Results: Christie's London IMP/MOD Sale

Christie's held its Impressionist Modern evening art sale along with a second Art of the Surreal sale in London.  As I mentioned in my last post, I viewed the early portion of the live auction stream on Chrisite's site,  the results were looking rather strong then and certainly continued through the sale.  It will be interesting to see if Sotheby's sales is also strong.

The final results for the sale reveal an impressive total of $213.3 million (including buyers premium) with 76 of 88 pieces selling for a very strong sell through rate of 86%. The sale also sold a strong 93% by value.

According to the Christie's press release 3 lots sold for over £10 million, 6 for over £5 million and an impressive 28 for over £1 million. Meaning nearly half of the lots sold were above 1 million GBP (equivalent to $1.58 million USD).

The sale attracted bidding from around the world and buyers originated from more than 21 countries in 4 continents. The top selling lot was Reclining Figure: Festival, 1951, by Henry Moore (1898-1986) which realized $30,148,375 including buyers premium against a pre sale estimate of $5.5 million to $8.7 million and set a world record price for the artist at auction (see image).  All of the top ten lots buyers were listed as anonymous.

Christie's reported on the sale
Giovanna Bertazzoni, International Head of Impressionist and Modern Art, Christie’s: “These strong results illustrate that the art market continues to attract significant levels of spending, particularly for the rarest and most exceptional works of art. It is an extremely intelligent market where pricing is key – and where collectors react with the greatest determination to the rarest works of art, and particularly to those which are fresh to the market. We are particularly pleased to have established record prices for two great artists of the 20th century: Henry Moore and Joan Miró. In both cases, we offered works of art that were among the greatest produced by the artists, and their quality drew the most determined of bidding. It has been a great honour to have presented fine art from The Collection of Elizabeth Taylor, and to have seen three works sold this evening for twice our expectations. We look forward to the day sales tomorrow (8 February), and to the auction of ‘Living with Art’, a spectacular private collection, which will include a further offering of Impressionist and Modern Art and which takes place on 9 and 10 February. ”

Leading highlights of the sale:

The top price was paid for Reclining Figure: Festival, 1951, by Henry Moore (1898-1986) which realised £19,081,250 / $30,148,375 / €22,935,663– a world record price for the artist at auction. In 1949, the year after Moore was awarded the international prize for sculpture at the Venice Biennale, he was commissioned by the Arts Council to create a sculpture for the 1951 Festival of Britain; the sculpture sold at this evening’s auction is this work. Its importance lies not only in the significance of the commission itself but also it functions as a ‘key’ to this period of Moore’s work. It was acquired by an anonymous telephone bidder after a 5 minute bidding battle.

Painting-Poem (“le corps de ma brune puisque je l’aime comme ma chatte habillée en vert salade comme de la grêle c’est pareil”), 1925, by Joan Miró (1893-1983) sold for £16,841,250 / $26,609,175 / €20,243,183 – a world record price for the artist at auction (estimate: £6-9 million). Part abstract void, part lyrical free-form painting and part hand-written stream-of-consciousness poetry, Le corps de ma brune… is one of the finest and best-known of an extraordinary group of paintings made by the artist in 1925, in which he successfully pushed beyond the conventional boundaries of painting and the picture-plane to create a radical new mental space; fusing word image and painterly form into a new free-form of expression conveying an hallucinatory or dream-like state of consciousness.

Le livre, 1914-1915, by Juan Gris (1887-1927) sold for £10,345,250 / $16,345,495 / €12,434,991. Executed in Paris between the end of 1914 and the start of 1915, the painting marks the artist’s change of stylistic approach to working from an abstract compositional armature towards its subject matter. First shown at the major post-war Cubisme exhibition at the Galerie de France, Paris, in 1945 and subsequently shown throughout Europe and America in the 1940s, 50s and 60s, it was then unseen for 30 years until the 2005 retrospective in Madrid.

Three works of art from the storied Collection of Elizabeth Taylor fetched a combined £13,787,750 ($21,784,645 /€16,572,876), more than doubling their pre-sale low estimate of £6.2 million. An additional 35 works from the film star’s fine art collection will be offered for sale on 8 February as part of Christie’s continuing sales series devoted to Impressionist and Modern Art.

Vue de l’asile et de la Chappelle de Saint-Rémy, by Vincent van Gogh fetched the top price of the group at £10,121,250 ($15,991,575 /€12,165,743). The luminous landscape, painted in the turquoise and ochre hues of early autumn, is a view of the asylum where the artist spent his last months. Elizabeth Taylor’s father, the art dealer Francis Taylor, had purchased the painting on her behalf at auction in 1963 for £92,000. Up until her death in March of 2011, the painting had hung in the living room of Miss Taylor’s home in Bel Air, CA. Earlier in the sale, a youthful self-portrait by Edgar Degas (1834-1917) sold for £713,250 ($1,126,935 / € 857,327) and a large-scale landscape by Camille Pissarro (1830-1903) entitled Pommiers à Éragny realized £2,953,250 ($4,666,135 /€ 3,549,807).

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