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London auction report: Sotheby’s and Christie’s last month show strong performances for Impressionists in London

Many new, middle-aged, collectors, say Christie’s

The star works at Sotheby’s Impressionist sale part I were a Cézanne still-life, which made £18.15 million, and a Van Gogh drawing which sold for £5.281 million. The sale total of £40.77 million was bolstered by £10.84 million reached by Gianni Versace’s Picasso collection.

Sotheby’s Cézanne “Bouilloire et fruits” was the best painting of the season, selling for £18 million against a £9-12 million estimate. Having been stolen from the Bakwin family in 1978, it had only just recovered by the Art Loss Register.

Van Gogh’s pen drawing “Oliviers avec les Alpilles au fond”, originally belonging to German collector Max Silberberg, was included in a forced auction by Nazis in 1935 and ended up in the Berlin Nationalgalerie. Having just been returned to Silberberg’s descendants, it was bought by consultants De Pury and Luxembourg Art on behalf of a private client and will eventually go to the Metropolitan Museum.

Gianni Versace’s much hyped, but generally feeble, collection of five paintings and twenty drawings by Picasso was an obvious choice given the strong drawings market in Europe, and only two lots failed. Lot 18, a painting of Maya, fetched £3,741,000 against a £2-3 million estimate, and the drawings sold particularly well. Eight had been acquired from the 1993 Stanley Seeger Sale in New York, and a comparison of prices shows that some had doubled or trebled in value since then.

At the part II sale, eighteen Modigliani drawings from the collection of his doctor, Paul Alexandre, sold well and a caryatide drawing fetched £144,500 against an £80,000 estimate.

At Christie’s the star lot was Van Gogh’s, “A pair of shoes”, estimated at £1.2-1.6 million. Bought by a private collector for £2.9 million, the painting had been recently rediscovered after fifty years, and was a missing link in Van Gogh’s celebrated shoes series.

London dealer Richard Green bought Corot’s painting of the Villa Borghese for four times its estimate at £474,500. Sisley’s “Le pont de Moret”, sold for £991,500, Renoir’s superb bronze “La cathédrale” for £529,500, and Lautrec’s pastel “La coiffure” for £617,500.

The twentieth-century sale set new records for Surrealist artists Paul Delvaux and Yves Tanguy, with the former’s“ Le miroir” selling on the telephone for £3.191 million against a £700,000-1 million estimate. Tanguy’s “Un grand tableau qui représente un paysage” made a world record for the artist at £1.54 million.

The part II sales at both auction houses were more successful than in recent years, with a strong demand for middle market works. Jussi Pylkkänen of Christie’s explained: “The market is much broader than it has been for several years, with many new middle-aged collectors appearing in the last two years.”

Next year sales at both auction houses will be at the end of January, to avoid coming too close to the New York sales.

Christie’s

Impressionist and Post-Impressionist part II, 7 December

Total £4.314 million; $6.997 million

Sold by lot 71%; sold by value 77%

part I, 8 December

Total £12.186 million; $19.851 million

Sold by lot 79.3%; sold by value 74.3%

Twentieth-century part I, 8 December

Total £17.979 million; $29.287 million

Sold by lot 76%; sold by value 87%

Twentieth-century part II, 9 December

Total £7.4 million; $11.96 million

Sold by lot 78%; sold by value 81%

Sotheby’s

Works by Picasso from the Collection of Gianni Versace, 7 December

Total £10.848 million; $17.512 million

Sold by lot 92%; sold by value 98.3%

Impressionist and Modern art part I, 7 December

Total £29.929 million; $48.342 million

Sold by lot 71.43%; sold by value 81.72%

Impressionist and Modern art part II, 8 December

Total £8.907 million; $14.386 million

Sold by lot 68.35%; sold by value 75.62%

Originally appeared in The Art Newspaper as 'Strong performances for Impressionists in London'