Auction Preview: The Spring Impressionist, Modern & Contemporary Art Auctions in London & Shanghai (1st – 4th March 2022)

Despite some headwinds I see no reason for the art market to take any kind of buffering in the next week of auctions. The calibre of the work on display is superb and the strength of Irrevocable Bid (IB) interest has been second to none. I was lucky enough to get a tour of the galleries this morning ahead of the official opening of the previews. In showing the Modern and Contemporary sales together we see a slimmed down, but high-calibre group of paintings given adequate space to ‘breathe’ on the walls of the Sotheby’s and Christie’s galleries. 

My Sotheby’s highlights were unquestionably the top, top Magritte being offered at the extraordinary estimate of 45m GBP. I think this is value to 35m but with the USD getting weaker and the anti-capital stance of the Chinese government inhibiting Asian interest at these top levels it might be a tricky sell. The work is guaranteed and as such Sotheby’s might find themselves with a very expensive acquisition – to my knowledge no IB has been accepted though I am told some have been passed over. There is no question of its calibre though, as one of the largest of the series of ‘L’empire de lumiere’. 

The five works by Monet that caused some media hype are inconsistent in quality but the main flower painting is a large and bright work of real commercial clout. As to the smaller of the still-lifes I was surprised to see this being sold in an evening sale. However, the Impressionist and Modern pictures hold up well against an inferior batch of contemporary work. 

One picture to garner the spotlight is the Marc Chagall painting, ‘Paysage a L’Isba’, which shows a delightful full-length portrait of the artist’s wife Bella and stems from the same private collection as the stunning Van Rysselberghe, Rossignol, and the gorgeous 20s Leger: ‘Nature morte et profil’.

Over at Christie’s the sales looks fabulous and far more extensive in the contemporary field than Sotheby’s. The three major pictures, for me at least, were obvious: the Bacon triptych (depicting three disparate but brilliant images from Woodrow Wilson to a stark, bloody, mess of Trotsky’s death-spattered desk!); the stunning large Picasso in the Surrealist sale (a window scene showing a Boisgeloup sculpture of Marie Therese) and a phenomenal Franz Marc of unreal elegance. The Marc might be the best work of his oeuvre and not since the waterfall of the Beck Collection 20 years ago has there been such a Franz Marc for sale.

Of the Contemporary works I think the Hockney still-life is strong, the Lucien Freud ‘Lobster’ is superb and the majority of the lesser-known Contemporary names (Shara Hughes and Nicolas Party) have been well orchestrated into a very strong sale.

The sales and links are as follows, and remember, please use an advisor if you are spending significant sums, you will then avoid the numerous pitfalls in buying at auction:

Tuesday 1st March 2022

Christie’s, 20th-21st  Century Art Evening Auction, Shanghai (9PM CST/ 1PM GMT)

Christie’s, 20th-21st Century Art Evening Auction, London (1PM GMT)

Christie’s, The Art of the Surreal Auction, London (1PM GMT)

Wednesday 2nd March 2022

Christie’s, Post-War & Contemporary Art Day Auction, London (1PM GMT)

Sotheby’s, The Now Evening Auction, London (4PM GMT)

Sotheby’s, Modern & Contemporary Evening Auction, London (5PM GMT)  

Thursday 3rd March 2022

Sotheby’s, Modern & Contemporary Art Day Auction, London (12PM GMT)

Friday 4th March 2022

Christie’s, Impressionist & Modern Art Day and Works on Paper Auctions, London (1PM GMT)

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