(English) London June 2019 Sales Highlights and Summary 


Christie’s Impressionist & Modern Sale

Christie’s Impressionist & Modern Art Sale brought in a total of £36.4m (incl. premium), under a pre-sale estimate of £64.2m – 89.8m. Of the 34 lots offered, three were withdrawn, seven lots were bought in, and only two were guaranteed.

A significant factor in the lacklustre result was the failure of the top two lots to sell: a 1913 Léger tubist painting, which had an unpublished estimate of £25m, and a £5m female portrait by Matisse. When combined, this made up almost half of the presale estimate.

Early lots sold well: a Schiele coloured ink drawing of a reclining nude tripled its estimate to sell for £1.3m (incl. premium), and a cubistic stone head by Henri Laurens from 1919 sold to Harry Smith of Gurr Johns above estimate for £1.4m (incl. premium).

11 lots of the sale came from a collection named ‘The Landscape of a Mind’, owned by the Bahamas-based British copper trader Robert Wylde, who died last year. A striking 1919 Dadaist collage by Hannah Höch from this group sold to a phone bidder for an artist record £635,250 (incl. premium).

Late Picasso continued its market trajectory and sold well, including a 1968 painting of a reclining couple that sold to Rebecca Wei’s client for a mid-estimate £12.5m (incl. premium), while a 1967 self-portrait in the style of Velázquez sold to the Nahmad family for £2.1m (incl. premium).

Despite a 77.6% fall from last summer’s sales total, this decline is largely down to the contents of the sale rather than the market, supported by comparatively strong Modern British sales results the following evening.


Sotheby’s Impressionist & Modern Evening Sale on June 19, 2019 in London, England. (Photo by Chris J Ratcliffe/Getty Images for Sotheby’s )


Sotheby’s Impressionist & Modern Evening Sale

Sotheby’s Impressionist & Modern Art Evening Sale totalled £98.9m (incl. premium) against a presale estimate of £87.5m – 126.3m. 7 of the 25 lots were guaranteed, making up 55% of the sales total, and only two lots went unsold.

Three lots sold above £10m; however, it is significant to note that they all sold around the low estimate. There was subdued bidding for Monet’s square Nympheas (1908), which sold for £23.7m (incl. premium) against a low estimate of £25m. Modigliani’s Jeune homme assis (1918) sold to Patti Wong’s client on the phone for £18.4m (incl. premium), and the third of the top lots, Peinture (L’air) (1938) by Joan Miró, sold after one bid for £12m to Yin Zhao’s phone bidder.

Despite thin bidding on 14 of the 23 sold lots that did not rise above the low estimate, two artist records were set. A recently restituted drawing by the symbolist Alfred Kubin sold to an online bidder for £963,000 (incl. premium) against an estimate of £150,000 – 200,000 after strong bidding from Richard Nagy. The second record of the evening was set by Swiss artist Fritz Glarner, offered by the Museum of Modern Art in New York.The work sold to a telephone bidder for £759,000 (incl. premium) against an estimate of £450,000 – 650,000, surpassing the previous record of £601,250 (incl. premium) set in 2013.

In spite of a 25-lot sale with pre-sale estimates down from last year, the sale total was in fact a 13% increase from June 2018 and significantly surpassed the totals of their rivals at Christie’s.


Christie’s Post-War & Contemporary Evening Sale

Christie’s Post-War & Contemporary Evening Sale was the first June-cycle sale of the auction house in two years, having previously decided to focus solely on October sales. Despite this, the evening sale performed well, totalling £45.2m (incl. premium) against a pre-sale estimate of £36.5m – 52.8m. Five records were broken, including those by artists Derek Boshier and Jonas Burgert, and only three lots remained unsold.

In line with recent market trends, early lots in the sale consisted of female artists and artists of colour. The most notable of these examples was a fabric collage by Tschabalala Self, who is currently showing at MoMA PS1 and has forthcoming exhibitions at the ICA Boston and the Baltimore Museum of Art next year. Out of Body (2015), estimated at £40,000 to £60,000, attracted multiple bidders, including the artist’s London dealer Pilar Corrias, who bid into six figures before it sold to Jose Mugrabi for £371,250 (incl. premium).

Mugrabi was the buyer of a number of other lots, including a 1954 Francis Bacon, a painting by KAWS, and a Warhol Flowers painting, which sold within estimate for £671,250 (incl. premium).

Other buyers included Richard Nagy, who bought Diagonal Portrait (2013) by George Condo within estimate – suggesting a softening market – and Cecily Brown’s Blonde Eating Birds (2011–12) for £1.6m (premium), which sold comfortably above estimate in line with her current strong price trajectory. Daniella Luxembourg acquired a rich, abstract tapestry by Gerhard Richter for £1m (incl. premium) and the top lot of the sale, a largescale painting Ceremony (1961) by Jean Dubuffet, for £8.7m (incl. premium), within estimate.

Despite the majority of lots selling at mid or low estimate, the low buy in rate for the sale amidst Brexit uncertainties signalled a strong return for Christie’s to the June sale cycle.


Sotheby’s Post-War & Contemporary Evening Sale

Sotheby’s Post-War & Contemporary Evening Sale totalled £69.6m (incl. premium) against a pre-sale estimate of £57.4m – 82.1m. Five auction records were broken, including particularly strong performances of works by Cameroon-born Pascale Marthine Tayou and Nigerian-born American painter Toyin Ojih Odutola.

The top lot of the evening, a small self-portrait by Francis Bacon, sold for below estimate at £16.5m (incl. premium) to the third-party guarantor, a trend that continued through much of the sale. However, the self-portrait offered by Albert Oehlen – after competitive bidding between the artist’s two dealers (Skarstedt and Zwirner) – went on to make an auction record at £6.2m (incl. premium)  eventually selling to Skarstedt.

The breakaway lot of the sale was a rare 1946 abstract on canvas by the German artist, Otto Wols. With an estimate of £400,000 to £600,000, the work was pursued by multiple bidders including Berlin dealer Heinrich zu Hohenlohe and Yasuaki Ishizaka of Sotheby’s Japan, amongst others, before eventually selling to Helena Newman for £4.5m (incl. premium), shattering the artist’s 11-year-old auction record of £2.6m.

Other strong performers included Jenny Saville’s Shadow Heads (2007-2013), which despite selling to Timothy Taylor for mid estimate at £4.5m, represented a new price point for this period in Saville’s work. Auction records have been set for works from the 1990’s but previously none of the artist’s more recent works have sold for more than £1m. Bridget Riley also continued to perform well with a 1985 coloured stripe painting selling above estimate at £1.1m.

Despite Sotheby’s acknowledging a struggle with consignments, the auction performed well with support by guarantees, with 38 of the 43 lots sold and 9 surpassing estimates.


Phillips 20th Century and Contemporary Art Evening Sale

In line with their counterparts, Phillips’ 20th Century and Contemporary Art Evening Sale maintained sturdy sell-through rates and totalled £35.9m ($45.5m incl. premium), compactly within their pre-sale estimate of £31-45m.

Following a much-lauded pavilion at the Venice Biennale and slated for a forthcoming exhibition at Tate Britain, Lynette Yiadom-Boakye’s recent male portrait, Leave a Brick Under the Maple (2015), sold after some competitive bidding for double the estimate at £795,000 (incl. premium) — the second-highest price for the artist. Another work to significantly surpass its estimate was Marlene Dumas’ small-scale painting, Losing (Her Meaning) (1988), which sold for £1.2m (incl. premium) against an estimate of £400,000 – 600,000. There were five bidders in the room, including Dumas’ gallery, Zwirner, and bidders from Asia, who all eventually bowed out to Jean-Paul Engelen’s client on the phone.

Several high value lots remaining from the Miles and Shirley Fiterman collection helped buoy the sale total. These included Roy Lichtenstein’s The Conductor (1975), selling within estimate for £5m (incl. premium) to a US phone bidder, and a late Picasso, which sold to the Nahmad family within estimate for £3.1m (incl. premium).

Katharina Otto-Bernstein, the producer for art market film ‘The Price of Everything’, was ironically the buyer of an Anish Kapoor mirror for £567,000 and Jean-Michel Basquiat’s Untitled (1981) xerox work, recently exhibited at Nahmad gallery for £3.8m (incl. premium).

Five of the house’s 10 highest-valued lots were guaranteed either by Phillips or by third parties, which meant nearly half of the sale value was covered by guarantees and therefore pre-sold. Despite some casualties, including an unsold Richard Prince and De Stael painting, these guarantees enabled a solid sale that exceeded the auction house’s total from June last year.


Author: Charlie Wood


Please note that prices listed in the summary above refer to hammer prices and do not include auction fees.


Cover image © Christie’s
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