> TELEPHONE US 212.355.5710

Winston Churchill Made All The Difference

March 10, 2021
colorful landscape

Churchill Koutoubia Mosque

On the evening of March 1, Christie’s presented a small sale of Modern British art which included works by Lavery, Moore, Hepworth, and Sir Winston Churchill.

bronze of 2 figures

Henry Moore

Taking the top spot was Sir Winston Churchill’s Tower of the Koutoubia Mosque that Angelina Jolie was selling. The painting was only 18 x 24 inches, but had excellent provenance (initially, Churchill gave the painting to President Franklin Roosevelt) and carried an estimate of £1.5-2.5M.  When the bidding battle ended, the new owner paid £7M/$9.73M (£8.29M/$11.5M w/p) – an auction record for the artist.  Henry Moore’s Maquette for King and Queen (a 10 ½ inch high bronze) took second place when it sold for £2.5M/$3.5M (£3.02/$4.2M w/p).  Third place saw a larger (24 x 36 inches) Churchill work – Scene at Marrakech – that hammered at £1.55M/$2.15M (£1.88M/$2.6M – est. £300-500K); Churchill gave this painting to Field Marshal Bernard Law Montgomery (man, I wish my grandfather was a friend of Churchill). Rounding out the top five were Churchill’s St. Paul’s Churchyard, which did nothing for me, but I guess the buyer of the other two needed this one as well and ended up paying £880K/$1.22M (£1.08M/$1.5M – est. £200-300K); and Barbara Hepworth’s Square Forms made £750K/$1.04M (£923K/$1.3M – w/p).

landscape of Marrakech

Churchill – Marrakech

There were a few other good results; among them were Sir John Lavery’s The Viscountess Castlerosse, Palm Springs that was expected to bring £400-600K and hammered at £700K/$937K (£863K/$1.2M – w/p)… this painting last sold at auction in 1997 for $63K, so that was a happy seller! Sir Michael Craig-Martin’s With Red Shoes was expected to sell between £60-80K and brought £260K/$361K (£325K/$451K – w/p), and Hepworth’s Three Round Forms made £480K/$$667K (£599K/$832K – w/p) – this same bronze last sold in 1988 for $77K … another happy seller.

By the end of the sale, of the 34 works offered, 33 sold (an impressive 97% sell-through rate), and the total take was £21M/$29.3M (£25.6/$35.6M).  The presale estimate range was £9.06-14.28M, so they easily beat that.  Of the 33 sold works, 7 were below, 11 within, and 15 above their estimate range, leaving them with an accuracy rate of 32.4% — which is not terrible.

As we have seen with many other sales, all it takes is one or two bidding battles to make any sale a real success … at least if you are just looking at the overall numbers.  In this case, three paintings by Churchill made all the difference.