Sotheby’s Impressionist and Modern Art Sale Fails to Meet Low Estimate

Sotheby’s summer season in London has started off on the wrong foot. Its Impressionist and Modern Art Evening Sale on Thursday realised an unimpressive total of £87.5m (US$115.7m), failing to meet its low presale estimate of £99.7m.

The auction house only sold 26 of all 36 lots offered, 10 of which sold below estimates. The sale was led by Picasso’s portrait of his lover Marie-Thérèse Walter, Buste de femme de profil (Femme écrivant). Guaranteed by a third party, the painting was hammered down at £24m on a single bid. It was very likely sold to the guarantor for £27.3m (premium included), below the estimate of £33m.

The painting was painted in 1932, a pivotal year for the artist. Regarding his career, it was a year in which his paintings reached a new level of sensuality and his celebrity status was further cemented. In his personal life, Picasso, in his fifties, was married to his wife Olga Khokhlova, with whom they have a 11-year-old son, Paulo. At the same time, he was having a passionate love affair with his mistress, Marie-Thérèse Walter, 28 years his junior. The present lot is a portrait depicting his golden muse, Marie-Thérèse Walter.

The wining bid was likely the irrevocable bid 

The second top lot was Alberto Giacometti’s Le Chat, a bronze cat sculpture, last sold at Christie’s New York in 2010. It was offered at Sotheby’s New York this May, expected to fetch US$20m-30m, but was withdrawn before the sale began. This time, it was sold for £12.6m to a leading gallery Hauser & Wirth.

The third top lot was La Méditerranée Par Vent De Mistral, the only Monet’s work that successfully sold at the sale while other three failed to sell. This painting depicting Monet’s dazzling view of the south coast of France was hammered down for £6.2m, below its estimate, and sold for £7.15m (premium included). 

Monet's La Méditerranée Par Vent De Mistral

Monet's Le Port De Zaandam was bought-in|Estimate £3.5m-5m

Monet’s Citrons Sur Une Branche was bought-in|Estimate £2.5m-3.5m

Carrying the third highest estimate of £8m-12m, Joan Miró's Peinture was bought in at last.


Top three lots

Pablo Picasso (1881 - 1973). Buste De Femme De Profil (Femme Écrivant)

Lot no.: 17
Painted on: 1st April 1932
Size: 116.3 x 73.5 cm

  • Galerie Louise Leiris (Daniel-Henry Kahnweiler), Paris (acquired from the artist in 1965)
  • Saidenberg Gallery, New York (acquired from the above)
  • Perls Galleries, New York (acquired from the above)
  • Evelyn Sharp (acquired from the above on 27th April 1965. Sold: Sotheby’s, New York, The Evelyn Sharp Collection of Modern Art, 12th November 1997, lot 26)
  • Private Collection (purchased at the above sale)
  • Private Collection (acquired from the above in 2003)

Estimate: approximately £33,000,000
Hammer price: £24,000,000
Price realised: £27,319,000

Alberto Giacometti (1901 - 1966). Le Chat

Lot no.: 13
Conceived in 1951 and cast in 1955
Length: 81.5 cm

  • Pierre Matisse Gallery, New York (acquired from the artist)
  • Mr & Mrs Sidney Brody, Los Angeles (acquired from the above on 19th May 1955. Sold by the Estate: Christie’s, New York, Property from the Collection of Mrs. Sidney F. Brody, 4th May 2010, lot 4)
  • Purchased at the above sale by the present owner  

Estimate: approximately £10,000,000
Hammer price: £11,000,000
Price realised: £12,642,000

Claude Monet (1840 - 1926). La Méditerranée Par Vent De Mistral

Lot no.: 15
Painted in: 1888
Size: 65 x 92.3 cm

  • Boussod, Valadon & Cie, Paris (acquired from the artist on 4th June 1888)
  • Louis Bouglé, Paris (acquired from the above on 27th June 1889)
  • Galerie Durand-Ruel, Paris (acquired from the above in March 1891)
  • Durand-Ruel Family Collection (from 1928 until 1941)
  • Private Collection, United States (acquired by 1943)
  • Acquavella Galleries, New York
  • Acquired from the above by the present owner in 2004

Estimate: £6,500,000 - 8,500,000
Hammer price: £6,200,000
Price realised: £7,150,800

Auction summary
Auction house: Sotheby’s London
Sale: Impressionist & Modern Art Evening Sale
Sale date: 19 June 2018
Lots offered: 36
Sold: 26
Unsold: 10
Sold by lot: 72%
Sale total: £87,496,600