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The Impressionist and Modern market is back on track.

Any gloom created by Sotheby’s lackluster sale (with the lowest result from 2012) in London was lifted on by a very strong performance at Christie’s, whose Impressionist and Modern evening sale fetched £128.1 million ($168.3 million), toward the upper end of its £96.4 to £134.5 million pre-sale estimate. (Prices include buyer’s premium; estimates do not.).

The Wall Street Journal struggled to make sense of the Impressionist and Modern art market based upon last week’s results in London. However, probably mistakenly lumping the Imp-Mod market in with a trend in the Contemporary market, the Journal concludes that there’s a shift to the middle market.

But that’s not what’s been going on in this category where the top of the market concentrates value and the middling works are seeing price erosion: Last week in London, the sales saw isolated cases of aggressive bidding around a few high-quality works that were not at the top of the price scale, but that doesn’t mean the Imp-Mod category is shifting toward the middle market.

Regarding to this June sales Christie’s appeared to have gathered material for its sale without too much difficulty and, in contrast to Sotheby’s, which owed much of its final total to financial guarantees, Christie’s auction carried only two guarantees, both of which were backed by third parties. The quality of the works on offer was also quite higher at Christie’s, and the bidding was more spirited. The result:  a third of the 37 lots that sold fetched hammer prices within or above their estimates.

In particular, Christie’s auction was headlined by two big-ticket items: Monet’s classic view of the Gare Saint-Lazare in Paris from 1877, a work from a series very rarely to come in the market ( Of the 12 train station paintings by Monet, nine are in museums) with  a £22 million to £28 million estimate has been sold for £25millions, just little above the lower estimate.

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Pablo Picasso’s Femme dans un fauteuil (Dora Maar) (1942). Image courtesy of Christie’s Images, Ltd.

The other top lot, Picasso’s portrait of Dora Maar from 1942 , was also relatively fresh to market:  having been in the same collection for 28 years it had been consigned by a European collector. Xin Li, the deputy chairman of Christie’s Asia, bought it for a client for £19.4 million ($25.4 million).

Namely it was a busy sale for Christie’s Asian representatives, who also acquired works by Diego Giacometti, Egon Schiele, Monet, Renoir, and Camille Claudel on behalf of clients on the phone. Claudel, a lover of Rodin’s, benefitted particularly from strong Asian interest, as well as Schiele, whose watercolor of a kneeling woman drew two Asian phone bidders into conflict until it ultimately sold to a Taiwanese representative of Christie’s for £1.56 million ($2 million), more than double its high estimate (and while the previous owner paid £65,000 ($85,500) for it in 1985)

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Egon Schiele (1890-1918)
Kniendes Mädchen, sich den Rock…
Price realised GBP 1,568,750

Also after these strong results on not only contemporary art, now Christie’s has announced an additional sale of 19th Century European art, that doesn’t fit the Impressionist and Modern story of art history, to precede the November auctions in New York.

It will be “European Art Part I” a new curated sale that will be dedicated to 19th century European masterpieces and will launch in New York on 31 October, during Christie’s Classic Week sale series, coinciding with TEFAF New York and leading into November’s 20th Century Week auctions. Sale highlights will also tour to Hong Kong, Shanghai and London in September.

According to Christie’s press release, following recent strong prices and new world auction records achieved for Delacroix and Corot in the Peggy and David Rockefeller Collection, the sale presents a unique platform for the most renowned artists of this diverse and often revolutionary era of art.

Deborah Coy, Head of Department, New York, comments, “European Art Part I will build upon the global demand seen in recent years for masterpiece-level art. 19th Century masterpieces have performed with increasingly strong results, driven by competition from traditional collectors and collectors of Modern and Contemporary Art, as well as a notable increase of participation from Asia.”

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Gustave Courbet, Femme endormie aux cheveux roux, (1864) ($3.5-4.5m)



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