Galleries - March 2016

The first major auction sales of the year were held in London during February and achieved very mixed fortunes for the three big auction houses. The Impressionist and Modern Sales suffered from the lack of museum quality works but the Surrealists showed strength and depth with record prices for Dali, Picabia, Man Ray and Delvaux’s ‘Le Miroir’, which was previously set in 1999, all achieved by Sotheby’s. Also dominant were works by René Magritte which continue to sell positively. Those artists in demand from this group were Oscar Dominguez and Wilfredo Lam in particular, who gained much deserved attention from his recent retrospective at the Pompidou. Christie’s fared less well with their Sales which totalled £117 million as opposed to Sotheby’s £126 million, but both sold strongly with their dedicated Picasso Sales. The former achieved 100 per cent sales with their Ceramics and the latter with Drawings & Ceramics from Marina Picasso’s collection, sold possibly as a result of her very public and acrimonious relation- ship with her late grandfather. It would seem that those third level Post Impressionists such as Dufy, Vlaminck, Utrillo and Le Sidaner have moved solidly into the second division with excellent results for the best quality paintings. This trend may well be the result of the absence of top quality works by the premier artists but it was a delight to see a wonderful small jewel like Sisley’s ‘Le Petit Bougival’ of 1874 selling for £434,500 at Bonhams. Their afternoon sale with relatively fewer lots had some fine works and though the 1917 Balla failed, they achieved a world record for a large Rodin bronze, ‘Eternel printemps, second état’, sold for £780,000. Other highlights included £200,000 for a fine Raoul Dufy, £217,000 for a rare 1932 Kupka and £75,000 for a Max Liebermann pastel, yet another artist on the move and becoming more sought-after. Week two of the Post-War and Contemporary Sales started poorly for Sotheby’s with the withdrawal of a large fabulous 1990 Richter, estimated at £14 to £20 million. But they recovered well with sensational prices for a number of high quality rare works. A stunning Alberto Burri of 1959 fetched an eye watering £9.1 million, double the previous record, and an astonishing large painting of Sunflowers by the young Romanian artist Adrian Ghenie was sold for £2.65 million. A fine Lucian Freud, ‘Pregnant Girl’, sold for £16.1 million and works by Basquiat, Warhol, Fontana and Richard Prince achieved good solid prices. Sotheby’s total for the week was a respectable £85.7 million, with a grand total for the fortnight of £212 million. With the exception of Ai Weiwei there were hardly any Chinese artists represented throughout the week, but in contrast there were many Japanese household names including a large canvas by Kazuo Shiraga, sold by Sotheby’s for an impressive £1.3 million. Another Shiraga, ‘Red Fan’ 1965, sold at Bonhams for a gratifying £1.3 million but the sensation in their quality sale was £2 million achieved for Frank Auerbach’s ‘EOW on her Blue Eiderdown’ of 1963, a world record for a figure work. Christie’s again fared less well with a total of £58 million for the week but there were many successes. Peter Doig’s ‘The Architect’s Home in the Ravine’ realised over £11 million, having been originally sold in 2002 for £280,000!There were good prices for works by Hockney, Bacon and Freud with two portraits of his daughters. Records were achieved for Joseph Beuys of £854,500, surprisingly low one would have thought, and for Robert Mangold of £746,500. An interesting fortnight with solid results but speculative selections saw the Zero Group, Arte Povera and Zeitgeist ascending and the School of Paris and Chinese Contemporaries in decline. WJ C ontributors Nicholas Usherwood, Paul Hooper William Jackson Peaks, troughs, trends MARCH 2016 GALLERIES 11