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20th/21st Century: Christie’s London Evening Sale

July 1, 2021
2 abstract figures


Following Sotheby’s lead, Christie’s presented their evening sale (which started at 2 pm London time, breakfast time in New York) on the 30th. As with Sotheby’s, this was a mixed sale of works ranging from 19th-century Impressionist to living artists.

bronze sculpture of a thin man


The top lot happened early in the sale when Picasso’s L’Étreinte (from 1969), hammered down at £12.6M/$17.4M (£14.7M/$20.3M w/p – est. £11-16M). Coming in a close second was Alberto Giacometti’s bronze Homme qui chavire at £12.4M/$17.1M (£13.7M/$19M w/p – est. £12-18M). This exact piece last appeared on the market back in 1998 and sold for $2.65M – so I am sure the seller was pleased. Now you may have noticed that the difference in the hammer prices between the first two lots was only £200K, while the difference in price with the premium added in is about £1M. Wonder why? Well, the Giacometti was a guaranteed lot, so the guarantor received a nice discount! Kandinsky took the third spot when Noir bigarré (1935) found a buyer at £7.8M/$10.7M (£8.85M/$12.2M w/p – est. £8-12M). Rounding out the top five were Ernst Kirchner’s Pantomime Reimann: Die Rache der Tänzerin at £6M/$8.3M (£7.14M/$9.9M – w/p – est. £6-9M), and Basquiat’s Untitled at £5M/$6.9M (£6M/$8.3M w/p – est. £4-6M).

an abstract image


There really wasn’t much in the way of fireworks in this sale, as at least half of the works sold within their estimate. In fact, 50% of those sold on the bottom end – most likely the reserve. Do you think the market needs a breather? I do, but sadly, I doubt that will happen as many more sales are scheduled for July.

By the end of the session, of the 52 works offered (a Banksy was withdrawn before the sale), 46 sold, generating an 88.5% sell-through rate, and the total take was a strong £101M/$139.6M (119.3M/$16.5M w/p). The presale estimate range was £94.7-138.4M, so they fell within the range, even without the buyer’s premium. Of the 46 sold lots, 10 were below, 24 within, and 12 above their presale estimate range; this gave them an accuracy rate of 46.2% — another respectable number.