Results: Sotheby's London Impressionist, Modern & Surrealist Art Evening Sale

Sotheby's has released the results from its London Impressionist, Modern & Surrealist Art Evening Sale. The sale totaled $134.9 million including buyers premium. It offered 53 lots with 38 selling for, 71.7% sold by lot rate. That is more on the poor side of a sales rate, but not awful for the category either.  artnet reported this disturbing fact,  "23 or 60.5% sold either on or below their low estimates."

According to Sotheby's the pre-sale estimates totals for the Impressionist, Modern & Surrealist was $142.32 million to $201.71 million.  So the sale did not reach the low estimate even with sales premiums included. There are also reports of unrealistic estimates and that many guarantees were also involved, which can hinder bidding.

artnet news reported on the sale

Depth of bidding was rare, and while there were signs of life from a Russian contingent, there seemed to be none from Asia. An adjustment to boom level demand is clearly taking place.

The top lot, as anticipated, was Picasso's 1935 painting ‘Tete de Femme," which is portrait of his young lover, Marie-Therese Walter. Though not one of the best of that series, it was bought in New York in November 2013 above the estimate for $40 million. Back with a virtually unchanged estimate of £16-20 million ($23.4-29 million), it was bid up by financier, Samir Traboulsi, before selling to a private collector bidding by phone for £18.9 million ($27 million), representing a substantial loss to the seller.

Completely fresh to the market was Matisse's gloriously colored and affectionate La Le├žon de Piano (1923), that had been owned by the family of Scottish businessman Royan Middleton since he acquired it from Vincent van Gogh's UK dealer, Alex Reid, in 1927.

Middleton owned five Matisse's and is probably the least known and most discreet of UK collectors of Impressionist and post-Impressionist art in the first half of the 20th century. The painting carried the highest estimate ever placed at auction on a Matisse of £12-18 million and met with some reluctance to bid.

The stalemate in the room was only broken by the opportunistic David Nahmad who bought it for £10.8 million. After the sale he posed by it proudly for selfies taken by a younger Nahmad. #MyLatestBargain?

Sotheby's made something of the fact that Lucian Freud owned a cast of another star lot, Rodin's sexually-explicit bronze Iris, Messagere des Dieux, and kept it at the bottom of his bed. No doubt that has a tale or two to tell. The cast at Sotheby's also had a tale, as it once belonged to actor Sylvester Stallone. Unfortunately for him he had parted with it before June 2007, when it was auctioned with an estimate of £400,000, and hit the jackpot with a record £4 million price. The American collector who bought this lifetime cast, one of only two known in private hands, agreed an estimate of £6-8 million, the highest that I am aware of for a Rodin bronze at auction. Again the room seemed not to respond. But first a bid from Norwegian dealer Ben Frija, and then another from a telephone, saw the two become locked in a bidding war until it finally sold to Frija for £11.6 million ($17 million). It was the most hotly-contested lot of the evening.
Source: artnet news 

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