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The London Impressionist and Modern Sale – Sotheby’s

October 13, 2021
children on the beach

Max Liebermann

Sotheby’s had another tough go on October 7th with their lower to mid-level Impressionist and Modern works of art.  While there were a few nice paintings in the mix, there was nothing that made me say – “I gotta have that!”

a still life on a table

Marc Chagall

The top performer was a small (9.625 x 13.375 inch) sketch by German artist Max Liebermann, titled Spielende Kinder am Strand (Children playing on the beach).  The work, which appears to have been fresh to the market, was expected to sell in the £50-70K range and hammered at £130K/$177K (£164K/$223K w/p). From the quick bit of research I did, it seems this is the highest price achieved for a small study; the previous high of $170K was set back in 2015. Next came Marc Chagall’s Nature morte devant la fenêtre (a 1953 brush and ink and wash on paper).  The work was expected to bring £100-150K and hammered at £110K/$150K (£138.6K/$186K w/p). And in the third slot was Bernard Buffet’s 1956 Nature morte au réveil.  I do like Buffet’s work, but sometimes they are a little too creepy for me.  Expected to sell in the £45-65K range, this one eclipsed the upper end when it sold for £85K/$116K (£107k/$146K w/p). Filling in the top five were Lynn Chadwick’s sculpture Third girl sitting on bench at £70K/$95K (£88.2K/$120K w/p – est. £70-100K), and František Kupka’s Composition – Lueurs, a small pastel on paper, that brought £65K/$88.5K (£81.9K/$111.6K w/p).

flowers, clock, and cross on a table

Bernard Buffet

Other good performers were Gustav Klimt’s Auf dem Bauch liegender Halbakt nach rechts (Semi-Nude Lying on her Stomach turned to the Right) at £32K/$43.5 (£40.3K/$55K w/p – est. £10-15K), Henri Hayden’s Paysage which brought £14K/$19K (£17.6K/$24K w/p – est. £3-5K), and Armand Guillaumin’s Le Ravin de la folie, vue de Chateau Crozant which hammered at £50K/$68K (£63K/$85.7K w/p – est. £15-20K).  Some of the works that could not find buyers included Utrillo’s Eglise de Beaulieu (est. £60-80K), Boudin’s Deauville, le basin (est. £50-70K), Degas’ Jockey’s (£50-70K), Kisling’s Le parc (est. £50-70K), and Marquet’s Le Paquebot (£40-60K).

By the end of the sale, 97 lots were offered and 66 sold (a sell-through rate of 68%). The sale totaled £1.34M/$1.83M hammer (£1.69M/$2.3M w/p), while the presale estimate range was £1.65-2.5M, so they needed the buyer’s premium to make just squeak by the low end.  Of the 97 lots, 17 were below, 32 within, and 18 above their estimate range.  This gave them an accuracy rate of 33% … much better than the American sale.