In the recent round of Contemporary and Impressionist art sales Sotheby’s trumped rivals Christie’s.
Iconic auction house Sotheby’s seems currently to be leading in the closely contested rivalry with Christie’s. The contemporary art sales on 2-3 June at Sotheby’s smashed expectations and made a total of €13.8m ($16.6m), with four of the top ten lots being snapped up by dealers. The impressionist and modern sale on 3 June was even more successful, fetching €17.5m ($21m). Meanwhile, Christie’s lagged behind making a more modest €7.58m ($9.1m) in its post-war contemporary sale on the 31 May.
So, which were the artworks and who were the artists that made the difference?
The Sotheby’s contemporary sales set records for Maria Helene Vieira da Selva and Jacques Villegle, whose colourful lacerated-posters-on-canvas Boulevard Saint Martin (1959) proved a hit in the sale room. Although the top lot was a painting by fashionable Jean Michel Basquiat, VP of Sotheby’s France Gregoire Billaut stressed that he wanted to maximize the potential of less fashionable work: “We are trying to develop and highlight French artists whose prices hadn’t reflected the quality of their work.”
An iconic, fashionable name also led in the impressionist and modern sale in which a Picasso ink-and-wash on paper work trumped pre-sale estimates. Samuel Valette, head of the impressionist and modern art department explained what made it so commercially successful: “It ticks all the boxes… because of its powerful, physical impact, its provenance and perfect condition.”
Christie’s was less triumphant with 60 of the 188 lots in its post-war and cotemporary sale going unsold. Here the top lot was Hommage à Matisse II (1993), by French-Chinese painter Zao-Wou-Ki which sold to a Chinese buyer for €972,000 ($1.17m), more than double its conservative estimate.
The Art Newspaper