Akseli Gallen-Kallela's Sunset over Lake Ruovesi sold for £325,250 on 20th November at Sotheby’s London.
LONDON - Now that the dust has settled on all the activity surrounding our sale two weeks ago, it is interesting to see new buying patterns. As ever many of the artists whose work we sell are names largely unknown outside their country of origin. Yet the breadth of buyers for top works in this category this year has been growing, the purchasers' profiles becoming truly global.
Lesser known artists whose work featured in the sale and attracted strong interest from buyers included names such as Norbert Goeneutte, Adolphe Monticelli, Leo Putz and Peder Severin Krøyer. Their works sold for double or more their pre-sale estimates.
Norbert Goeneutte's Le Marche des Halles, Paris, sold for £39,650 on 20th November at Sotheby’s London.
A good case study is the painter Akseli Gallen-Kallela who, since his death, received little sustained exposure beyond the borders of his native Finland. All this changed in 2012. At the beginning of the year Gallen was the subject of a wonderful retrospective at the Musée d’Orsay in Paris (my train journey to which launched the first of our departmental blogs). The exhibition subsequently travelled to Düsseldorf.
Then this past summer in Edinburgh in the National Gallery of Scotland’s wide-reaching survey of Symbolism, Gallen's The Broken Pine and view over Lake Keitele were hailed as stars of the exhibition. We sold the latter painting to the London National Gallery back in 1999. At the time it established a new world record price for Gallen's work at auction, and was the first of a series of paintings by the artist that we have sold in London since. Now, this favourite son of Finland was being mentioned in the same breath as Van Gogh, Gauguin and Kandinsky (The Times, 16 July, 2012).
Akseli Gallen-Kallela's Lake Keitele (1905) at the National Gallery, London, sold at Sotheby’s London in 1999.
But not until this autumn when we negotiated the consignment of the small but very exquisite Sunset over Lake Ruovesi for our 20 November sale have we been able to capitalise on such a current confluence of museum momentum. Combining the serenity of the Finnish landscape with the country’s mythic past, Gallen’s work garnered considerable pre-sale attention, and on the day itself bids came in from California, New York, Continental Europe, the UK and Asia as well as Finland, pushing the painting's price from a pre-sale estimate of £90,000-120,000 to the final sum of £325,000 (the second highest price ever for the artist’s work).
It’s heartening to reflect that in 2012 Gallen and other artists like him - painters from across Europe who enjoyed international acclaim in their day - are starting to get the attention they deserve from museums, critics and the market.
Increasingly appreciated by collectors from around the world looking for works that are both quintessential but different, unassuming but iconic, such a broadening of interest in our field augurs well for 2013.