Preview: Impressionist & Modern Sales at Christie's and Sotheby's

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Impressionist & Modern Art Evening Sales, New York, Fall 2016
Sotheby’s, 7pm, 14 November
Christie’s, 7pm, 16 November

We are pleased to introduce the evening sales below. We realise that the value of these works falls outside the parameters of most of our clients, but the major works are a market indicator and have more interesting stories to tell. For information and our personal viewpoints on the Day sales, please contact Ray Waterhouse in New York or Adrian Biddell in London, who will both be viewing and attending the auctions.

Wassily Kandinsky, Rigide et courbé, 1935; est. $18-25 million (courtesy Christie’s)

The major sales this fall in New York are being held one week later than usual to avoid a clash with the elections; the Impressionist and Modern auctions are being held the same week as the Contemporary auctions. Perhaps because of political uncertainty, consignments are down in number and value; the main evening sales offer 92 lots, which total around $330 million at the low estimate.

Frantisek Kupka, La forme du bleu, 1924; Est. $1.5-2 million (courtesy Sotheby’s)

The works representing abstraction and non-objective art are strong. They are led by Kandinsky’s rare and impressive Rigide et courbé of 1935 at Christie’s (est. $18-25 million), which has not been seen on the market for more than 50 years, and Frantisek Kupka’s La forme du bleu of 1924 (est. $1.5-2 million) at Sotheby’s. Both deserve to sell well, although there hasn’t been a good Paris period painting by Kandinsky at auction since the early 1990s, when a work of a similar scale and ambition sold for $4.5m, a very considerable sum at the time.

Edvard Munch, Girls on the Bridge, 1902; Estimate on request (courtesy Sotheby’s)

Expressionism and the Fauves are led by Munch’s very familiar Girls on the Bridge of 1902 - the most expensive painting of the week (there is no published estimate, but it’s rumoured to be around $50 million) - it was last at auction in 2008 when it sold for $31 million – and a very fresh and vibrant landscape Le verger of 1906 by Maurice de Vlaminck. Both works are offered at Sotheby’s.

Claude Monet, Meule, 1891; Estimate on request (courtesy Christie's)

Impressionism and Post-Impressionism are represented by works by Pissarro (a gritty but evocative Rouen view that was in the collection of Somerset Maughan), three Van Goghs and a very fine Cézanne landscape. The group is dominated, however, by an outstanding painting of a haystack Meule by Monet of 1891 (estimate on request).

Chaïm Soutine, Garcon d’étage, 1928; Est. $6-9 million (courtesy Christie’s)

Works by École de Paris artists include 7 works by Chagall, but it’s Soutine’s bellboy Garçon d'étage at Christie’s (est. 6-9 million) that steals the show in this category, one of three Soutines being offered across both sales. Works by artists less readily categorised include a typically quirky marine by Lionel Feininger at Sotheby’s of 1912 (est. $4-6 million); a charismatic Bonnard of 1891 at Christie’s (est. $2.8-3.8 million), and a superb painting by August Strindberg: Inferno of 1903 (est. $3-5 million) also at Christie’s.

Pablo Picasso, Le hibou (rouge et blanc), 1953; Est. $1-1.5 million (courtesy Christie’s)

Over all of these strides the ever-bankable Picasso, the giant of the modern market, represented by a total of 16 works spread across the two sales with a combined low estimate total of $63 million. Christie’s have the lion’s share, offering 11 works by the Spaniard, and presenting them in a special vanity catalogue. Examples from most periods of the artist’s extraordinary life are represented across the two sales. Picasso kicks off Christie’s sale, lot 1 being a particularly endearing unique ceramic owl from 1951 (est. $1-1.5 million); and the two most valuable works in their sale are a stunning profile of Dora Maar: Buste de femme of 1938 (est. $18-25 million) and a rye Homme à la pipe of 1969 (est. $15-20 million). Le peintre et son modèle of 1963 (est. $12 -18 million) is the top Picasso offered by Sotheby’s.

Pablo Picasso, Buste de femme (Dora Maar), 1938; Est. $18-25 million, Christie’s

Ray Waterhouse: rbw@fineartbrokers.com, +1 212 717 9100
Adrian Biddell: ajb@fineartbrokers.com, +44 207 734 7800