A Post-Script Note on Sotheby’s One-Off “Actual Size-A Curated Evening Sale”
Wassily Kandinsky and Joan Miro stole most of the brief market thunder at Sotheby’s £128 million Impressionist & Modern evening sale in London on Wednesday, stealing the limelight from the firm’s 35 lot “Actual Size” one-off sale that immediately preceded that action.
Billed as “a curated evening sale,” the results didn’t match the marketing fanfare with 12 of the 35 petite scaled lots offered failing to sell for a chunky buy-in rate of 34.3 percent and a £20.9/$26.4 million tally.
The result, including fees, barely hurdled the £19.3-27.9/$24.9-36.1 million pre-sale estimate, figures that don’t include the tacked on buyer’s premium for each lot sold.
Of the Post-War offerings, Lucian Freud’s tiny but luscious, 4 by 4 ¾ inch “Strawberries’ in oil on copper from circa 1950 made £1,208,750/$1,524,11 (est. £550-750,000) while the lone and strangely out of place Old Master lot by the 17th century Belgian master, Ambrosius Bosschaert the Elder’s “Still Life with Flowers,” also in oil on copper at 9 1/8 by 7 1/8 inches, brought a top lot and fragrant £2,971,250/$3,746,449.
The Freud last sold at auction at Sotheby’s London in October 2001 for £69,500.
The big casualty of the evening was Paul Cezanne’s rare to market watercolor and pencil on paper, “Baigneuses, La Montagne Sainte Victorie au fond” from circa 1902-06 that failed to elicit any bids against the ambitious £4-6/$5.18-7.7 million estimate.
The richly provenanced work, once owned by Robert von Hirsch, last sold at Sotheby’s London’s storied British Rail Pension Fund auction in April 1989 for a then toppy £440,000.
Of the eight Pablo Picasso offerings, six found new homes, led by the wide-eyed [lot 17] “Buste de femme couchee” from August 1970 in colored chalk and pencil on cardboard and measuring 8 7/8 by 10 7/8 inches that sold for an estimate busting £2,408,750/$3,037,193 (est. £700-900,000).
It seems clear from the overall result that Sotheby’s tried hard to bulk up its lone evening Impressionist & Modern sale of just 23 lots with a tasty tray of appetizers but the appetite appeared rather fickle.