less than three new auction records: the first in London (in February) and then two more in New York in November. His latest record rewarded a canvas from his L’empire des lumières (1949) series that fetched $20.5 million on 13 November 2017 at Christie’s.

 

The upcoming sales will also be offering works by Salvador Dali, Paul Delvaux, Alberto Giacometti, Paul Derain, Francis Picabia, Marc Chagall and Fernand Léger. They will no doubt set the tone for the rest of the year in the Impressionist, Modern and Surrealist segments of the market.

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