Christie's Delivers Unimpressive £36.4m London Impressionist and Modern Art Sale, With Two Blockbuster Paintings Failed to Sell

Starting the London sale week is Christie's Impressionist and Modern Art Evening sale. Out of 34 lots offered, three were withdrawn before the sale and 7 went unsold. Amongst the three top lots, only Homme et femme nus by Pablo Picasso (1881-1973) was sold. The painting became the leading lot of the sale, contributing £12.5m (US$15.6m) to a sale total of  £36.4m (US$45.6m). Yet, the number still fell short of the pre-sale estimate of £64.2m to £89.8m (US$80.6m-112.8m).

Egon Schiele's Liegender Mädchenakt sold for £1.27m 

The start of the sale seemed promising as the first lot– Egon Schiele's (1890 - 1918) Liegender Mädchenakt, was hammered down at £1.05m (£1.27m with premium), against its estimate of merely £200,000 - 300,000. However, the success of Schiele's piece did not seem to elicit excitement from the bidders.

Henri Matisse's Odalisque painting Le collier d’ambre, estimated at £5m - 8m, failed to sell

Henri Matisse (1869-1954)'s Odalisque painting Le collier d’ambre was originally one of the top three lots. Yet, there was a lack of interest in the painting and it failed to reach its low estimate of £5m. A source revealed that the painting might have been poorly cared for when looted by the Nazis and it was "over-restored" during its time in the Paul Rosenberg family after it was restituted, resulting in the lack of enthusiasm for the piece.

Pablo Picasso's Homme et femme nus realised £12.5m 

Another highlight following Matisse's painting to go on the auction stage was Pablo Picasso's Homme et femme nus. The painting, a late work by Picasso, fetched a hammer price of £10.8m and realised £12.5m with buyer's premium. Although sold at a price just slightly higher than its pre-sale low estimate, this Picasso's work accounted for over one-third of the sale total and became the leading lot. It was sold to a client represented by Christie's Asia chairwoman, Rebecca Wei. 

Fernand Léger's Femme dans un fauteuil, originally the top lot of the sale, remained unsold

The "hoped-to-be" star lot of the sale- Fernand Léger's (1881-1955) Femme dans un fauteuil, was also bought-in. The auction house offered the piece with an unpublished estimate of £25m. This dealt a crushing blow to the sale total.

With only 24 lots sold, 11 were hammered down for prices at or below their pre-sale low estimates. The sale delivered a sell-through rate of 77%. We will be keeping our eyes on Sotheby's Impressionist and modern art evening sale tomorrow, which is expected to be led by a 1908 Nymphéas painting by Monet that carries an estimate of £25m - 35m (US$31.9m - 44.6m). For more details about the painting, check out Monet’s 1908 Nymphéas Painting to Make Auction Debut at Sotheby’s Impressionist and Modern Art Evening Sale

Top three lots

Pablo Picasso (1881-1973). Homme et femme nus

Lot no.: 6
Created in: 1968 
Size: 162 x 129.8 cm

  • Galerie Louise Leiris (Daniel-Henri Kahnweiler), Paris (no. 012899).
  • Heinz Berggruen, Paris. 
  • Pace Gallery, New York (no. 4095), by whom acquired from the above. 
  • Acquired from the above by the present owner, in 1973.

Estimate: £10,000,000 - 15,000,000
Hammer price: £10,800,000 
Price realised: £12,464,250

Yves Tanguy (1900-1955). L’Extinction des espèces II 

Lot no.: 14
Created in: 1938
Size: 92 x 73 cm

  • Pierre Matisse Gallery, New York (no. ST. 999), by 1940.
  • Patricia K. Matisse, New York, between 1955 and 1963.
  • Pierre Matisse, New York, by descent from the above, in 1972.
  • Maria-Gaetana 'Tana' Matisse, by descent from the above, in 1989 until 2001.
  • The Pierre & Tana Matisse Foundation Collection, New York, by descent from the above.
  • Blain Di Donna, New York.
  • Acquired from the above, on 6 December 2012.

Estimate: £2,500,000 - 4,000,000
Hammer price: £2,600,000 
Price realised: £3,131,250

Paul Signac (1863-1935). Venise. Le Rédempteur

Lot no.: 28
Created in: 1908
Size: 65.1 x 80.6 cm

  • Galerie Bernheim-Jeune, Paris (no. 16846), by whom acquired directly from the artist, until at least 1914. 
  • Van Beuningen collection, Rotterdam & Switzerland, by 1914, and thence by descent, until at least 1982. 
  • Galerie Ivo Bouwman, The Hague, by 1985.
  • Ann Kendall Richards, Inc., New York.
  • Acquired from the above by the family of the present owners, on 17 July 1985

Estimate: £2,200,000 - 4,000,000
Hammer price: £1,900,000 
Price realised: £2,291,250

Top lots that failed to sell

Fernand Léger (1881-1955). Femme dans un fauteuil

Lot no.: 8
Created in: 1913
Size: 81 x 100 cm

  • Galerie Kahnweiler, Paris. 
  • Galerie Louise Leiris, Paris. 
  • Louis Carré Gallery, New York. 
  • Saidenberg Gallery, New York. 
  • Sidney Janis Gallery, New York (no. 8857). 
  • Richard Feigen Gallery, New York (no. 15430-D).
  • Private collection, France. 
  • Galerie Beyeler, Basel (no. 7831), by whom acquired from the above, on 29 June 1973. 
  • Acquired from the above by the present owner, in March 1974.

Estimate on request (with an unpublished estimate of £25m)

Henri Matisse (1869-1954). Le collier d’ambre

Lot no.: 5
Created in: 1937
Size: 61.7 x 45.4 cm

  • Paul Rosenberg & Co., Paris & Bordeaux, by 1937. 
  • Seized from the National Bank of Commerce and Industry, Libourne, on 28 April 1941.
  • Transferred by order of the Devisenschutzkommando to the Jeu de Paume, Paris, on 5 September 1941.
  • Included in Exchange #18 between the Einstatzstab Reichsleiter Rosenberg and Gustav Rochlitz, on 21 May 1942.
  • Sold by Gustav Rochlitz to Isidor Rosner, Paris.
  • M. Nicolas Karjensky, Galerie d’Art Cardo, by whom acquired in 1942.
  • M. Albert Dauré, Perpignan, by whom acquired from the above, until at least 1962.
  • Anonymous sale, Sotheby Parke Bernet, New York, 1 November 1978, lot 50A. 
  • Lefevre Fine Art, London (no. 8585), by whom acquired from the above.
  • Marvin M. Mitchelson, Los Angeles. 
  • Private collection, by 1982.
  • The heirs of Paul Rosenberg.

Estimate: £5,000,000 - 8,000,000 


Auction summary

Auction house: Christie's London
Sale: Impressionist and Modern Art Evening sale 
Date: 18 June 2019
Lots offered: 34
Sold: 24
Unsold: 10
Sale by lots: 71%
Sale total: £36,413,750