Sothebys Exceeds High Expectations


The results of Sotheby’s Impressionist and Modern sales were superlative: of the 66 works on offer 56 sold (84.8% of the lot, 93.4% by dollar) the grand total including buyer’s commission was $181,760,000. The top lot of the evening was the elegant work by Alberto Giacometti, L’homme qui Chavire, cast in 1951. After an extraordinary bidding war between at least six telephone bidders, the work was hammered down at $19,346,500 (all prices include buyer’s premium).

Alberto Giacometti, L’Homme qui Chavire, 1951. Photo courtesy of Sotheby’s.

I caught up with Nancy Whyte, the New York dealer who called the competition “amazing,” and explained that, “the Giacometti made a great price—a similar one sold  at Christie’s in 2007 for $18.5 million.” That price was then the top of the market. Whyte went on to say that “Quality things are selling well and the Picasso Market is really strong.”

Speaking of Picasso, several works by the artist brought in highs last night. Lot 31, Buste d’homme, a late work, saw a lot of action. Dealer David Nahmad was the underbidder but the work sold on the phone to Charlie Moffett, Vice Chairman at Sotheby’s, for $10,386,500—inside the estimate of $8–12 million. Femme au chapeau vert, a 1947 angular portrait of Francoise Gilot, was actively sought after by several telephone bidders and finally sold to an anonymous Asian client. The third Picasso, Claude a deux ans, a colorful portrait of Picasso’s son, realized $6,242,500 against an estimate of $5–7 million.

Bidding was swift for the 68-lot sale. Tobias Meyer was fielding bids from every part of the world and later said it was one of the most active Impressionist and modern sales he had seen. Competitive bidding was fierce on the 1910 Jeune Arabe by Kees Van Dongen, which was sold from the collection of Louis Reijtenbagh. It sold on the phone for $13,802,500, eclipsing the artist’s previous auction record of $11,178,400. It was a night for records. Lot 14, the colorful fauve Barques, Au port de Collioure, sold in the room to Guy Bennett, former Head of Christie’s Impressionist department, for $14,082,500, setting a world record price for the artist.

Asked if there were surprises this evening, Emmanuel Di Donna, Vice Chairman of Sotheby’s and Director of the evening sales, said, “The evening was a vote of confidence to the market.” Modern works were not the only top performers: seven works by Renoir, Sisley, and Pissarro were sold from the collection of the Durand-Ruel art dealing family. The Pissarro lot 16, Le Pont Boieldieu et La Gare d’Orleans, Rouen, Soleil was met with a flurry of phone bids. It finally sold to Lyonel Pissarro, the artist’s grandson and himself an international dealer, for $7,026,500.

Rounding out the top lots of the evening was the important Bauhaus Kandinsky, Krass und Mild, (Dramatic and Mild), a sensational combination of geometry and color that sold to an anonymous phone bidder for $10,610,500. It came from the collection of the late philanthropist and art patron Dr. Arthur M. Sackler.

Sotheby’s $181,000 million out-performed Christie’s sale which brought in $65.6 million the night before.  All told it was a restorative evening. The auction houses, dealers and collectors came away with a buzz and the message-great works are still very much desired by the market.