Auction  October 29, 2020  Rozalia Jovanovic

Giacometti and Van Gogh Lead Sotheby’s Marquee Evening Sales

courtesy sotheby's

Vincent van Gogh, Fleurs dans un verre, 1890. Estimate: $14,000,000 - 18,000,000. Sold: $16,007,300.

A sculpture by Giacometti, a painting by Van Gogh, a table by Carlo Mollino, and a trio of cars were some of the highlights of the evening sales in contemporary and Impressionist and modern art at Sotheby’s last night, which saw nearly one million viewers—online as well as via Museum TV and financial news network Cheddar TV—and brought in a combined total of $283.9 million.

courtesy sotheby's

Alberto Giacometti, Femme Leoni, conceived 1947, cast 1958. Bronze. Estimate: $20,000,000 - 30,000,000. Sold: $25,916,400.

Leading the Impressionist and modern sale was Alberto Giacometti’s Femme Leoni, which brought in $25.9 million. The sale totaled $141.1 million and had a 100-percent sell-through rate, which is “unprecedented in modern history,” according to Julian Dawes, Sotheby’s Co-Deputy Head of Department for Impressionist and modern art, at the post-sale press conference. There were three lots withdrawn prior to the sale.

Before the sale had begun, Sotheby’s privately sold Giacometti’s Femme de Venise IV. And the monumental nine-foot-tall Grande Femme I, which was offered a week before the auction via sealed bid, also found a buyer though the price was not revealed. At a high-point of the evening, bidders fought for ten minutes over Giorgio De Chirico’s 1913 Il Pomeriggio di Arianna (Ariadne’s Afternoon), a surreal scene from his earliest painted series marking the start of his metaphysical style, which finally sold for $15.9 million setting a new world record for the artist at auction, which was last held by Il Ritornante, which sold at Christie’s Paris in 2009 for $14.1 million according to Artprice.

courtesy sotheby's

Giorgio De Chirico, Il Pomeriggio di Arianna (Ariadne’s Afternoon), 1913. Oil on canvas. Estimate: $10,000,000 - 15,000,000. Sold: $15,890,400.

Continuing the run of surrealist works, there were four on offer by René Magritte whose painting L’Ovation (1962), which was once owned by storied collectors Jean and Dominique de Menil, sold to a bidder for $14.1 million. Vincent van Gogh’s Fleurs dans un verre (1890), one of the most anticipated lots of the evening, stayed within its estimates realizing $16.2 million, the second-highest price achieved in this sale.

courtesy sotheby's

Alfa Romeo B.A.T. 5, 1953, Alfa Romeo B.A.T. 7, 1954, Alfa Romeo B.A.T. 9D, 1955. Estimate: $14,000,000 - 20,000,000. Sold: $15,488,250.

Leading the contemporary sale were a trio of concept cars by Alfa Romeo—the B.A.T. 5, B.A.T. 7, and B.A.T. 9D—which sold for a combined $14.8 million, setting a record for a post-war Alfa Romeo. The sale totaled $142.8 million, with 41 lots offered (five were withdrawn prior to the sale), for a 95.1-percent sell-through rate.

Another high point of the sale was a unique dining table by Carlo Mollino, which set a world auction record for the architect and designer when it sold for $6.2 million. The table, which was a gift to the Brooklyn Museum from the Italian government and was among a handful of works being sold by the museum in support of its collections, also set a new record for any work of Italian design.

courtesy sotheby's

Carlo Mollino, Dining Table, designed 1949, executed 1950. Molded plywood, maple, brass, and glass. Estimate: $2,000,000 - 3,000,000. Sold: $6,181,350.

A duo of mixed-media works by Jean-Michel Basquiat featuring some of his iconic motifs, Black and Jazz, both created in 1986, sold to separate bidders for $8.1 million and $6.9 million, respectively. There were also strong prices achieved for paintings by Helen Frankenthaler, Carousel for $4.7 million, and Lee Krasner, Camouflage for $3.7 million. One of Ruth Asawa’s popular hanging sculptures, this one titled S.267, Hanging Six-Lobed, Four-Part, Discontinuous…, sold for $4.2 million achieving the second-highest price for her work at auction (the highest being $5.4 million, achieved this summer according to Artprice).

courtesy sotheby's

Jean-Michel Basquiat, Black, 1986. Estimate: $4,000,000 - 6,000,000. Sold: $8,134,650

Also noteworthy were the works by artists who are relatively new to auction, Jordan Casteel and Matthew Wong (who died in 2019). Wong’s autumnal landscape from a private European collection, caused a heated bidding war, with a new bidder jumping in online late in the game. The work went for $1.7 million to a bidder on the phone. The Casteel sold for $564,500.

courtesy sotheby's

Matthew Wong, Dialogue, 2018. Estimate: $200,000 - 300,000. Sold: $1,677,700.

Two of the lots withdrawn before the sale were paintings by Brice Marden and Clyfford Still, which were on offer by the Baltimore Museum of Art causing much controversy and debate over how and why works should be deaccessioned from museums. One anticipated work, Mark Rothko’s Untitled (Black On Maroon) failed to find a buyer.

courtesy sotheby's

Mark Rothko, Untitled (Black on Maroon), 1958. Estimate: $25,000,000 - 30,000,000.

“Coming on the heels of our successful sales in Hong Kong, London and Paris earlier this month, tonight’s auctions raised the total for our October evening sales of Contemporary and Impressionist & Modern Art to over $500 million worldwide,” said Amy Cappellazzo, Sotheby’s Chairman, Global Fine Art, at the post-sale press briefing. Perhaps referencing the variety of sales seen in this auction both during the sale and before it with the sealed bid sale of the Giacometti, Cappellazzo said, “Whether through auction or private sales, we are continuing to rethink the traditional auction schedule and how best to offer important works of our art to our clients through flexible, bespoke opportunities that best suit all parties. These results are a testament to that thinking, and we are excited to continue to innovate and reimagine what an auction house is capable of.”

About the Author

Rozalia Jovanovic

Rozalia Jovanovic is a writer and editor born and raised in New York who has covered the art world for nearly a decade. She has been the Editor-in-Chief of artnet News and digital director of Galerie magazine. A MacDowell fellow, Rozalia studied art history and communications at the University of Pennsylvania and received an MFA in fiction from Columbia University.

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