Sotheby’s London Solid Impressionist and Moderns Night

Alfred Kubin, Epidemie (Epidemic)

Anchored by a small handful of world class offerings, Sotheby’s London delivered a solid yet compact evening sale of Impressionist & Modern art that realized £98.9/$124.3 million.

Only two of the 24 lots offered failed to sell for a svelte buy-in rate by lot of eight percent.

The tally exceeded the low end of pre-sale expectations pegged at £87.5-126.3/$111.3-160.6 million and bettered last June’s result by 13 percent.

Two artist records were set, including a haunting Alfred Kubin work on paper that was restituted property long harbored in a Munich museum and originally belonging to a Viennese couple.

All prices reported include the hammer price plus the tacked on buyer’s premium for each lot sold and calculated at 25 percent of the hammer price up to and including £300,000, 20 percent for any amount above that, up to and including £3 million and 13.9 percent for anything above that.

Estimates do not include the buyer’s premium.

Seven lots were backed by so-called irrevocable (aka third party) bids, assuring they would sell no matter what transpired during the auction. It represented a chunky and combined low estimate of £45.5 million, close to half of the evening’s tally.

Sotheby’s result easily vanquished arch rival Christie’s same category sale on Tuesday evening that delivered an anemic £36.4/$45.6 million and a flabbier buy-in rate of 23 percent including the failure of the rare to market Fernand Leger cover lot to sell (unpublished estimate in excess of £25 million).

The brief evening showed promise early on with Alfred Kubin’s morbidly convincing “Epidernie (Epidemic)” from circa 1900-1901, featuring a giant, spider like creature infecting a secluded village in winter, that sold to an online bidder for a record £963,000/$1.2 million.

It easily eclipsed the previous mark set by “Der Mensch (The Man)” from c. 1903-05 that sold at Sotheby’s London in February 2014 for £272,500/$445,334.

Amedeo Modigliani, Jeune homme assis, les mains croisées sur les genoux, 1918, oil on canvas (est. £16,000,000-24,000,000)

The price points shot skyward with Amedeo Modigliani’s touching yet power packed seated portrait of a boy, “Jeune homme assis, les mains croisees sur les genoux” from 1918, a time when the artist was living on the French Riviera and painting portraits of ordinary folks from the local population.

Pink cheeked and patiently seated, the boy clasps his hands on his lap, seemingly waiting for the masterpiece to be completed. It sold to an otherwise anonymous telephone bidder for £18.4/$24.2 million (est. £16-24 million).

Both underbidders were also competing on the telephone.

It came to market without any guarantee, so represents an accurate gauge of Modigliani pricing.

The sellers are heirs of the family that acquired the work in 1927 from Leopold Zborowski, Modigliani’s Paris dealer.

A majestic and busy Parisian street scene by Camille Pissarro, “Le Boulevard Montmartre, fin de journee” from 1897 and part of storied series of brilliantly observed city life, sold to yet another telephone bidder for a estimate topping £7,145,900/$8,979,538 (est. £3.5-5 million).

It was once a Christmas gift (1928) from Berlin collector Alfred Sommerguth to his wife Gertrud.

Claude Monet, Nymphéas, 1908, oil on canvas (est. £25,000,000-35,000,000)

A square format and medium scaled Claude Monet “Nympheas” from 1908, glowing with the colors of the artist’s water garden at Giverny, didn’t elicit much paddle waving action and sold to the telephone, presumably to the irrevocable bidder for the evening’s top lot price of £23,731,624/29,821,159 (est. $25-35 million).

For the statistician minded reader, it ranks as the 21st most expensive Monet to sell at auction (according to date provided by Artnet).

Of the four Pablo Picasso paintings on offer, “Homme a la pipe” from 03 November 1968, featuring his mustachioed and long haired musketeer, sold again to the telephone for £7,601,500/$9,552,045 (est. £5.5-7.5 million).

It too came backed by an irrevocable bid.

René Magritte, La magie noire, 1946, oil on canvas (est. £2,500,000-3,500,000)

In a more abstract yet zesty vein, Joan Miro’s “Peinture (L’Air)” from 1938, a color-charged composition with his unmistakable vocabulary of floating shapes and odd creatures, sold to the telephone for £12/$15,079,200 (est. £10-15 million).

It was another irrevocable bid backed entry and last sold at Christie’s New York in November 2010 for $10,330,500.

Of the three Rene Magritte offerings, “La magie noire” from 1946, depicting a two-toned colored female nude standing with a white dove perched on her right shoulder and set against a cloud filled sky, went to another telephone for £4,184,500/$5,258,243 (est. £2.5-3.5 million).

It last sold at Sotheby’s New York in November 2008, shortly after that global financial crash, for $2,098,500).

The next round of London evening sales resumes next Tuesday at Christie’s Post-War and Contemporary Art auction.

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