Christie’s Misses the Mark With a $279.3 Million Impressionist and Modern Sale, Leaving Starry Casua
Pablo Picasso, Femme accoudée, 1921. Image courtesy of Christie's Images Ltd. 2018.
The first sale of any major auction week inevitably feels like a tone-setter, despite the fact that the opening night’s tone can completely invert 24 hours later. New York’s auctioneers may be hoping for that kind of turnabout after Christie’s Impressionist and Modern evening sale came to a close on Sunday night.
Although the house delivered a very respectable 85 percent sell-through rate, the total sales value of $279.3 million failed to reach the pre-sale estimate of “in excess of $304.7 million.” (Unless otherwise noted, sales values include buyer’s premium; pre-sale estimates do not.)
There was no better representative for the evening than one of the sale’s premier lots, Vincent van Gogh’s Coin de jardin avec papillons (1887), which triggered a wave of stunned murmurs in the room when it failed to sell at $30 million. Appearing at auction for the first time, the work—a strikingly dynamic garden scene—carried a pre-sale estimate in the region of $40 million. “It was an extraordinary work with an ambitious estimate,” said specialist Max Carter after the sale. “These things happen.”
Of the 61 lots offered in the sale, 52 found buyers. But the nine buy-ins included more expected high-fliers than just the Van Gogh. Pablo Picasso‘s Femme au béret orange et au col de fourrure (Marie-Thérèse) (1937), one of four works from the Sam Rose and Julie Walters collection depicting one of Picasso’s muses, passed at $14 million after an uncomfortable minute of low activity. It entered the sale with an estimate of $15 million to $20 million.
Also among the unsold lots were Claude Monet’s L’Escalier à Vétheuil(1881), which tapped out far short of its $12 million low estimate at just $7.5 million, and René Magritte’s La statue volante, which bowed out at $5 million, or $1 million beneath its low valuation.
The night’s other record-setting performance came in the form of Hans Arp’s Déméter, a lyrical white marble figure seemingly (and ironically, given its strong showing) suspended in mid-swoon. After hammering at $4.9 million to Impressionist and Modern specialist Olivier Camu, the premium plumped the price to $5.8 million—nearly double its $3 million high estimate.
Déméter was also one of 13 works from the collection of Herbert and Adele Klapper to change hands during the evening. (Three others were bought in.) All told, the grouping generated $41.1 million in sales, although this figure still trailed the pre-sale low estimate for the tranche of nearly $45 million.