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Strike Out Across the Pond – Christie’s London – Impressionist & Modern Evening

June 26, 2019

Fernand Leger

Last week over in London, Christie’s went in on the Impressionist & Modern market… before I get into the results, I’m just going to take a moment to bash Christie’s deceptive practice of removing unsold lots from their website after the sale – they scrub the sale page, the overall lot list as well as the results page… it makes it almost as if the unsold works were never part of the sale – though the records still exist on 3rd party auction reporting platforms. While I am unsure as to the reasons for this, it gives a misleading picture to the general public as to how the sale performed.

…. That’s all, Christie’s bashing over.

Getting into the numbers, it’s not surprising they wanted to “hide” some of the results – this sale performed awfully… ok, maybe the bashing isn’t over yet.

Let’s switch it up… failures first… Just for reference, in these “lesser” evening sales, the estimates tend to range in the high 6 figures to low 7 figures, with star lots occasionally topping $10M.


Pablo Picasso

The expected top lot here failed in epic fashion… Leger’s Femme dans un fauteuil came nowhere close to the expected £25M estimate and remained unsold. Additionally, the projected number three lot (based on estimates) failed – Matisse’s Le Collier d’ambre, which carried a £5-8M estimate. All I’m going to say at this point is, if these two works had sold within their estimate ranges, they would have doubled the final results.


Yves Tanguy

Now, for the things that people actually purchased… the top lot of the evening went to Picasso’s Homme et femme nus at £12.4M on a £10-15M estimate ($15.6M). Really, I’m not trying to undersell this, but that was the only bright spot of the night… if you can even call it that. The work was acquired from Pace in New York in 1973, and it has remained in a private collection since. Rounding out the top three were works by Yves Tanguy and Signac… the Tanguy just eked into the £2.5-4M estimate as it sold for £3.1M ($3.9M) with premiums (w/p); the Signac hammered below the £2.2-4M estimate, but with the help of the premiums, it was reported at £2.29M ($2.8M).


Paul Signac

At the end of the evening, just 24 lots (77%) found a buyer… 7 were unsold and 3 were withdrawn. As I mentioned, in these lesser evening sales, estimates are usually on the lower end of the spectrum… so it is fairly impactful when a Magritte with a £2.5-4M estimate or a Pissarro with a £1.5-2M estimate fails (as they did). The sale totaled just £36.4M (including the premiums), and they had anticipated bringing in between £64.2-89.8M (without premiums) – wow, sa-wing and a miss! Speaking of… don’t forget, the Yankees play the Red Sox in London this weekend!