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ART MARKET WATCH
Feb. 6, 2008 

GOOD I&M NUMBERS IN LONDON
Is the art market flagging in the face of impending global recession? Not according to the results at Christie’s London and Sotheby’s London, which both posted good numbers for sales of Impressionist and modern art this week.

Christie’s London evening sale on Feb. 4, 2008, including "The Art of the Surreal," totaled £105,372,000 ($207,372, 096), with 100 of 131 lots finding buyers, or 76 percent. The sum was the second highest total for any art auction in Europe, according to Christie’s. As might be expected with the depressed dollar, 83 percent of the buyers came from Europe and the U.K.

Prices given here include the auction premium of 25 percent of the first £10,000, 20 percent of the remainder up to £250,000, and 12 percent of the rest.

Top lot was Pablo Picasso’s Femme au chapeau (1938), a much-reproduced portrait of Dora Maar that was originally in the Marina Picasso Collection, which sold for £5,732,500 ($11,281,560), well above its presale estimate of £2,500,000-£3,500,000. The buff-toned portrait is almost classically serene, an anomaly for the Surrealist photographer who first caught Picasso’s attention by playing "five-finger fillet" in a café and later became his signature "Weeping Woman."

The second highest price was paid for Kees Van Dongen’s 1910 L’Ouled Naïl, a portrait of an exotic Algerian dancer in a white headdress and necklace of red coral and golden bangles, which sold for £5,620,500 ($11,061,144), again well above the presale estimate of £2,000,000-£3,000,000, and a new auction record for the artist.

The van Dongen was one of nine works sold by the newly formed Maurice and Vivienne Wohl Philanthropic Foundation, which raised a total of £11,683,000. A London real estate tycoon who died at age 90 in 2007, Wohl (with his wife Vivienne, who died in 2005) was a patron of medical and other causes in London and in Israel.

Christie’s London also set a new auction record for Karl Schmidt-Rottluff, whose Akte im Freien (Drei badende Frauen), an Expressionist painting of three brightly colored nudes among swirling greenery from 1913, sold for £3,044,500 ($5,991,576). Auction records were also set for a painting by Max Ernst (£1,196,500) and a work by Gabriele Münter (£535,700).

Another profitable seller was the Neue Galerie in New York, which has apparently been pruning its collection to help pay for its 2006 purchase of the $135 million Gustav Klimt portrait of his lover, Adele Bloch-Bauer. The Neue consigned no fewer than eight works by Egon Schiele, which totaled £11,659,000 ($22,944,912). The top lot was the 1910 gouache titled Mutter und Kind, one of the artist’s first treatments of the enduring theme, which sold for £2,932,500 (£5,832,338). The buyer was London art dealer Richard Nagy, according to the Baer Faxt.

Sotheby’s London also did record business at its sale of Impressionist and modern art on Feb. 5, 2008, which totaled £116,699,900 ($230,517,312), with 67 of 76 lots finding buyers, or more than 88 percent. The total is a new record for Sotheby’s in Europe. According to the auction house, 67 percent of the buyers came from Europe, 15 percent from Russia and 13 percent from the U.S.

The top lot was Franz Marc’s Grazing Horses III (1910), which sold for £12,340,500 ($24,543,556), well above the presale high estimate of £8,000,000 and a new auction record for the artist. The picture is said to be the only example of the artist’s iconic paintings of horses still in private hands; other works in the series are at the Busch-Reisinger Museum at Harvard University and the Städtische Galerie im Lenbachhaus in Munich. The buyer is said to be an unnamed European collector.

A record was also set for Alexej von Jawlensky, whose portrait of Schokko with a Wide-brimmed Hat -- his model was nicknamed "Schokko" because of her taste for hot chocolate -- sold for £9,428,500 ($18,624,116), more than double the presale high estimate of £8,500,000. The work had sold at auction in New York in 2003 for about that price, and was sold here by the anonymous owner.

For complete, illustrated results, see Artnet’s signature Fine Arts Auctions Report


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