Monet and Klein lead the 20th/21st Century London to Paris evening sales

The series of three sales achieves £203,881,403 / €236,094,664, showcasing the historical affinities and cultural dialogue between the two cities

Following the remarkable success of the Shanghai to London edition in March, Christie’s global auction series returned with 20/21 London to Paris, livestreamed from both salerooms. 

The programme featured three evening sales, which focused on the influential artistic synergies that exist between London and Paris. Together the auctions realised £203,881,403 / €236,094,664.

They were led by works from pioneering 20th- and 21st-century artists representing the cultural exchange between these two art capitals, notably Claude Monet, Yves Klein and Marc Chagall. Also offered were emerging and under-represented artistic voices, as well as major contemporary artists including Rachel Jones, Caroline Walker and Joel Mesler.

The series began strongly in London with Marc Chagall, Colour of Life: Works Formerly from the Artist’s Estate, which achieved £9,736,500 / €11,274,867. Immediately following was the 20th/21st Century: London Evening Sale, which totalled £180,973,400 / €209,567,197, selling 90 per cent by lot and 96 per cent by value. Later, the series concluded with the 20th/21st Century: Paris Evening Sale, which realised €15,252,600 / £13,171,503.

In London, auctioneers Veronica Scarpati and Jussi Pylkkänen took bids from clients in the saleroom, through phone banks and via Christie’s LIVE online bidding channel. The Paris sale was conducted by Cécile Verdier. 

Marc Chagall, Colour of Life: Works Formerly from the Artist’s Estate

Offering 20 fresh-to-market works originating from the estate of Marc Chagall, this was the first in a series of global sales at Christie’s dedicated to the artist’s work. The works sold 100 per cent by lot and 100 per cent by value.

The sale explored five key themes that dominated Chagall’s practice: the rhythms and rituals of his home town; the circus; the heroic figures of myth, legend and religion; the universal questions of identity and legacy; and, above all else, the enduring power of love.

The top price of the sale was £1,602,000 for Le peintre et les mariés aux trois couleurs (above). Executed in 1984, the final full year of Chagall’s artistic career, it depicts a painter before his canvas, palette and paintbrush in hand, and an embracing couple who float weightless above the townscape of Chagall’s native Vitebsk. The pure passages of blue, red and green that divide the canvas exemplify the artist’s extraordinary use of colour.

In a competitive saleroom, A Vava Chagall, citoyenne d’honneur des Collines à Vence  (above) sold to a bidder in London for £541,800, nearly five times the high estimate. L’inspiration du peintre au chevalet  also sailed past its high estimate before realising £529,200. After spirited international bidding, Amoureux et bouquet dans le ciel  realised £504,000. 

Le peintre et les mariés  from 1980 and Juif à la thora  from 1971 both soared above estimate before realising £378,000 each. Clown et cheval bleu  nearly tripled the high estimate at £352,800, while David et Bethsabée  sold for £195,300, nearly four times the high estimate.

The sale ended on a high as L’inspiration multicolore du peintre  achieved more than four times its high estimate at £378,000.

An online sale of Chagall prints and artist’s books, highlighting the artist’s life-long love of the art of printmaking, achieved a total of £1,036,980.

The 20th/21st Century: London Evening Sale 

Presided over by Jussi Pylkkänen, the London evening sale — and the auction series — was led by two works by Claude Monet, Waterloo Bridge, effet de brume (1904), below, and Nymphéas, temps gris (1907), which both achieved £30,059,500. 

Depicting the Thames through an effervescent, sunlit haze, Waterloo Bridge, effet de brume  is one of 41 paintings of the London landmark that the artist painted between 1899 and 1904. The sale follows the exceptional result achieved by Christie’s for Monet’s Le Parlement, soleil couchant, from the Collection of Anne H. Bass, which sold for $75.9 million, a record for a painting from Monet’s London series. 

Monet painted Nymphéas, temps gris, below, during a period of intense creativity in 1907, employing a vertical format to capture the spectacular effects of late-afternoon light and colour on his water-lily pond. Of the 15 vertical Nymphéas  dating from 1907, eight are now held in museum collections.

An outstanding price was also achieved by Yves Klein’s 1960 Anthropométrie de l’époque bleue (ANT 124), one of only a handful of large-scale Anthropométries to remain in private hands. Offered at auction for the first time, it sold for £27,197,000.

Presented from the collection of Victor and Olena Pinchuk, Jeff Koons’s Balloon Monkey (Magenta), below, realised £10,136,500. The winning bidder was Jens Faurschou, and the proceeds of the sale will support humanitarian aid in Ukraine, assisting wounded soldiers and civilians who urgently require medical treatment, prosthetics and rehabilitation.

Jeff Koons (b. 1955), Balloon Monkey (Magenta), 2006-2013. Sold for £10,136,500 on 28 June 2022 at Christie’s in London

The sale opened with Untitled V (Anatomy of Architecture series), below, by Simone Leigh, the first African American female artist to represent the US at the Venice Biennale, where she won the Golden Lion for best contribution. Steeped in questions of racial and cultural identity, this powerful sculpture from 2016 sold for £724,500.

The following lot, Beatriz Milhazes’s Cebola Roxa, realised £856,800. Painted in Rio de Janeiro during lockdown in 2020, the canvas reflects Milhazes’s love of the natural world. It was offered at Christie’s in aid of Artists for ClientEarth, a collaborative initiative designed to unite the art world in the fight against climate change, which has now raised more than £5.6 million to date.

Surrealist works also performed well, with René Magritte’s Souvenir de voyage (circa 1962-63) fetching £16,090,500, more than double the high estimate. Leonora Carrington’s 1952 Ferret Race (Stoat Race), last seen at auction more than 20 years ago, achieved £1,362,000.

The sale also saw strong results for a group of works from the collection of David and Laura Finn. Leading the collection was Alexander Calder’s Red, White, and Blacks (1957), which sold for £3,162,000. Also offered was Henry Moore’s Interior Form (1952), which made £2,102,000. 

There were other notable successes, too. Ernie Barnes’s Main Street Pool Hall (1978), above, saw multiple bidders pursue the painting to £1,482,000; and Barbara Hepworth’s Hollow Form with White Interior (1963) set a new auction record for the artist at £5,785,500. Michel Marjerus’s Untitled (2002) later soared above its high estimate before reaching £403,200.

Works by young contemporary artists were also in demand. Rachel Jones’s Spliced Structure  realised £403,200 — as did Anna Weyant’s Ingrid with Flowers. Lucy Bull’s No More Blue Tomorrows  sparked a bidding battle before selling for £277,200, more than triple the high estimate.

The 20th/21st Century: Paris Evening Sale

With Cécile Verdier at the rostrum, the top price for the Paris sale was Peinture 143 x 202 cm, 4 décembre 1970  (below) by Pierre Soulages, the only artist since Picasso to have exhibited at the Louvre in his lifetime. Held in the same private collection since 1974 and unseen in public during that time, it attracted spirited bidding from London and Paris before realising €2,082,000. Also sold was Soulages’s Peinture 54.5 x 38 cm., 27 novembre 1956, fetching €882,000.

The second-highest seller was Yves Klein’s Sculpture éponge rose sans titre (SE 207), one of only seven examples of Klein’s celebrated Sculptures éponges  rendered in the madder rose shade that made up a third of his unique colour triad. After a flurry of international bids, it sold for €2,022,000.

There was also great interest in Jean Hélion’s 1944 L’escalier (above), which soared past its high estimate before selling for €1,086,000 to a bidder on the phone in Paris; and Wifredo Lam’s Horizons Chauds (1968), which sold to a phone bidder in London for €705,600. 

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Other strong performers included Nicolas de Staël’s 1948 Composition, which sold for €567,000; and Serge Poliakoff’s Composition (1953), which sparked spirited global bidding and sold for €529,200. Also selling above estimate was Friedensreich Hundertwasser’s recently rediscovered Arcade house with yellow tower  from 1953, which achieved €403,200. 

The full 20th/21st Century: London to Paris season achieved a combined total of £252,508,225 / €292,400,126 — the highest June season total since 2015. Sell-through rates of 96% by value and 86% by lot were achieved across the sales, which offered 700 lots throughout the week.

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