Franz Marc and the young artists lead Christie’s auctions

Franz Marc and the young artists lead Christie's auctions

Franz Marc and the young artists lead Christie’s auctions

Franz Marc — The Foxes — 1913Jean-Michel Basquiat — Il Duce — 1982

Christie’s global auction of 20th and 21st century art in Shanghai and London on 1 March 2022 was led by works by Franz Marc and Francis Bacon, but the real winners were a group of less established artists who achieved much higher prices than expected.

Source: Christie’s. Images: Franz Marc, “The Foxes”, 1913 ·· Jean-Michel Basquiat, “Il Duce”, 1982. Sold in Shanghai for $14.9 million.

The auction in Shanghai got off to a flying start, with four works by Emmanuel Taku, Ewa Juszkiewicz, Joel Mesler and Scott Kahn each fetching more than five times their most optimistic pre-sale estimate. The euphoria was tempered somewhat by the sale of Marc Chagall’s “Le bouquet de lilas” for 19 million yuan (about $3 million), well within its presale estimate range and actually a good price for a Chagall that is far from being one of his best paintings.

At 21:38 local time, the -a priori- big star of the Shanghai auction was presented: the ubiquitous (at least in contemporary art auctions) Jean-Michel Basquiat. As in the case of the Chagall, the work in the auction (“Il Duce”, 1982) was far from being a masterpiece by its author. With a presale estimate of between 80 and 120 million yuan (between $12.7 million and $19 million), the bids started at 62 million yuan. After the first bids, it soon became clear that interest in the work was not high. “London is out, New York is out…. 80 million, selling to Hong Kong…”. The selling price (94.2 million yuan / $14.9 million, including comissions), despite the applause in the room, further cooled the auction, which received its first blow when shortly afterwards “Dormeuse (Marie-Thérèse Walter)”, painted in 1937 by Pablo Picasso and coming from the collection of Marina Picasso, (with a presale estimate of between 26 to 33 million yuan / $4.1 million to $5.2 million), failed to arouse the interest of buyers in the various rooms. “Pass at 20 million”. Ouch.

“La femme au collier”, an attractive Fauvist portrait by Kees van Dongen sold for 23.2 million yuan, just over its most conservative presale estimate. More successful was “Le soir à l’Hôtel du Palais”, a late work by Zao Wou-Ki which sold for 24.3 million yuan ($3.85 million), comfortably above its most optimistic presale estimate (18 million yuan). The auction ended strongly, with a group of works by young artists (KAWS, Javier Calleja, Edgar Plans) selling for prices that far exceeded their most conservative pre-sale estimates. Overall, we could say that the auction repeated the pattern already observed at contemporary art auctions in Asia last year, with works by very young artists far exceeding their expectations, while those by masters of earlier generations (from Picasso to Basquiat) shone much less brightly.

After Shanghai, it was time for the London auction, with far more “blockbusters” (Bacon, Marc, Freud…) As in Shanghai, the start of the auction was dizzying, with works by young artists (Jadé Fadojutimi, Shara Hughes, Ángel Otero…) far exceeding expectations. Special mention should be made of Victor Man’s “D with Raven”, the work with the most modest presale estimate of the entire auction, which sold for seven times its most optimistic estimate. The first disappointment of the auction came with (who would have thought?) Banksy, whose “Happy choppers” (sadly kinda topical…) had a pre-sale estimate of between £3 to £5 million. Jussi Pylkkänen, director of the auction, tried to arouse the interest of the room. In vain: “It’s a pass at 2.6 “.

15:13, local time. Time for the first superstar of the auction: “Die Füchse” (“The Foxes”) is a very, very fine painting by Franz Marc, halfway between Expressionism and Cubism, which carried an “estimate upon request” tag, but was estimated by several sources at around £35 million (about $47 million). “Die Füchse” is the most important painting by Marc to come on the market since “Der Wasserfall”, auctioned in 2007 for just over $20 million, and, personally, I believe it is the most beautiful work by Marc to come to auction since the sensational “Rote Rehe I” (1910), auctioned in 1998 for £3.3 million. The bidding started at £26 million, and it fetched £37 million (£42.7 million / $57 million including commissions). An excellent result for an excellent work of art.

Pablo Picasso — Le Repas Frugal — etching 1904Pablo Picasso — La fenetre ouverte — 1929

Image: Pablo Picasso, “Le repas frugal”, 1904 ·· Pablo Picasso, “La fenêtre ouverte”, 1929

“Girl with Closed Eyes”, a sensual portrait of Janey Longman painted in 1986–87 by Lucian Freud, had a pre-sale estimate of £10–15 million, and sold for £15.2 million including commissions. Fair enough.

After Freud, another of the great figures of post-war European art. The great figure, possibly. “Triptych 1986–7” is one of the last triptychs created by Francis Bacon, and had the highest presale estimate of the day: between £35 million and £55 million ($46,7 million to $60 million). Although not one of the artist’s most accomplished triptychs, the estimate seemed quite conservative, considering previous results for the artist’s large triptychs, including the $84.5 million paid in 2020 for “Triptych Inspired by the Oresteia of Aeschylus”. Bidding started at £26 million (the same figure as the Marc), and within seconds rose to £35 million, suggesting that interest in the work was high. This was not the case. After some attempts by Pylkkänen to get more bids, the work was sold for £35 million (£40.4 million / $53,9 million including commissions), a somewhat disappointing result.

“Le jongleur”, a rather spectacular painting by Marc Chagall, sold for £8.9 million, but his “Etude pour ‘Le Saoul’” failed to find a buyer despite its more modest estimate of £1–1.5 million, one of the bargains of the auction. “Le repas frugal”, an etching by Pablo Picasso which had a pre-sale estimate of £1.5–2.5 million, fetched £6 million, a spectacular result for an etching by the artist.

After the global auction, it was the turn of “The Art of the Surreal”, where the work with the highest pre-sale estimate, Pablo Picasso’s “La fenêtre ouverte” (1929), fetched £16.3 million ($21.7 million), a surprisingly modest price for a Picasso of this scale and importance, especially when compared to the spectacular results of other portraits by Marie-Thérèse Walter. #2022 #ArtMarket #Christie’s #FranzMarc #theartwolf

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