Sotheby’s Small But Solid Night

Claude Monet, Le Palais Ducal, oil on canvas, 1908 (est. £20,000,000-30,000,000)

In a small but solid evening led by Claude Monet’s sparkling Venetian scene, Sotheby’s Impressionist and Modern Art and Surrealist sale turned in a £87.7/$115.3 million result.

The tally, including fees, had relatively few casualties, with seven of the 32 lots offered failing to sell, came close to the high end of pre-sale expectations pegged at £62-89.25/$81.3-117 million.

Estimates do not include the buyer’s premium.

Still, the evening was rated far behind last February’s £136/$188.8 million result for the 36 lots that sold, perhaps an indication that sellers are hanging on to high value works for more bullish times.

In fact, it was the lowest result in the category since the dark days of February 2009 when the house realized just £32.5/$46.2 million for the 22 lots sold.

All prices reported include the hammer total plus a buyer’s premium charged for each lot sold and calculated at the new and huskier rate of 25 percent of the hammer price up to and including £300,000, 20 percent of amounts in excess of that, up to and including £3 million and 13.9 percent of any amounts in excess of £3 million.

Sotheby’s premiums are now higher than both Christie’s and Phillips.

Seven works, including the top lot Claude Monet, were backed by guarantees or in auction parlance, irrevocable bids.

Alberto Giacometti, Tête de Femme (Annette), oil on canvas, 1959 (est. £1,800,000-2,500,000)

The evening got off to a strong start with Alberto Giacometti’s somber, painted portrait in oil on canvas, “Tete de Femme (Annette)” from 1959 bringing an estimate busting £3,255,000/$4,279,674 (est. £1.8-2.5 million) and Oskar Schlemmer’s Bauhaus era composition, “Tischgesellschaft (Group at Table),” sourced from the collection of Dr. Erika Pohl-Stroher, run to a record £2,595,000/$3,411,906 (est. £1-1.5 million).

In that same overachieving vein, Francis Picabia’s sultry portrait from his storied ‘Transparence’ series of layered images, “Atrata” from circa 1929 and executed in oil and pencil on panel, made £3,728,900/$4,902,758 (est. £1.5-2 million).

Though it nailed the top lot, Claude Monet’s irrevocable bid backed “Le Palais Ducal” from 1908 and replete with the shimmering light of Venice, appeared to garner little auction heat and sold for £27,534,000/$36,201,703.

A same titled though smaller version from the celebrated series sold for $23.1 million at Sotheby’s New York in May 2015. Size matters.

Egon Schiele, Triestiner Fischerboot (Trieste Fishing Boat), oil and pencil on canvas, painted in 1912, 75 by 75cm (est. £6,000,000 – 8,000,000)

Another high achiever, both in price and estimate trumping was Egon Schiele’s surprising yet boldly colored subject matter, “Triestiner Fischerboot (Trieste Fishing Boat)” from 1912 that sailed to £10,676,800/$14,037,857 (est. £6-8 million).

It was acquired by the anonymous seller in 1962 from New York’s Galerie St. Etienne, a gallery specializing in Schiele and German/Austrian expressionists, so it carried unassailable, fresh to market credibility.

It was also backed by an irrevocable bid.

Wassily Kandinsky, Vertiefte Regung (Deepened Impulse), oil on canvas, 1928 (est. £5,500,000- 7,500,000)

Another financially backed painting where the s backer receives a financing fee for the trouble,  Wassily Kandinsky’s richly patterned abstraction, “Vertiefte Regung (Deepened Impulse)” from February 1928 and executed in oil on canvas, went for £6,093,800/$8,0122,128 (est. £5.5-7.5 million).

It last sold at Sotheby’s New York in November 2015 to international dealer David Nahmad for $6,410,000.

On the increasingly rare to source Surrealist front, Rene Magritte’s mysterious image, L’Etoile du Matin” from 1938, depicting a side view of a Native American chief in feathered headdress and a smaller profile of a woman embedded in the headdress, made £5,323,500/$6,999,338 (est. £3.5-4.5 million).

It was acquired, and impressively so, by the family of the current seller directly from the artist in 1938.

The evening action resumes with Christie’s same category sale later this evening (the 27th).

René Magritte, L’étoile du matin, oil on canvas , 1938 (est. £3,500,000-4,500,000)

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