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  • Van Weyenbergh Fine Art

At Christie's and Sotheby's London auction houses, too greedy sellers have slowed down the sales,

At Christie’s and Sotheby’s auctions in London, too high estimates of the lots slowed down the sales in 2019.

If the art market remains like it is now, sales of modern mpressionist and surrealist art have disappointed at Christie's. The claims of the sellers have been disproportionate.

London Sotheby's and Christie's first sales session of the year registered a slight decrease (-11% compared to last year) with a total of 253 million pounds sterling included (294 M €), a figure of below its low estimate (£ 252.9m). These results could have been much better if some vendors had followed the advice of Christie's specialists.

Indeed, if the auction house of François Pinault ( Christie’s) has earned 165.6 million pounds - his second highest total in the specialty in London - it has not reached its low estimate of 185.2 million pounds. The failure of its "Hidden Treasures" sale, which brought together part of the Wallace brothers' collection, is the primary cause. Of the 21 lots offered, 9 remained on the floor, including Monet's Weeping Willow and Water Lily Pond (1916-1919), at a very high estimate (£ 40m), and a Van Gogh peasant (estimate 8 to £ 12 million). "The sellers have been too greedy. They did not listen to the voice of common sense, "says Paris dealer Christian Ogier. Also from this collection, the most expensive lot of the evening, Cezanne's Still Life of Peaches and Pears (1885-1887), was auctioned for £ 18.5 million (£ 21.2 million inclusive), € 24.6 million), which is below its low estimate. On the other hand, the works from David Graham's collection were well received, with two world records at the top: one for Signac with Le Port au soleil couchant, op. 236 (Saint-Tropez), 1892, sold 19 £ 5 million (€ 22.6 million); the other for Gustave Caillebotte with “Chemin montant” (1881), brought to 18.3 million (21.2 M €).

Sotheby's raised 87.7 million pounds (101.8 million euros), a total in the range of its estimate. While it is down more than 35% in a year, but with 82% of lots sold, including all flagship lots, "she did a good job while she had little in hand," agrees Christian Ogier.

The highest price of the week, Monet's “Palais ducal” (1908, see photo here under), was sold for £ 27.5m (€ 31.9m), within the range of the estimate. This is a new record for a Venetian work of the artist, dethroning The Grand Canal, which started at 23.6 million pounds four years ago. Unpublished on the market, the work was kept in the same family since its acquisition in 1926 by the German industrial Erich Goeritz.

The other star lot of the sale, Egon Schiele's “Fishing Boat in Trieste”, was taken to 10.6 million pounds (12.3 M €), above its high estimate (8 M £) . Again, the work never appeared in public auction, confirming the strong appeal of collectors for "fresh" pieces on the market. As for the surrealist component, it was dominated by a work by René Magritte, “L'Étoile du matin” (1938), acquired by a private American collector for 5.3 million pounds (€ 6.1 million).

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