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Impressionist & Modern Day Sale – Sotheby’s NY

November 24, 2020
landscape with clouds

Lucien Lévy-Dhurmer

There does not seem to be an end to the number of works auction rooms are throwing into the market.  With all the sales that took place last month, one would assume that there would be a bit of a slowdown this month … well, that is not happening. On November 19th, Sotheby’s put forth a sale of 213 Impressionist and Modern works, but in the end, only 206 were offered — guess some of the items had no interest, so they were pulled from the sale. (w/p = with the buyer’s premium)

woman getting dressed


Taking the number one spot was a surprise to many. Lucien Lévy-Dhurmer’s massive (102 x 137 inches) Paysage montagneux was expected to bring between $150-250K, and when the bidding battle ended, the new owner forked over $1.6M ($1.956M w/p – it is interesting to note that in the past, many of the artist’s works were offered in 19th-century sales). The $1.956M was also a record auction price for the artist. The previous record was set back in 1989 when Fantasmagorie (62 x 94 inches) sold for $264K. The second-place finisher was Degas’ Femme debout et vue de face agrafant son corset that was expected to bring $1.2-1.8M (the highest estimate in the sale) but hammered down at $1.1M ($1.35M w/p). This painting also had an irrevocable bid, so it was guaranteed to sell — back in 2007, the work made $1.6M, then went unsold with a $1.8-2.5M estimate in 2015.  In third, there was a tie…  two paintings by Bonnard, Assiette de fraises (last sold in 2001 for $457K) and Nu assis, Fleurs dans les cheveux (Étude de nu) were each expected to bring $500-700K, and both hammered at $950K ($1.169 w/p).

berries on a table


Rounding out the top five were Salvador Dali’s gold sculpture Untitled (Le Pain et le vin) which brought $900K ($1.109M w/p – est. $300-500K, the work was last on the public market in 1997 and made $61K). Following that were two works that hammered at $700K ($867 w/p), Wilfredo Lam’s La Fugue (La Terreur, La Peur dans la nuit) (est. $800-1.2M) and a tiny (8 ¾ x 5 ¾ inches) Marc Chagall Femme et bouquet (est. $120-180K).

nude woman on a chair


Several other works did pretty well (some of which I really do not understand)… Renoir’s 8 x 12 inch sketchy Roses (which bears the initial R at the top – meaning they do not believe the ‘R’ was put on by the artist) was estimated at $100-150K and sold for $320K ($403K w/p). Why?!  Lynn Chadwick’s Sitting Elektra II made $170K ($214K w/p – eat. $40-60K). Pissarro’s drawing Deux paysans made $28K ($35.3K w/p – est. $4-6K), and Brasilier’s L’Hiver Vert hammered at $90K ($113.4K w/p – est. $25-35K).

On the flip side, works by Tamayo (est. $700-900K), Chagall ($500-700K), Sérusier ($400-600K), Klee ($300-400K), Ernst ($250-350K), and Picasso ($250-350K) were among those that did not find buyers.

When the sale finally finished, of the 206 works offered, 161 sold, and 45 did not sell – this gave them a sell-through rate of 78.15% — a respectable number.  The low end of their estimate range was $25.3M, and the hammer price was $24.4M (30.5M w/p), so on that, they fell a little short.  Of the 161 sold works, 43 were below, 57 with, and 61 above their estimate ranges; when we add in the unsold works, this left them with an accuracy rate of 27.7% … a somewhat reasonable number.