Magritte, Lempicka and Grosz steal the show in London

20th Century season gets off to a strong start, with the Impressionist and Modern Art sales achieving a total of £128,735,701

The Impressionist and Modern Art Evening Sale and The Art of the Surreal Evening Sale brought the curtain up on the 20th Century season auctions at Christie’s in London, realising a combined £106,825,576 / $138,873,249.

The top lot of the night was René Magritte’s A la rencontre du plaisir, which sold for £18,933,750 (including buyer’s premium). Painted in 1962, the work combines several of Magritte’s most iconic motifs, and was purchased directly from the artist shortly after its creation. It had remained in the same family collection for over 50 years before being offered at auction for the first time in its history.

For full results, see below

Tamara de Lempicka (1898-1980), Portrait de Marjorie Ferry, painted in 1932. Oil on canvas. 39⅜ x 25⅝  in (100 x 65  cm). Sold for £16,280,000 on 5 February 2020 at Christie’s in London

Tamara de Lempicka (1898-1980), Portrait de Marjorie Ferry, painted in 1932. Oil on canvas. 39⅜ x 25⅝ in (100 x 65 cm). Sold for £16,280,000 on 5 February 2020 at Christie’s in London

The second highest price came with Tamara de Lempicka’s Portrait de Marjorie Ferry, which produced a sustained bidding battle before selling for £16,280,000 — a new world auction record for the artist. 

Marjorie Ferry was a British-born cabaret singer in Paris and this sumptuous 1932 portrait was commissioned by her new husband, a wealthy financier. It was later acquired by the fashion designer Wolfgang Joop. 

Completing the top three was Alberto Giacometti’s Trois hommes qui marchent (Grand plateau), which realised £11,272,500. Conceived in 1948 and cast in bronze in 1950 in a numbered edition of six, it is among the earliest of the artist’s famous multi-figure works. 

George Grosz (1893-1959), Gefährliche Straße, painted in July 1918. Oil on canvas. 18⅝ x 25¾  in (47.3 x 65.3  cm). Sold for £9,740,250 on 5 February 2020 at Christie’s in London

George Grosz (1893-1959), Gefährliche Straße, painted in July 1918. Oil on canvas. 18⅝ x 25¾ in (47.3 x 65.3 cm). Sold for £9,740,250 on 5 February 2020 at Christie’s in London

There were numerous other impressive results. George Grosz’s Gefährliche Straße  fetched £9,740,250, more than six times the previous world auction record for the artist, which was set in 1996. This is a rare survivor from a series of around 20 paintings of Berlin by night that Grosz painted in the final months of World War I, and brilliantly captures a city’s descent into moral and physical chaos.

A group of three Picasso still life paintings, executed in the 1940s, ’50s and ’60s, offered insights into the artist’s state of mind at different points in his life. La cafetière (1943) achieved £1,811,250; Intérieur au pot de fleurs  (1953) sold for £7,243,250; and Nature morte au chien (1962) fetched £4,385,576. They were among six Picasso works offered in the sale.

Louis Anquetin (1861-1932), Femme à sa toilette, painted in 1889. Oil on canvas. 36¼ x 28¾  in (92 x 73  cm). Sold for £1,331,250 on 5 February 2020 at Christie’s in London

Louis Anquetin (1861-1932), Femme à sa toilette, painted in 1889. Oil on canvas. 36¼ x 28¾ in (92 x 73 cm). Sold for £1,331,250 on 5 February 2020 at Christie’s in London

Towards the end of the auction, Femme à sa toilette  by Louis Anquetin (1861-1932) achieved £1,331,250, a world record price for the artist. Anquetin lived and worked in Montmartre, and counted Émile Bernard, Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec and Vincent van Gogh among his close friends. 

The work was previously owned by the Belgian siblings Eugène and Anna Boch, who were leading members of the European avant-garde at the end of the 19th century. The result — more than double the high estimate — helped push the final total for the Impressionist and Modern Art Evening Sale to £62,890,326.

René Magritte (1898-1967), A la rencontre du plaisir, painted in 1962. Oil on canvas. 18⅛ x 21⅝  in (46 x 55  cm). Sold for £18,933,750 on 5 February 2020 at Christie’s in London

René Magritte (1898-1967), A la rencontre du plaisir, painted in 1962. Oil on canvas. 18⅛ x 21⅝ in (46 x 55 cm). Sold for £18,933,750 on 5 February 2020 at Christie’s in London

After a swift change of auctioneers, The Art of the Surreal Evening Sale got underway with strong results for works by Max Ernst, Francis Picabia and Salvador Dalí. Sans titre, bateau à voiles dans la baie de Port Lligat, a recently discovered work by Dalí and a rare self-portrait, realised £1,811,250.

A la rencontre du plaisir, the outstanding Magritte from 1962 (shown above), was one of seven works by the artist spanning his career from 1928 to 1962. All seven sold, including Perspective: Le balcon de Manet, a 1949 painting that achieved £3,724,750.

Salvador Dalí (1904-1989), Sans titre, bateau à voiles dans la baie de Port Lligat, executed in 1960. Oil on canvas. 11⅜ x 12⅞  in (28.8 x 32.8  cm). Sold for £1,811,250 on 5 February 2020 at Christie’s in London

Salvador Dalí (1904-1989), Sans titre, bateau à voiles dans la baie de Port Lligat, executed in 1960. Oil on canvas. 11⅜ x 12⅞ in (28.8 x 32.8 cm). Sold for £1,811,250 on 5 February 2020 at Christie’s in London

The evening finished on a high note when Joan Miró’s Composition, one of a compelling series of three works the artist created on 27 July 1924, fetched £87,500 against a low estimate of £40,000. This brought the total for The Art of the Surreal Evening Sale to £43,935,250.

The Impressionist and Modern Art Day Sale achieved £15,563,500; the auction of Works on Paper realised £5,061,625, while the online sale of Picasso Ceramics totalled £1,285,000.