Painted during the winter of 1968, Pablo Picasso’s Homme et femme made the top price in the Impressionist and Modern Art Evening Sale at Christie’s in London.
The monumental composition, which articulates Picasso’s passion for painting and lust for life during the twilight years of his career, sold for £12,464,250 / $15,617,705 (including buyer’s premium), leading an auction that totalled £36,413,750 / $45,626,429 — 77 per cent sold by lot.
The auction, which attracted bidders from 25 countries across five continents, opened with Egon Schiele’s Liegender Mädchenakt from 1909, a breakthrough year in the short yet eventful life of the artist. The painting, delicately rendered in watercolour, India ink and pencil on paper, sold for £1,271,250, more than four times its high estimate.
Homme à la pipe, a 1919 limestone sculpture by Henri Laurens, also cruised past its high estimate before selling for £1,691,250, quickly followed by Marc Chagall’s Fleurs au-dessus des fiancés bleus (or Les amoureux bleus), which realised £1,211,250.
A selection of Surrealist and Dada works were offered from The Landscape of a Mind, an important private collection. The highlight was Yves Tanguy’s L’Extinction des especes II, which appeared at auction for the first time and realised £3,131,250 — the second highest price on the night.
Other strong performers from the collection included two works on paper: Salvador Dalí’s Figure aux tiroirs, which was bought for £971,250, and Hannah Höch’s Er und sein Milieu, the subject of spirited bidding before it sold for £635,250. The dedicated collection sale on 20 June realised £2,055,000, taking the collection total to £10,137,500.
The London season opened on Monday night with the Modern British Art Evening Auction, which totalled £17,477,500 / $21,986,695 and was 89 per cent sold by value. The top lot was Dame Barbara Hepworth’s The Family of Man (Figure 8, The Bride) from 1970 (£3,838,250), with the same artist’s Oval Sculpture, conceived in 1943 and cast in 1959, almost tripling its low estimate to sell at £1,451,250.
Other notable results included Henry Moore’s Working Model for Oval with Points (1968-69), which more than doubled its high estimate before fetching £2,051,250; Dame Elisabeth Frink’s Running Man (Front Runner), which set a new world auction record for the artist at £1,091,250; and Breton Boy in Profile by Roderic O’Conor from the Drue Heinz Collection, which realised £419,250, more than three times the estimate.
The following morning, the Modern British Art Day Sale totalled £5,802,625, and was 84 per cent sold by value. Frank Bowling’s Beggar No. 3 realised £695,250, a new world auction record for the artist.
The week’s sales concluded with Impressionist and Modern Works on Paper, which realised £5,079,375, the Impressionist and Modern Art Day Sale (£6,560,625), and the online auction of Picasso Ceramics.