Manet breaks record but Sotheby's London sale fails to impress
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Edouard Manet’s exceptional Self Portrait with a Palette sold tonight at Sotheby's London for 22.4 million pounds ($33.2 million) with fees, a record for the artist at auction, this despite a rather disappointing result at its Impressionist and Modern Art Evening Sale, which totaled just over £112 million ($167 million, well below the £148 million pre-sale estimate). Of the 51 lots offered, 16 went unsold, including major works by Monet, Picasso, and Chagall.
The event total failed to break any records as hoped, as the pre-sale high estimate of £148 million was already greater than any previous London Sotheby's auction. Last February the company accomplished its own personal record and first place for any London auction, boosted by the historic hammer price realized for Giacometti's L'homme qui marche I. Sotheby's raised £146.8 million overall at the sale, far beyond expectations of £69-102 million.
Another positive note of the sale included a record for an artwork by Andre Derain, whose Arbres a Collioure sold for £16.3 million pounds to an anonymous bidder on the phone. It was estimated to fetch up to £14 million.
Several smaller lots also accomplished impressive hammer prices, such as Matisse's Étude Pour 'Nu Rose' which fetched £5.82 million, more than doubling its high estimate, and Bonnard's Le Petit Dejeuner, Radiateur which sold for £6.2 million, two million above its high estimate.
Other highly-anticipated results of the evening were Matisse's 1928 Odalisques jouant aux dame, fetching £11.8 million (pre-sale estimate of £10-15 million); and Chaïm Soutine’s Le Valet de chambre achieving £7.88 million (estimated between £7-9 million). It was the first time these lots had been brought under the auction hammer, although the bidding all hovered within their estimates.
The crowd at Sotheby's, and indeed art spectators the world over, had eagerly awaited for the presentation of Lot 9, Manet's Self-Portrait with a Palette. In what started as a night of fast-paced bidding, within less than twenty minutes it was Manet's turn at center stage. Starting the bidding at £15 million, the action took off and within a minute the price rose two million GBP amidst the room's excited chatter. The price then hung in suspense at £18 million for nearly a minute before picking up slightly to £19 million. Finally with a slight rise in commotion from the guests, the price settled and stayed at last on £20 million going to New York dealer Franck Giraud in the room.
The last auction record set for the French painter was in November 1989, when La Rue Mosnier Aux Drapeaux (1878) fetched £16.4 million at Christie's in New York. This was the third time Sotheby's showcased the portrait, the first being in the historic 1958 Goldschmidt sale, the most valuable fine art auction of the time, believed by many to have announced the birth of the modern art market. Originally raising £65,000, it was later acquired for $176,800 by the collector couple John and Frances L. Loeb from New York. At the auction of the Loeb collection on May 12, 1997, the painting sold for $18.7 million to an anonymous bidder. A self-portrait painted by one of the father figures of Impressionism is truly a rare trophy, and this Manet masterpiece is one of only two known to exist.
Painted circa 1878/9 at a point when Manet was enjoying unprecedented critical acclaim, the work, according to Sotheby’s, brings together all the essential qualities: subtle reference to the Old Masters combined with an audacious, “modern” handling of paint and immediacy – that mark him out as one of the greatest and most influential painters not only of his day, but of all time.
The other triumph story of the evening is, according to Sotheby's, one of the finest and most striking works by the great Fauve artist Derain ever to come to auction. Executed in a coastal town in the South of France, this painting marks the pinnacle of Derain’s Fauve style while representing a milestone in the development of 20th-century art. After decades in hiding, it was discovered with a substantial cache of other works, in a Paris bank vault in 1979; the painting was once part of the extraordinary collection of art dealer Ambroise Vollard – a man who was at the heart of the avant-garde artistic developments that were happening in Paris in the early 20th century.
The second in the series of London auctions, set for Christie’s on June 23, is already dubbed one of the largest in history, and predicted to attain bids totaling $342 million, especially from top lots including: Picasso’s Portrait of Angel Fernandez de Soto (1903), and Claude Monet’s 1906 Nymphéas, both estimated at £30 million to £40 million. After tonight's turn of events and lower-than-expected results, it will be interesting to see how Christie's will fare. Click here to follow MutualArt.com’s live coverage of the event on twitter.
Written by MutualArt.com staff; images courtesy of Sotheby's.
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