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Art Market Watch
Feb. 3, 2006 

The auction action in Impressionist, modern and contemporary shifts to the U.K. in February, as Sotheby's and Christie's hold a week-long series of winter sales at their London salesrooms. With the ever-expanding market, it's no surprise that the values are at record levels.

Christie's London kicks off the action on Feb. 6 with an auction of German and Austrian art, Impressionist and modern art and Surrealist art, all rolled into one evening sale (Sotheby's follows with the same arrangement on Feb. 7). The sale is estimated to realize in excess of £46,000,000.

Highlights are Chaim Soutine's Le Boeuf écorché (ca. 1924) (est. £100,000-£150,000), which is one of a series of works inspired by Rembrandt's painting of a beef carcass, and Camille Pissarro's bustling and light-filled river scene, La Seine à Bougival (1871) (est. £2,000,000-£3,000,000),

The Expressionist section of the sale features a newly discovered Berlin café scene from 1915 by George Grosz, one of the artist's first oil paintings, estimated at £400,000-£600,000.

Among the star Surrealist lots are Giorgio de Chirico's metaphysical portrait of two herring, The Sacred Fish (1919) (est. £1,100,000-£1,500,000) and Salvador Dalí's portrait of his wife Gala as Galatea (1954-56) (est. £800,000-£1,200,000).

Among the top lots in the contemporary auction at Christie's London on Feb. 8 is a Study from Portrait of Pope Innocent X by Velazquez by Francis Bacon, which dates from 1959 and is estimated at £5,000,000, and Lucian Freud's Man in a String Chair (1988-89), estimated at £3,000,000-£4,000,000. Another interesting lot is Georg Baselitz's Ein Roter, a Neo-Ex painting of a forlorn hero in a postwar landscape done in1966 (est. £500,000-£700,000).

Christie's contemporary offerings also include art from the collection of the late Miss Valerie Beston, who worked as personal assistant to Francis Bacon, Frank Auerbach and other artists of the London School, and who received most of the works as gifts. The top lot of this group is a 1969 self-portrait by Bacon estimated at £1,400,000-£1,800,000.

Other notable lots in the evening sale of contemporary art at Christie's London is a digital video diptych by Bill Viola (est. £120,000-£180,000) and Arman's Antoine et Cleopatre (1966), a broken cello on a panel (est. £70,000-£100,000).

Sotheby's London sale of Impressionist and modern art on Feb. 7-8, 2006, boasts as its top lot Deux Femmes, a Tahitian-period painting by Paul Gauguin, estimated at £11 million-£14 million. The auction also includes a monumental, post-war era painting by Joan Miró estimated at £4,500,000-£6,500,000.

In addition the sale features a group of eight paintings by Edvard Munch from the collection of Norwegian shipping heir Thomas Olsen (1897-1969). Among the offerings are the friezelike Summer Day (1904) (est. £2,500,000-£3,500,000) and the brooding Self-portrait in Front of Two-colored Background (1904) (est. £2,000,000-£3,000,000).

The evening auction on Feb. 7 kicks things off with a selection of Expressionist art, including a group of ten works by Egon Schiele from a private European collection -- notably the kneeling, half-dressed nude, Kniender Halbakt (1911) (est. £750,000-£1,000,000) -- and ends with a sale of Surrealism.

Sotheby's London sale of contemporary art on Feb. 9-10 features several works by School of London artists, including a 1996 portrait of Bruce Bernard (Seated) by Lucian Freud (est. £2,000,000-£3,000,000). The evening sale also features paintings by Franz Ackermann (est. £100,000-£150,000), Wilhelm Sasnal (est. £18,000-£25,000), Albert Oehlen (est. £70,000-£100,000), Thomas Scheibitz (est. £55,000-£75,000) and Keith Tyson (est. £40,000-£60,000).

For a complete preview, see Artnet's signature Fine Art Auctions Report.

The Metropolitan Museum of Art is making some room in its stacks, and not just by sending ancient art treasures back to Italy. The Met is selling ca. 130 photographs at Sotheby's New York on Feb. 14-15, 2006, a vast deaccession that was apparently sparked by the museum's recent acquisition of the 8,500-item Gilman Paper Company collection, which contains many duplicates that can be sold off. The sale is expected to realize $4,000,000-$6,000,000.

Among the top lots in the sale are Edward Steichen's 1904 gum bichromate print of The Pond-Moonlight (est. $700,000-$1,000,000), one of only three known prints of this image (the others are at the Met, of course, and the Museum of Modern Art), and his 1908 photo of Auguste Rodin's sculpture of Balzac by moonlight, called Balzac-The Open Sky (est. $500,000-$700,000). The sale includes several photographs of Georgia O'Keeffe by Alfred Stieglitz, notably his 1919 palladium print of her Hands (est. $300,000-$500,000) and the voluptuous Georgia O'Keeffe Nude, also from 1919 (est. $300,000-$500,000).

Other photographers in the sale (and the estimates for their top works) include Dora Maar (est. $100,000-$150,000), Paul Outerbridge (est $100,000-$150,000) and Alvin Langdon Coburn (est. $100,000-$150,000). 

For a complete, illustrated catalogue of the auction, see Artnet's signature Fine Art Auctions Report.

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