Daniella Luxembourg, an art dealer based in London and New York said, “What mattered in this sale was the provenance of the works of art… Many were not on the market for years. Whatever was fresh to the market sold very well”.
Most of the highly anticipated lots came from a private collection in Switzerland that had collected art between the 20’s- 70’s that was primarily sourced directly from artists. This auction started two weeks of events in London and is the first significant art sale of 2014.
Records were smashed at the event, with a price of £34.8 million (including buyers premium) being secured for Gris’ “Nature Morte a la Nappe a Carreaux (The Checked Tablecloth)”. Painted in 1915, it depicts a guitar, grape and a newspaper. This was almost double the price it was expected to get, after all the previous record for Gris’ work was $28.6 million sold at Christie’s in New York in 2010. The bidding initially started at £8 million but was escalated by two determined bidders.
This was not the only artwork sold that exceeded expectations. The 1930 painting “Composition No. II With Blue and Yellow” by Piet Mondrian achieved a final price of £12 million, a price high above the estimate. “L’Oiseau-Nocturne (Nocturnal Bird)”, the 1939 painting by Joan Miro beat its estimate by £1.2 million with the final price at £2.7 million.
Even pieces with high estimated did well at the auction. A 1951bronze sculpture of three men walking on a platform named “Trois Hommes qui Marchent I,” by Alberto Giacometti had a generous estimate of £8 million, and in fact sold for £9 million. A version of this sculpture that was much larger sold for £65 million in 2010 at Sotheby’s, which at that time was a record breaking figure.
An estimate of £7 million was given to “Les Cylindres Colores (The Cylinder Colors)”, painted by Fernand Leger in 1918, but again it surpassed expectations with a £12.1 million final sale figure. This piece had been with Louis Carre, its previous owner for many years. Christie’s stated he was close friends with the artist.
Finally, another great success of the night came from Migrette, with his “Les Chasseurs au Bord de la Nuit (The Hunters at the Edge of Night)” piece from 1928, that achieved £6.6 million, which was around the estimate.
Not all the pieces were success stories however. “La Chemise Rose II” by Tamara de Lempicka that displayed a brunette in a pink camisole from 1928 failed to sell. It was expected to secure a price of around £3 million, but along with a 1937 still life from Picasso did not sell.
A legal dispute interrupted proceedings and cut the whole event short. Christie’s decided to withdraw a collection by Miro including paintings, sculptures, drawings and collages. The collection had been co-signed by the Portuguese Republic but issues soon arose with the sale of the collection so it was ceased.