Fresh-to-market Picasso leads 20th/21st Century: London to Paris sale series
20th and 21st Century Evening Sales surpass £153 million; Picasso’s L’Etreinte makes top price at £14,697,000; new records set for Yayoi Kusama and Stanley Whitney
On 30 June Christie’s launched 20th/21st Century: London to Paris, a cross-channel conversation between two culturally vibrant cities, live-streamed from Christie’s in London and Paris, incorporating salerooms in Hong Kong and New York.
The series of three evening sales, which showcased the synergy between movements and dialogues between the most influential artists across the past two centuries, realised a combined total of £153,592,611 // € 178,321,022.
The series opened with the 20th/21st Century: London Evening Sale, which achieved £119,299,545 // €138,506,722, selling 88 per cent by lot and 97 per cent by value. Later, in Paris, the 20th/21st Century: Collection Francis Gross, a dedicated single-owner sale of portraits and post-war art, totalled £22,816,753 // €26,490,250. The 20th/21st Century: Paris vente du soir achieved £11,476,314 // €13,324,000.
In London auctioneers Jussi Pylkkänen and Veronica Scarpati, who made her Evening Sale debut, took bids from clients in the saleroom (in line with regional government guidance), through phone banks and via Christie’s LIVE online bidding channel. In Paris Collection Francis Gross was conducted by Cécile Verdier and the Evening Sale by Camille de Foresta.
20th/21st Century: London Evening Sale
The top price of the night was for Pablo Picasso’s L’Étreinte (1969), which achieved £14,697,000. Depicting a couple in an intimate embrace, it was one of two large-scale late Picassos never seen at auction before. Homme au chapeau assis, painted in 1972 and exhibited the following year in the Palais des Papes in Avignon, later fetched £5,880,500.
The second highest lot of the sale was Alberto Giacometti’s Homme qui chavire, a dramatic variation on the elongated figures created by the Swiss sculptor after the Second World War. Formerly in the collection of the American artist Lillian H. Florsheim, and offered at auction for the first time in more than 20 years, it realised £13,703,000.
Wassily Kandinsky’s 1935 Noir bigarré achieved £8,848,795; Ernst Ludwig Kirchner’s evocative Pantomime Reimann: Die Rache der Tänzerin of 1912, housed in the same private collection since it was acquired from the artist’s estate in 1985, achieved £7,140,000; and Basquiat’s 1984 Untitled, an electrifying monument to the human form, sold to a bidder in London for £5,995,000.
The sale saw strong results for Bridget Riley’s Zing 2, which was last seen in public shortly after it was painted in 1971. A rare work that occupies a pivotal position in Riley’s practice, it sold for £3,262,500.
Yayoi Kusma’s 2009 Pumpkin, a charming sculptural incarnation of the artist’s most beloved motif, set a new world record for the artist in the medium at £2,662,500. Also selling above estimate was George Condo’s kaleidoscopic Cubist portrait, Untitled, from 2013, which sold to a bidder in Hong Kong for £2,542,500.
Works by leading Italian Modernists also generated keen interest among collectors across Christie’s salerooms. Lucio Fontana’s Concetto spaziale, Attesa, cruised past its high estimate of £1,800,000 before realising £2,902,500. Later, Salvatore Scarpitta’s Gonippo, offered for sale for the first time in over half a century and unseen in public during that time, sold for £375,000.
Other strong performers included Marc Chagall’s dazzling painting of an ethereal bride soaring above Notre Dame, La mariée de Notre-Dame, which fetched £2,782,500; and Isamu Noguchi’s The Sky, which more than doubled its low estimate at £2,662,500. René Magritte’s Le domaine d’Arnheim, a gouache on paper from around 1962 depicting a trio of bird eggs in front of an eagle-shaped mountain, realised £1,522,500, more than double the low estimate.
After a spirited international bidding battle at the sale’s outset, Stanley Whitney’s large-scale Light a New Wilderness from 2016 set a new world record for the artist at auction when it sold for £525,000.
The sale drew to a close with a bang as Van Gogh’s Aardappelrooier, from 1885, more than doubled its low estimate at £862,500.
20th/21st Century: Collection Francis Gross
During his career, the French advertising magnate Francis Gross assembled not one but two great art collections: one for his company, the Carat group, and another for himself and his family.
According to Pierre Martin-Vivier, Deputy Chairman, Post-War & Contemporary Art, his private collection offered at Christie’s was ‘built on deep knowledge and expertise that reveals a man of great sensibility and sensitivity’.
Leading the collection was René Magritte’s La Vengeance, a major picture-within-a-picture work from the mid-1930s, when Magritte created many of his career-defining images.
Bought in 1936 by the Belgian surrealist poet Paul Colinet, the painting entered an American collection in the 1960s before being acquired by Francis Gross in the mid-1980s. Making its auction debut, it sparked a bidding battle before hammering down at €14,552,500.
Other impressive results included Pablo Picasso’s intimate wartime portrait of Dora Maar, Tête de femme, which more than doubled its high estimate at €3,620,000; Alberto Giacometti’s bronze bust of the filmmaker, photographer and the artist’s last model, Eli Lotar, which sold for €3,260,000; and Jean Dubuffet’s Le Chien manger de cheveux, which realised €1,040,000, more than double the low estimate;
Also selling above estimate was Egon Schiele’s The Embrace. Executed in 1911, the drawing of two lovers more than doubled its high estimate at €560,000. Following an international bidding battle, Andy Warhol’s Roy Lichtenstein, the first of three Warhol acrylic and silkscreen works offered from the Collection Francis Gross, realised €212,500, more than double the high estimate.
There was also plenty of interest in Henry Moore’s bronze Reclining Nude, conceived in 1938 and cast in 1986, which sold for €81,250, more than four times the low estimate. Poissy, les quais (1908) by Albert Marquet tripled the low estimate before also achieving €81,250.
20th/21st Century: Paris vente du soir
After a swift change of auctioneers, the Paris Evening Sale got underway with Camille de Foresta at the rostrum.
Headlining the sale was Pierre Soulages’ Peinture 162 x 114 cm, 17 avril 1972, which hammered down at €2,060,000. There was also competitive bidding for two further works by the artist: Peinture 237 x 81 cm, 18 février 1990 achieved €1,100,000 and Peinture, 46.2 x 38.2 cm sold for €620,000.
Other notable results included Kazuo Shiraga’s T 56, which achieved €1,700,000, nearly double the low estimate; 19 août 2006 by Zao Wou-Ki, which sold for €1,316,000; and Sans titre (2008) by Günther Förg, which soared above the high estimate before realising €980,000.
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Also selling above estimate was Josef Albers’ Study to Homage to the Square: Sudden Spring from 1956, which sold for €692,000; and Germaine Richier’s Le cheval à six têtes, which achieved €375,000.