LONDON.- Sotheby’s Evening Sales of Impressionist & Modern Art and Actual Size at Sotheby’s London totalled a combined £148,877,000 / $187,719,009 (est. £129.9-170.5m). The total for the Impressionist & Modern Art Evening Sale represented an increase of 24% over the equivalent auction last year.
The auction record for Wassily Kandinsky was broken twice in the space of six lots. First to go under the hammer was Murnau – Landschaft mit grünem Haus from 1909, which sold for £21 million / $26.4 million / €23.9 million. One of the finest early works by Kandinsky left in private hands, this painting made its auction debut having remained in the private collection of the same family since the 1920s. A major Expressionist painting of blazing colour, it captures the moment of transition in the artist’s career when he was on the cusp of moving from figuration to abstraction. That record was broken minutes later by Kandinsky’s powerful abstract masterpiece Bild mit weissen Linien from 1913, which was driven by a prolonged bidding battle to £33 million / $41.6 million / €37.6 million. A profoundly important work that hails from a landmark moment that fundamentally changed the way art was conceived and understood, it reveals the artist’s discovery that colour could become the principal subject of a painting. Virtually all of the significant paintings of 1913 are in major museum collections, and this work was appearing on the open market for the first time. Together with 4 Figuren auf 3 Quadraten from 1943, a late work illustrating Kandinsky’s interest in tribal iconography and geometry, the total achieved for Kandinsky tonight was £54.4 million / $68.6 million.
Lot 47. Wassily Kandinsky (1866 - 1944), Murnau – Landschaft mit grünem Haus (Murnau - Landscape with Green House), signed Kandinsky and dated 1909 (lower right); signed Kandinsky on the reverse; signed Kandinsky, titled and numbered no. 79 on the backboard, oil on board, 70 by 96cm. Painted in 1909. Estimate £15,000,000 — 25,000,000. Sold for £20,971,250 / $26,442,649 / €23,882,019. Photo: Sotheby's
Lot 53. Wassily Kandinsky (1866 - 1944), Bild mit weissen Linien (Painting with White Lines), signed Kandinsky and dated 1913 (lower left); signed Kandinsky, titled, dated 1913 and inscribed No. 178 on the stretcher, oil on canvas, 119.5 by 110cm. Painted in October 1913. Estimate Upon Request. Lot sold £33,008,750 / $41.6 million / €37.6 million. Photo: Sotheby's
Lot 44. Wassily Kandinsky (1866 - 1944), 4 Figuren auf 3 Quadraten (4 Figures on 3 Squares), signed Kandinsky and dated 1913 (lower left); signed Kandinsky, titled, dated 1913 and inscribed No. 178 on the stretcher, oil on canvas, 119.5 by 110cm. Painted in October 1913. Estimate 450,000 — 650,000. Lot sold £464,750 / $586,003 / €529,256. Photo: Sotheby's
Another major auction benchmark was set by Joan Miró’s Femme et oiseaux, which sold for £24.6 million / $31 million / €28 million – a new record for the artist in sterling. This price also marks the third highest result for a work on paper by a Western artist*. A mesmerising example of Miró’s celebrated lyricism and freedom of expression during WWII, the work is the eighth of the extraordinary series of twenty-three Constellations - one of the most significant bodies of work by any 20th century artist. Offered at auction for the first time in 30 years, it was the first of the Constellations to appear on the open market since an auction at Sotheby’s in 2001. The previous record for Miró was set for Peinture (Étoile Bleue), which sold at Sotheby’s London in 2012 for £23.6 million / $37.1 million.
Lot 45. Joan Miró (1893 - 1983), Femme et oiseaux, signed Miró (lower left); signed Joan Miró, titled and dated Varengeville s/mer 13/IV/1940 on the reverse, gouache and oil wash on paper, 38 by 46cm. Executed in Varengeville-sur-Mer on 13th April 1940. Estimate Upon Request. Lot sold for £24,571,250 / $31 million / €28 million – a new record for the artist in sterling. Photo: Sotheby's.
The strong results for sculpture seen in the May New York sales continued tonight, led by Alberto Giacometti’s Grande figure (1947), a unique cast that fetched £17.9 million / $22.6 million / €20.4 million. A further sculpture by the artist, Femme debout sans bras from 1958, was competed for by four bidders to bring £2.2 million / $2.7 million (est. £700,000-1,000,000).
Lot 57. Alberto Giacometti (1901 - 1966), Grande figure, inscribed A. Giacometti, dated 1947 and with the foundry mark Alexis Rudier Fondeur, Paris, bronze, height: 130.3cm. Executed in plaster in 1947, this unique bronze was cast by the Alexis Rudier foundry in Paris in 1948. Estimate £15,000,000 — 25,000,000. Lot sold £17,933,750 / $22,612,665 / €20,422,920. Photo: Sotheby's.
Lot 42. Alberto Giacometti (1901 - 1966), Femme debout sans bras, inscribed A. Giacometti, numbered 5/6 and with the foundry mark Susse Fondr Paris; numbered 5/6 on the underside, bronze, height: 32cm. Conceived in 1956 and cast in bronze in an edition of 6. The present example was cast by Susse Fondeur in 1958. Estimate £700,000 — 1,000,000. Lot sold £2,168,750 / $2,734,577 / €2,469,768. Photo: Sotheby's.
Further notable prices across the sales included a record established for a work by Théo van Ryssleberghe, as L’Escaut en amont d’Anvers (1892) sold for £8.5 million / $10.7 million (est. £7 10m), along with a record in sterling for a work on paper by Paul Klee, as Salon Tunisien sold for £2 million / $2.6 million (est. £1.5-2m).
Lot 59. Théo van Ryssleberghe (1862 - 1926), L’Escaut en amont d’Anvers, signed with the monogram and dated 1892 (lower right), oil on canvas in the artist's original frame, 66.7 by 90.5cm. Painted in 1892. Estimate £7,000,000 — 10,000,000. Lot sold £8,483,750 / $2,734,577 / €2,469,768. Record established for a work by the artist. Photo: Sotheby's.
Lot 48. Paul Klee (1879 - 1940), Salon Tunisien, signed Klee (upper right), watercolour and ink on paper laid down on card, 22.5 by 28.5cm. Executed in 1918. Estimate £1,500,000 — 2,000,000. Lot sold £2,048,750 / $2,583,269 / €2,333,113. Record in sterling for a work on paper by the artist. Photo: Sotheby's.
Helena Newman, Global Co-Head of Sotheby’s Impressionist & Modern Art Department & Chairman of Sotheby’s Europe, said: “To have three landmarks in the development of 20th Century art by Kandinsky, Miró and Giacometti come to the market in a single sale tonight was momentous. These key works stand as turning points in the history of art, and tonight auction history was made when the record for Kandinsky broken not just once but twice and an unprecedented three works sold over £20m in a single London Evening Sale. The strength at the very highest level of the market was echoed across price points – and sizes. Collectors were out in force, participating from a record number of locations around the globe, with the level of Asian buyers as numerous as those from the US, underscoring the enduring importance of London as a key driver of the global art market.”