Records for Joan Miró and François-Xavier Lalanne take 20th/21st Century sale week in Paris to €126.6m / £110.6m / $134m

Works from the collections of Sam Josefowitz and Anne and Wolfgang Titze led the five live and two online sales, which attracted bidders from 57 countries while also setting records for Toyen and Tancredi

Cecile Verdier, President of Christie's France, selling Joan Miro's Peinture (femmes, lune, etoiles), 1949

Cécile Verdier, President of Christie’s France, selling Joan Miró’s Peinture (femmes, lune, étoiles), 1949, which realised €20,750,000 on 20 October 2023 at Christie’s in Paris. Photo: © Jean-Philippe Humbert. Artwork: © Successió Miró / ADAGP, Paris and DACS London 2023

Following on from a successful series of Frieze Week sales in London was the 20th/21st Century sale week in Paris. Coinciding with the second edition of Paris+ par Art Basel, the series of five live and two online sales, which included important works spanning modern, post-war and contemporary art, realised a combined total of €126.6m / £110.6m / $134m — a record 20/21 week for Christie’s Paris.

The series of London and Paris sales dedicated to The Sam Josefowitz Collection — a cross-category collection with works ranging from antiquities to Rembrandt, the Pont-Aven School and Les Nabis — achieved a combined total of €73.1m / £63.4m / $77.3m, and set several world auction records, including for artists Félix Vallotton, Akseli Gallen-Kallela and Aristide Maillol.

The 20/21 Paris sales series attracted registered bidders from 57 countries around the world and set several artist records, which in addition to François-Xavier Lalanne also included Tancredi and Wladyslaw Slewinski. Seventeen works sold for more than €1 million, with two achieving more than €15 million. Four works from The Sam Josefowitz Collection were acquired by major French and international museums.

Lucio Fontana (1899-1968), Concetto spaziale, 1961. Oil on canvas. 148.5 x 148.5 cm. Sold for €7,870,000 on 20 October 2023 at Christie’s in Paris. Artwork: © Lucio Fontana, DACS 2023

‘The strong results from these auctions are a testimony to Sam’s formidable eye as a collector,’ said Anika Guntrum, Vice President, Director of Impressionist and Modern Art sales at Christie’s France. ‘Christie’s is very proud to pay tribute to him with this series of exceptional sales.’

The top two prices of the season were achieved by Joan Miró’s 1949 Peinture (Femmes, lune, étoiles), which achieved €20,750,000, setting a new record for the artist at auction in France; and François-Xavier Lalanne’s Rhinocrétaire I, which also set a record for the artist at auction when it realised €18,335,000.

‘With this series of rich and diverse sales, Christie’s Paris was fully aligned with the dynamics of Paris+ par Art Basel,’ said Cécile Verdier, President of Christie’s France. ‘By offering works by sought-after contemporary artists as well as emblematic works of museum quality, Christie’s matched demand.’

Love Stories — from the collection of Anne & Wolfgang Titze

On 19 October, the series opened with Love Stories — from the collection of Anne & Wolfgang Titze, which achieved €27,768,900 and sold 95 per cent by lot. It featured a selection of blue-chip and fresh-to-market minimalist and contemporary abstract works acquired by the couple over the past 30 years.

The top lot of the sale was Julie Mehretu’s Blue Magic, an abstract composition exploring themes of migration and conflict through map-like lines, architectural grids and crowded dashes. Executed in 2007, it realised €3,972,500.

Julie Mehretu (b. 1970), Blue magic, 2007. Acrylic, india ink, graphite and wallpaper collages on canvas mounted on panel. 152.5 x 213.5 cm. Sold for €3,972,500 on 19 October 2023 at Christie’s in Paris. Artwork: © Julie Mehretu

Another highlight was Infinity Nets [AOTWX] (2008) by Yayoi Kusama, which features myriad looping strokes of white paint across a blue background. The picture, which forms part of a series known as ‘Infinity Nets’, begun by the Japanese artist in the late 1950s and continued well into the 21st century, achieved €3,065,000. Later, Kusama’s Dots-Obsession [QZBA] (2007) realised €1,431,500.

The sale also saw strong results for other female artists, including Agnès Martin, whose The Lamp (1959) fetched €2,097,000, more than double its low estimate. Other strong performers included Adrian Ghenie’s 2008 The Flight into Egypt, which cruised past its high estimate to €3,670,000.

The Sam Josefowitz Collection Evening Sale

On 20 October, Christie’s Paris held three evening sales. Opening the night was The Sam Josefowitz Collection: Vente du Soir, the second in a series of sales dedicated to the scholarly vision of the distinguished cross-category collector. (The first in the series, Masterpieces from the Collection of Sam Josefowitz, achieved £51,844,800 on 13 October at Christie’s in London.)

The Evening Sale, which achieved €7,639,380, was led by Diego Giacometti’s Table ‘aux caryatides’. Executed circa 1978, the patinated bronze and glass table realised €1,008,000, nearly triple the low estimate.

Emile Bernard (1868-1941), Baigneuses aux nénuphars, 1889. Oil on canvas. 92.2 x 72.8 cm. Sold for €819,000 on 20 October 2023 at Christie’s in Paris

Also offered were several works by the Pont-Aven school, a group of artists who worked in the French village at the same time as Gauguin, in the late 1880s and early 1890s, and whose place in the art-historical canon Josefowitz, more than anyone, secured. Sancta Martha by Maurice Denis fetched €693,000, while Paul Sérusier’s Filles de Douarnenez ou Bretonnes aux châles ou Dans les dunes à Douarnenez realised €604,800. Moments later, Emile Bernard’s Baigneuses aux nénuphars sold for €819,000 to the Musée d’Orsay in Paris.

There were other notable successes: Wladyslaw Slewinski’s Femme aux cheveux roux (circa 1896) achieved €207,900, setting a new world record for the artist at auction. Edgar Degas’s Loges d’actrices went to The Cleveland Museum of Art for €201,600, more than double the low estimate; while Georges-Daniel de Monfreid’s Portrait de Gustave le Rouge was acquired by the Musée Fabre in Montpellier for €69,300, more than double the low estimate.

François-Xavier Lalanne — Rhinocrétaire I, 1964

The Evening Sale was immediately followed by a single-lot sale dedicated to François-Xavier Lalanne’s Rhinocrétaire I, an almost life-sized rhino sculpture that was first exhibited in a groundbreaking Paris exhibition, Zoophites, at Jeanine de Goldschmidt-Restany’s Galerie J in 1964.

François-Xavier Lalanne (1927-2008), Rhinocrétaire I, 1964 (unique). Sold for €18,335,000 on 20 October 2023 at Christie’s in Paris. Artwork: © François-Xavier Lalanne, ADAGP, Paris and DACS, London 2023

Held in the same family collection since it was first acquired by Jeanine de Goldschmidt-Restany’s mother in 1964 and largely hidden from public view, it more than tripled its high estimate at €18,335,000, setting a new world record for the artist at auction. ‘A historic moment in Paris, the sale confirmed François-Xavier Lalanne as one of the great sculptors of the second half of the 20th century,’ said Verdier.

Avant-Garde(s) Including Thinking Italian

The night concluded with Avant-Garde(s) Including Thinking Italian, which realised €62,322,200. It featured important works by some of the greatest artists of the 20th and 21st centuries, among them Henri Matisse, Lucio Fontana and Yves Klein.

The top price was achieved by Joan Miró’s 1949 Peinture (Femmes, lune, étoiles), which hung for more than 70 years in the dining room of La Colombe d’Or in Saint-Paul-de-Vence. A major canvas from the artist’s post-war series of Peintures lentes (‘Slow Paintings’), it depicts a group of figures communicating under a star-filled sky. It realised €20,750,000, setting a new record for the artist at auction in France.

Joan Miró (1893-1983), Peinture (femmes, lune, étoiles), 1949. Oil and casein paint on canvas. 73.1 x 92.1 cm. Sold for €20,750,000 on 20 October 2023 at Christie’s in Paris. Artwork: © Successió Miró / ADAGP, Paris and DACS London 2023

The second-highest seller was Lucio Fontana’s Concetto spaziale (1951), which fetched €7,870,000. There was also strong interest in Toyen’s Tu t’évapores dans un buisson de cris, which set a new world record for the artist at auction when it realised €2,823,000; and Matisse’s Jardin du Luxembourg, Paris, which soared above its high estimate to €806,400. Also selling above estimate was Tancredi’s Omaggio a Debussy (Il cielo la terra e l’acqua), which achieved €730,800, establishing a new world record for the artist at auction.

The Sam Josefowitz Collection Day Sale

On 21 October, the Day Sale of the Sam Josefowitz Collection achieved €5,166,756. Leading the sale was Verger avec paysanne (1888) by the Belgian artist Henry van de Velde. Although better known for his architectural work and contributions to the Art Nouveau movement, Van de Velde was also a prominent pointillist who played a crucial role in the development of the Neo-Impressionist movement in Belgium, the Netherlands, and Germany. First exhibited at the Sixth Exhibition of Les XX in Brussels in 1889, it achieved €378,000.

The sale also included several works by the Pont-Aven school. Among the top performers were Paul Sérusier’s Bretonnes au Pouldu and Jeunes filles qu’on dirait des anges by Maurice Denis, which both achieved €352,800.

Paul Sérusier (1863-1927), Bretonnes au Pouldu. Tempera on canvas. 58.3 x 73.2 cm. Sold for €352,800 on 21 October 2023 at Christie’s in Paris

Other notable results included Sérusier’s 1889 Marine and Théo van Rysselberghe’s charcoal portrait of Emile Verhaeren, which both sailed past their high estimates to achieve €302,400. Also selling above estimate were Charles Angrand’s Le Bon Samaritain, which fetched €151,200; and Maurice Denis’s La Digue rouge à Loctudy, which more than tripled the high estimate at €113,400. There was also competitive bidding for Meijer de Haan’s Nature morte, fleurs dans un verre, which achieved €81,900, more than four times the high estimate.

20/21 online sales

Complementing the five live sales were two online sales. Art Moderne Online (11-24 October), which featured more than 100 works from a number of prestigious private collections, achieved €5,013,414. Marc Chagall’s L’Arlequin (circa 1980) produced the top price of the sale at €352,800.

La Collection Sam Josefowitz: Dessins et Gravures de l’Ecole de Pont-Aven Online (12-25 October) realised €470,736, taking the combined total of The Sam Josefowitz Collection to date to €73.1 million / £63.4 million / $77.3 million.

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The series of exceptional sales dedicated to Josefowitz’s collection will be followed by the sale of 75 rare Rembrandt prints on 7 December at Christie’s in London: five works will be offered in Old Masters Part I and the remainder in the Evening Sale of The Sam Josefowitz Collection: Graphic Masterpieces by Rembrandt van Rijn.

‘It is quite simply the greatest ensemble of Rembrandt’s graphic oeuvre still in private hands,’ says Tim Schmelcher, International Specialist in the Prints and Multiples department at Christie’s London.

Additional 20th/21st century works from the Sam Josefowitz Collection will be offered in Paris in Spring 2024.

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