O nce again, Sotheby’s has placed itself firmly at the forefront of the autumn sale season in Europe with a relay sale that encompassed the very best of the Parisian Avant Garde through to Post-War Swinging London and beyond. A continuation of the cross-category survey of art history pioneered in this summer’s groundbreaking Rembrandt to Richter sale, Modernités and the Contemporary Art Evening Auction presented defining moments of the 20th and 21st centuries through works by the greatest figures from art history.
This innovative back-to-back event has allowed Sotheby’s to expand the scope of the traditional auction format, amplifying the energy of the saleroom into the homes of audiences around the world. Each live auction was attended by a small number of clients, with many others joining via a live-stream broadcast, once again bringing the world of Sotheby’s together for an evening of high drama and exceptional museum-quality works of art.
Kicking off the evening’s events, Helena Newman took to the rostrum to preside over the Modernités auction in Paris, but hosting from from the saleroom in London, in a further demonstration of art world innovation. A notable highlight was Francis Picabia’s Minos, and this important 1929 canvas from his celebrated Transparencies achieved €3,956,700.
Many of the companion works from this series reside in museum collections across the world, reinforcing the calibre of works offered in the sale.
See Picabia's Minos soar to €3,956,700 in the Modernités sale
This mesmerising Picabia was joined by works demonstrating the breadth of European modernism, with Paris truly at its heart. The star lot of the sale, Pablo Picasso’s arresting 1940 portrait Tête d’homme, from the prestigious collection 'Un Regard Moderne', soared to €4.4 million in its auction debut.
Abstract works also made a big impact, with Pierre Soulages’s work on paper, Peinture 73 x 60 cm, 15 septembre 1975, selling for €351,300, whilst Kazuo Shiraga’s Chikaisei Shinsanshi from his Water Margin series, and Zao Wou-Ki’s 12.12.68, sold for €2.5 million and €1.1 million respectively.
Contemporary Art Evening Auction
Taking centre stage in London the story of the night was Banksy’s Show me the Monet, a rare and entirely hand-painted canvas from early in his career, appropriating and disrupting Monet's iconic waterlilies for the contemporary age.
After a lively and competitive 9-minute bidding battle between clients from around the world, the work hammered down at £7.5 million, securing the second highest price for a Banksy at auction, and cementing Sotheby’s position as the market leader for exceptional results for works by the sought-after street artist.
Watch Show me the Monet hammer down at £7,551,600
In another triumph for art inspired by the streets, Jean Michel Basquiat's spirited homage to New York, Justcome Suit, rose to £5.1 million. It was painted in 1983, when Basquiat was at the height of his powers, and bursts with his trademark energy.
Elsewhere in the sale, Italian art was strongly represented through works by Enrico Castellani and Lucio Fontana, spanning several decades from minimalism through to Arte Povera and beyond, demonstrating real diversity from the post-war period. Piero Manzoni's 1962 masterpiece Achrome, which investigates the conceptual limits of painting sold for £1.7 million, and continuing the theme of abstraction were two works by Gerhard Richter, Abstraktes Bild, which found a buyer for £5.1 million, and the 1983 dynamic colour study, Arnold, that sold above its estimate at £1.2 million.
Mid-career artists produced strong results throughout the sale, with Beatriz Milhazes' self-described exploration in to 'chromatic free geometry’, Maracorola, achieving £620,000, and Adrian Ghenie’s Pie Fight Interior selling for £2.9 million – solidifying the robust market for works from these artists.
Modernités achieved the highest total for a sale in this category to date at €23.8 million ($28.2 million), whilst the Contemporary auction finished at £47.8 million ($62.2 million) reaching a combined total of $90.4 million.
Top Ten Sold
Looking Ahead – New York, 28 October 2020
As these landmark sales draw to a close, we turn our attention towards New York and the major marquee sales for Contemporary Art and Impressionist & Modern Art that will both take place on 28 October in the York Avenue sale room, as well as being live-streamed across all platforms. Mark Rothko’s 1958 masterpiece Untitled (Black on Maroon) leads the Contemporary auction, and is joined by important works from Brice Marden, Jasper Johns and Jean Michel Basquiat.
The Impressionist and Modern Art Sale will be highlighted by Vincent van Gogh’s Fleurs dans un verre, painted in 1890, just days before the artist’s death. Alongside this exquisite painting are works by the and Surrealist works by Giorgio de Chirico, Man Ray and René Magritte.