The two-day auction of the Beck Collection and other Expressionist and modern artworks at Sotheby's London on Oct. 8-9, 2002, totaled almost $32.7 million and set new world records for August Macke, Alexej von Jawlensky and six lesser known artists. These cheerful results -- the house said the total was the highest ever for German and Austrian art and confirms its "market leadership" -- were offset a bit by the other stats, e.g., of the 411 lots in the Beck Collection, only 273 sold, for a success rate of just over 66 percent.
The evening auction of the Beck works, dubbed "volume I" by the house, sold 29 of 35 lots, or ca. 83 percent, for a total of $18.3 million. The general sale of German and Austrian art on the following night sold 27 out of 43 lots, or almost 63 percent, for a total of $10.1 million. Prices given here include the auction house commission of about 20 percent (and are converted from Euros to dollars (€10 =$9.87).
It's become a commonplace among art-market observers that big collectors, with the financial markets sinking ever lower, are increasingly putting funds into tangible goods, like yachts, jets, real estate and artworks. In any case, the sale seems to confirm the auction-house truism that top works sell even in a down market.
The Beck holdings were strong in works by the Blue Rider artist August Macke, and five works by the artist were among the top ten lots sold. Top lot of the evening and auction record for the artist was a colorful painting of women window-shopping, Zwei Frauen vor dem Hutladen (1913), which sold for $4.3 million, well above its presale high estimate of $3 million. A much darker forestscape, titled Waldspaziergang (Forest Walk) (1913), went for about $1,960,000, under its presale low estimate of ca. $2.5 million. The other Macke works went for within their presale estimates; for complete auction results, see Artnet's signature Fine Art Auction Report.
Number two price of the evening came for Alexej von Jawlensky's Halbakt (Half-Nude), a green and red portrait of a woman painted in 1912, which sold for almost $2.4 million (est. ca. $1.4 million-$1.8 million). The artist's Blauer Shawl (Blue Shawl) (1912), an even scarier portrait of a woman from the same period, fetched $1.3 million (est. ca. $1.3 million-$1.8 million).
Wassily Kandinsky's Schwarzes Dreieck (Black Triangle), a geometric abstraction in watercolor, sold for just over $1 million, just under its high presale estimate. A rare oil on glass work from 1911, Reiter und Apfelpflückerin, went for about $460,000, well over its presale high estimate of ca. $250,000.
New records were also set for Adolf Hölzel (for a work on paper, ca. $16,000), Alfred Kubin ($310,000), Gerhard Marcks ($99,000) and Ida Kerkovius ($35,000). Kubin's watercolor, Das Seegespenst (The Sea Monster) (ca. 1902-03), was bought by Austrian collector Rudolf Leopold, founder of the Leopold Museum in Austria, for about $310,000, well over its high estimate of ca. $50,000.
The general sale of German and Austrian art also saw some good prices. Top lot was Ernst Ludwig Kirchner's Rote Akte (Red Nudes), which sold for about $3.4 million (est. ca. $2.5 million-$3.5 million). New auction records were set with Lovis Corinth (ca. $1.2 million) and Karl Hubbuch (ca. $267,000).
Among the disappointments were two works by Oskar Kokoschka, which were bought in -- Portrait of Professor Leo Kesterberg (1926-27) (est. ca. $390,000-$546,000) and Still Life with Fruit and Jug (1931) (est. ca. $150,000-$235,000). His works did better during the Beck's day sale where a double-sided drawing titled Männlicher Akt sold for just over $28,000, more than double its presale high estimate.