Top Tens in Europe. Chapter 4: Switzerland



Friday is Top day! Every other Friday, Artprice publishes a theme-based auction ranking. This week, we reveal the most outstanding bids in the Swiss market.

Top Tens in Europe. Chapter 3: Switzerland
Rank Artist Hammer Price Artwork Sale
1 Marc CHAGALL $10,833,900 Le village en fête (1978) 2002-06-21 Kornfeld Galerie & Cie Bern BE
2 Ferdinand HODLER $7,906,470 Der Genfersee von Saint-Prex aus (1901) 2007-06-05 Sotheby’s Zürich ZH
3 Ferdinand HODLER $7,337,400 Montanalandschaft Mit Becs de Bosson Und Vallon de Réchymontana (Landscape with Becs de Bosson and Vallon de Réchy) (1915) 2013-06-04 Sotheby’s Zürich ZH
4 Albert ANKER $6,991,399 Turnstunde in Ins (1879) 2013-06-21 Koller Zürich ZH
5 Albert ANKER $6,921,599 Die ältere Schwester (c.1889) 2011-12-09 Koller Zürich ZH
6 Ferdinand HODLER $,6780,690 Genfersee Von Chexbres Aus 2011-11-28 Sotheby’s Zürich ZH
7 Vincent VAN GOGH $6,130,919 Pont de Clichy (1887) 2013-06-21 Koller Zürich ZH
8 Albert ANKER $5,812,020 Strickendes Mädchen, Kleinkind in der Wiege Hütend (1885) 2011-11-28 Sotheby’s Zürich ZH
9 Albert ANKER $5,422,940 Écolière faisant ses devoirs (1879) 2011-06-18 Beurret & Bailly Auktionen Basel BS
10 Roelant SAVERY $5,186,920 Blumenstilleben in einer Glasvase mit Eidechse und Schmetterling in einer Nische (1612) 2012-03-30 Koller Zürich ZH

Switzerland certainly champions its modern and post-war artists, witness the top ten bids posted in the country, where the names of Ferdinand Hodler and Albert Anker feature seven times. These two artists enjoy great prestige at home, but are practically unknown outside the Swiss market, which accounts for 96% of Hodler’s turnover and 100% of Anker’s. Switzerland has a clear preference for works rooted in their history, and for major European modern artists: not only Marc Chagall and Vincent Van Gogh, respectively with the first and seventh top bids in Switzerland, but also Paul Signac, Georges Braque, Paul Gauguin and Salvador Dalí, all found in the Top 20.

While it is hardly surprising that Hodler and Anker appear so often in this Top Ten – they are considered the two greatest modern Swiss painters – the high level of the bids emphasises how dynamic the Swiss market is for its rare chosen ones: Ferdinand Hodler accounts for no fewer than 41 bids of over $1 million. These were all posted in Switzerland, apart from one painting sold for $3.5 million in New York in 2006 (Thunersee mit Niesen, a 1910 landscape, 60.3 x 110.5 cm, Christie’s, 8 November). The artist’s top price is an impressive $7.9 million, for an early 20th century work sold in 2007 (Der Genfersee von Saint-Prex aus). The same goes for Renoir’s former pupil, Albert Anker. This specialist in scenes of children and country life achieved 30 bids of over $1 million, mostly in Zürich, but also in Berne, Lucerne and Basel. Yet this multi-millionaire in bidding terms, whose top price is not far off $7 million, is little-known outside his native country, despite travelling in Europe during his lifetime.

Even more astounding is the record posted by Marc Chagall, who pulled off a greater feat in Switzerland than in London, when Le Village en fête, a poetic, sentimental work dating from 1978, smashed its estimate with a hammer price equivalent to $10.8 million! At the time, this result was Chagall’s second-best global bid, after his painting Anniversaire sold for $13.5 million at Sotheby’s New York in 1990. The peaks achieved in New York are all the more understandable since Chagall, declared a « degenerate Jew » by the Nazis, fled to the US during the Second World War, and thus built up a strong market in America (42% of his sales). Today, Le Village en fête is his fourth best bid, while Anniversaire has not been unseated for 24 years. Chagall mixed with avant-garde artists like Modigliani, Zadkine and Delaunay, but travelled his own road, joining no movements. He is now one of the most widely-collected artists in the world: his works sell not only in Europe and the US, but also in Latin America, Australia, China and, of course, his native country Russia. His link with Switzerland came about through a church: the Fraumünster in the centre of Zürich, for which Chagall created five stained-glass windows. This cultural and tourist attraction has made him so popular in Switzerland that the Zürich Museum of Modern Art devoted yet another retrospective to him in 2013 (between February and May).

Van Gogh is another artist acclaimed on several occasions by major Swiss exhibitions, such as one in Bern in 1973, and another at the Fondation Gianadda in 2000. On the other hand, his works do not circulate: the one that comes seventh in this Top Ten turns out to be the only oil on canvas that has appeared in the Swiss auction market for at least 30 years. This small, radiant painting from 1887, Pont de Clichy, sold for the equivalent of $6.1 million in 2013 at Koller: a price it would certainly have achieved in London or New York as well.