Given the staggering results of the art market, via auction at least, over the past 12 months I think it is fair to write that these forthcoming Summer sales in London will be as successful as ever despite their diminutive size and post-Brexit location. The last auctions in New York were as vastly lucrative as they were vast. Sotheby’s London is offering their Modern British fare to bulk up a sale program that looks a little skeletal across the top two departments of Impressionist & Modern and Contemporary. That said the finest work of the season (the Freud of Hockney, more of which later) features in one of the ‘Mod Brit’ sales so that’s entirely understandable. Christie’s Paris have a top collection of Post War too, Francis Gross’s collection, so that will certainly help the season’s numbers.
The highlights at Sotheby’s stem from each of the departments involved with Lucian Freud’s portrait of his friend David Hockney being the most wonderful painting. I think it so interesting that Freud depicts Hockney as slightly nervous, cross almost, through that deep stare behind his glasses. It is the very flipside to David Hockney’s joy-filled oeuvre. In comparison, please check out the gorgeous painting at Christie’s showing Julie Mehrutu by Elizabeth Peyton which treats the artist as a force of nature: an art-star full of confidence and thrust: a man painting a man with nervy caution; a woman painting a woman with confidence. Sotheby’s are offering a large and wonderful Kandinsky from 1937 which is musical, theatrical and brilliant. I find it the better painting of the two on sale next week – Christie’s have another from the same, post-Bauhaus, date of inferior calibre but at half the estimate. Finally, Sotheby’s are offering a splendid, tough, visceral Cy Twombly in the same sale. A far cry from 30s Kandinsky it is a brilliant, daring, 1964 canvas of intensity and vital energy.
Across Piccadilly Christie’s are offering some wonderful works with the same cross-category plan as before. I loved the top lots in the sale including a very expensive, but lifetime, ‘Homme qui chavire’ by Alberto Giacometti and a marvellous glass and pottery shard mobile by Alexander Calder of 1944. However, the most art historically impressive piece is a painting by the legendary Ernst Ludwig Kirchner of 1912 entitled ‘Pantomime Reimann: Die Rache der Tanzerin’. The violence of the work and the left-field, somewhat ‘dominatrix’ subject-matter (the dancer’s revenge), makes it such a fabulous item of record for the time. Cabaret and theatre in Berlin, after Kirchner’s move to the city in 1911, provided an ideal subject matter for a bohemian more interested in humanity than the natural worlds of the Blue Rider’s Franz Marc et al. Christie’s Paris’ Evening sale is worth a good look: the important but little-known Paul-Emille Borduas is represented by a 1958 work of beautiful, rich impasto synonymous with his group – it is also a very low estimate given the calibre of the piece.
Overall, this will be a strong sale season as the market for tangible assets looks increasingly buoyant. Money printing across the world is creating many asset bubbles so please, do use an advisor to avoid the flighty fashions, pitfalls and traps when buying at auction.
The sale dates and links are as follows: