Picasso’s Concubine Boosts Christie’s Record $289 Million Sale

Feb 04, 2014 8:38 pm ET

Feb. 5 (Bloomberg) -- Paintings by Pablo Picasso, Juan Gris and Rene Magritte helped Christie’s International sell 177 million pounds ($289 million) of Impressionist, modern and Surrealist art yesterday, the highest tally ever for a London auction.

The results represented a 35 percent increase from a year ago. Of the 76 offered lots, 86 percent found buyers, the auction house said.

“What mattered in this sale was the provenance of the works of art,” said Daniella Luxembourg, a New York- and London-based dealer who attended. “Many were not on the market for years. Whatever was fresh to the market sold very well.”

The event kicked off two weeks of semiannual auctions in London, the first major test of the art market in 2014. Several of the top lots came from a private Swiss collection, assembled between the early 1920s and the 1970s, whose owners bought or received most pieces directly from the artists, Christie’s said.

Gris’s 1915 “Nature Morte a la Nappe a Carreaux (The Checked Tablecloth)” depicting a newspaper, a guitar and grapes fetched 34.8 million pounds, almost doubling the previous auction record for the Spanish artist. The work was estimated at 12 million to 18 million pounds, the auction house said. The final sale price includes buyer’s premium.

The bidding started at 8 million pounds, quickly turning into a competition between two contenders. The previous record for Gris (1887-1927) was set in 2010 when his 1913 painting of a violin and a guitar sold for $28.6 million at Christie’s in New York.

Mondrian, Miro

Another work from the Swiss collection, Piet Mondrian’s 1930 “Composition No. II With Blue and Yellow,” fetched 12 million pounds, above the high estimate. Joan Miro’s “L’Oiseau- Nocturne (Nocturnal Bird)” from 1939 went for 2.7 million pounds, above the high estimate of 1.5 million.

Picasso’s 1955 portrait of his lover Jacqueline Roque dressed as an odalisque, or harem concubine, generated 16.9 million pounds, compared with a presale estimate of 15 million to 20 million pounds.

Alberto Giacometti’s bronze sculpture of three small walking men on a platform, consigned by the Museum of Modern Art in New York, went for 9 million pounds, surpassing the high estimate of 8 million pounds. The work, “Trois Hommes qui Marchent I,” was cast in about 1951. A much larger version of a single walking man sold for 65 million pounds in 2010 at Sotheby’s, then an auction record for any artwork.

Fernand Leger’s 1918 painting “Les Cylindres Colores (The Cylinder Colors)” went for 12.1 million pounds, surging past the high estimate of 7 million pounds. The painting had been previous owned by Louis Carre, a prominent dealer closely associated with the artist, Christie’s said.

Magritte’s Hunters

Magritte’s dark 1928 painting “Les Chasseurs au Bord de la Nuit (The Hunters at the Edge of Night)” fetched 6.6 million pounds, falling within the presale estimate range of 6 million to 9 million pounds.

Disappointments included a 1928 painting by Tamara de Lempicka, “La Chemise Rose II,” depicting a brunette clad in a lacy pink camisole. Estimated at 2.5 million to 3.5 million pounds by the auction house, it failed to sell. A small Picasso still life from 1937 was another casualty.

The auction was truncated after Christie’s withdrew a collection of paintings, drawing, sculptures and collages by Miro. The works, part of the 85-piece trove, “Miro: Seven Decades in His Art,” had been consigned by the Portuguese Republic before a legal dispute spurred the auction house to cancel their sale.

--Editors: Josh Friedman, Anne Reifenberg