Zao Wou-Ki (1920 - 2013), 1

Zao Wou-Ki (1920 - 2013), 1.5.60 5.5.60, installation view. Photo Sotheby's

PARIS.- Sotheby’s France, which has been staging contemporary art sales in France for ten years, registered a total of €28.4 million ($31.8 million) yesterday and today, beating the previous record for a sale in this category in France. The evening sale posted a total of €24.1 million ($26.6 million), with 94% of lots sold and an average lot price of €780,000 ($872.000). 31 of the 33 lots offered at this session found takers, and the bidders included collectors from 17 countries. It was followed by the daytime sale, which totalled €4.2 million ($4.7 million). 

According to Stefano Moreni, Head of the Contemporary Art department at Sotheby’s France: "Choosing the Paris marketplace to sell artists of international scope was a gamble that paid off handsomely, proving that top prices for major contemporary works can be achieved in Paris." 

The big stir at the event was the first-time auction of two masterpieces by Zao Wou-Ki, painted just four days apart in 1960, the master's most magnificent year. These two pictures form pendants that echo each other, with the lagoon blues of 5.5.60 (lot 8, which at €2,723,000 ($3.001.890) largely exceeded its estimate of €1,400,000-2,000,000, responding to the golden yellows of 1.5.60, which at €3,843,000 ($4.236.600) beat the artist's record in France (lot 9, estimate: €1,200,000-1,800,000). 

Zao Wou-Ki (1920 - 2013), 1

Zao Wou-Ki (1920 - 2013), 1.5.60, signé, signé en chinois; signé, signé en chinois, titré, daté 1.5.60 et dédicacé au dos, huile sur toile, 100 x 81 cm; 39 3/8 x 31 7/8 in. Exécuté en 1960Estimate 1,200,000 — 1,800,000 €. Sold for:  3,843,000 €. Photo Sotheby's

Zao Wou-Ki (1920 - 2013), 5

 

Zao Wou-Ki (1920 - 2013), 5.5.60, signé, signé en chinois; signé, signé en chinois, titré, daté 5.5.60 et dédicacé au dos, huile sur toile, 100 x 81 cm; 39 3/8 x 31 7/8 in. Exécuté en 1960Estimate 1,400,000 — 2,000,000 €. Sold for:  2,723,000  €. Photo Sotheby's

Another masterpiece acclaimed by collectors was a vibrant Mariale by Simon Hantaï from one of the artist's most sought-after series, of which there are only 27 works. At €2,555,000 ($2.816.683), Mariale (M.C.5), 1962, equalled his world record (lot 5, estimate: €1,500,000-2,000,000) achieved in 2013 at Sotheby’s Paris for a painting from the same series (€2.56 million). 

Simon Hantaï, m

Simon Hantaï, m.c.5 (Mariale). Titled and dated 1962; signed, titled and dated 1962 on the reverse. Oil on canvas, executed in 1962, 220 x 210 cm; 86 5/8 x 82 11/16 in. Estimate: 1,500,000 — 2,000,000 €. Sold for:2,555,000  €. Photo Sotheby's

Collectors were enraptured by the staggering modernity of Jean Dubuffet's L’Homme au Plastron Bleu painted in 1944, which at €1,563,000 ($1.783.082) more than doubled its high estimate of €650,000 (lot 3). This work is remarkable as one of Dubuffet's rare portraits of this period, and dates from the 1940s. The painting had been carefully preserved in the Jerome H. Stone collection in the USA since 1967. 

Jean Dubuffet (1901 - 1985), L’Homme au Plastron Bleu

Jean Dubuffet (1901 - 1985), L’Homme au Plastron Bleu, signé et daté IV 44, huile sur masonite, 61 x 50,5 cm; 32 x 19 7/8 in. Exécuté en avril 1944. Estimate: 450,000 — 650,000 €Sold for:1,563,000 . Photo Sotheby's

Nomade aux traces de pas dans le sable by Jean Dubuffet led to an impressive bidding battle, and at €2,163,000 ($2.384.534) garnered the artist's highest price since 1990 (lot 7, estimate: €1,400,000-1,800,000). This result beat the one achieved by Sotheby’s France in June 2013 (Les riches fruits de l’erreur, 1963, €1.6 million). Produced in 1948, the subject of this work is the desert, one of the chief sources of inspiration for the celebrated "Clowns du désert" series. The artist only painted eighteen pictures in this series; seven of them are now in international museums. 

Jean Dubuffet (1901 - 1985), Nomade aux traces de pas dans le sable, 1948

Jean Dubuffet (1901 - 1985), Nomade aux traces de pas dans le sable, signé, inscrit et daté 48, huile sur toile, 92,1 x 73,3 cm; 36 1/4 x 28 7/8 in. Exécuté en 1948. Estimate: 1,400,000 — 1,800,000 €Sold for:2,163,000 . Photo Sotheby's

Three records in France were obtained by artists who appear rarely in the French market: 

• Zao Wou-Ki, 1.5.60, 1960 – €3.843.000/ $4.236.600 (lot 9, estimate: €1,200,000-1,800,000) 
• Lee Ufan, From Line No. 790188, 1979 – €579,000/ $638.031 (lot 14, estimate: €300,000-400,000) 
• On Kawara, July 5, 1978 – €387,000 / $ 426.637 (lot 12, estimate: €200,000-300,000) 

* Estimates do not include the buyer's premium; prices include the hammer price and buyer's premium