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Impressionist and Modern Art – Sotheby’s, New York

March 12, 2021
flowers in a vase


On March 11, Sotheby’s New York presented their first Impressionist and Modern Art sale for 2021; it was an online-only event, and bidding was open from March 1 through the 11th — at 2pm on the 11th, lots began to close in one-minute increments. The works offered were quite a mixed bag of ‘goodies’ as estimates ranged from just $300 to $120,000; included were, as Sotheby’s stated, “accessible works on paper offered without reserve by artists of the twentieth and twenty-first centuries as well as excellent examples of the School of Paris.” (w/p = with the buyer’s premium)

portrait of a woman with a hat


The top lot in the sale was a work by Tsugharu Foujita (1886 – 1968) titled Les Roses (1951). It was a rather small painting, just 9 ½ x 7 ½ inches, that carried an estimate of $60-80K and sold for $160K ($201.6 – w/p). Taking second place was a relatively recently created work by Jean-Pierre Cassigneul (b. 1935) titled Le Compotier (2014), which was estimated at $80-120K and sold above the high estimate at $140K ($176.4 w/p). Third place honors went to a giant crustation by Bernard Buffet (1928 – 1999) titled Le Homard (1958) with an estimate of $80-120K; it hammered down right in the middle at $100K ($126K w/p). Three lots tied to round out the top five (ok, six), these included Louis Valtat’s Femme cousant Dans le Jardin (est. $60-80K), Jean Dufy’s La Seine au pant du Carrousel (est. $30-50K), and Camille Bombois’ Après-midi au parc (est. $10-15K). All three sold for $70K ($88.2K w/p).

a lobster on a table


I will add that I was happily surprised to see a work by Hugues Claude Pissarro garner so much interest. The painting was estimated to bring $7-9K and hammered down at $25K ($31.5K w/p). And while it was a bright and colorful work, it did not have the complexity of many of his other works – case in point, the one we are currently offering in the gallery… and no, I am not sorry for the blatantly apparent sales pitch 😉


We often talk about how the condition of a work impacts its value; however, sometimes poorly conditioned items somehow find buyers at auction (I guess people just do not read the condition reports or simply do not care). Lot 74 was a small painting (15 x 18 inches) by Maurice de Vlaminck titled Coin de village. The condition report read as follows:

a house


The canvas is not lined. There is scattered craquelure to the center of the sky at the upper edge, including lifting, flaking, and losses to the pigment which requires consolidation by a restorer. There are two areas of pigment loss to the center left of the composition and some minor losses to the extreme edges, caused by frame abrasion. Under UV light: a thick varnish makes the surface difficult to read. There is extensive re-touching to the upper right quadrant and throughout the sky of the composition, notably to the left of the house with corresponding paint loss. The painting is in fair condition.

We would never purchase a painting like this as it has flaking, losses, extensive re-touching throughout the sky, etc… mind you, they conclude that the painting is in “fair condition” (read as “we cannot in good faith say this is in good condition, what else can we say that doesn’t sound awful”). The work was estimated to bring $35-45K, and while it did not reach that range, it did sell for $25,200. Why would anyone buy this? It seems like a total waste of $25K, plus it will cost thousands of dollars to restore it… oh well.

In the end, the sale did very well – the initial overall estimate was $1.525 – 2.184M, and it came very close to the high end before the premiums were added in — $2M ($2.521M w/p). With just 4 out of 96 not selling, it had a 96% sell-through; one of the best I have seen in a while.