As auction season winds down, the Sotheby’s Impressionist and Modern sale fizzled into summer with only a few bright spots in an otherwise disappointing evening in London.
Emerging collectors from Russia, China and the Middle East have been helping to push values to record highs, but on Tuesday night at Sotheby’s, many lots went unsold or for below estimate.
A record was broken with Spanish Surrealist artist Joan Miro’s painting “Blue Star” from 1927, which slammed through the high estimate of $31 million to go for almost $37 million after a heated bidding war. This price is nearly twice what was paid for it at a Paris auction in 2007.
The next highest price went to Pablo Picasso's "Homme Assis" which realized $9.9 million, but still fell short of the estimate, though his “Les Dejeuners” from 1961 got the evening off to a promising start.
A less expected blockbuster was Henry Moore’s bronze statue “Mother and Child with Apple,’’ from 1956. Estimated to bring $2.8 million to $4.4 million, it sold to an unidentified telephone bidder for $5.8 million.
Meanwhile, things fared well at Christie’s, with Picasso again making a good showing. His “Seated Woman” grabbed the top spot, selling to William Acquavella of New York’s Acquavella Galleries for $13,445,709, well above estimate. The image is of Picasso’s young lover, Francoise Gilot, while heavily pregnant with daughter Paloma.
Before the sale even started, Pierre-Auguste Renoir’s fleshy nude, “Bather” from 1888, was sold to a private buyer for an undisclosed price somewhere within the estimate $19 and $27 million.
Another standout was an early work by Belgium Surrealist Rene Magritte. His “Les Jour Gigantesques” a disturbing image showing a nude woman attacked by a man, soared far above estimate to over $11 million dollars, despite having a significant repair. A work by Berlin Dadaist Kurt Schwitters, one of his merzbilds, also did well, smashing through the estimate and becoming a record sale for the artist at over $2 million.