With only a handful of weeks between the May auctions in New York and this week’s London sales the auctions are really rather limited. Through no fault of the department specialists all the houses really struggled to put together good-sized auctions with quality in depth. There are one or two good blockbuster works but the lower end of all the sales see slim pickings. It remains to be seen whether the June auctions will be moved to early October to enable London to be the Art-World powerhouse it once was.
My highlights are Christie’s 1913 Fernand Leger (1881-1955) which is from his finest period just before the terrors of the First War. Colourful Cubist shapes make up a semi-abstract ‘Femme dans un fauteuil’ which should sell at the estimate of around 30m GBP.
Sotheby’s Joan Miró (1893-1983) of 1938, Peinture (l’air), is a real cracker and just around the time of his deep political angst surrounding the Spanish Civil War. With similar motifs to his fabulous 1937 panel for the World Fair it is a really important painting and should go to a museum. I wonder if a private buyer would want to spend around 10m GBP on such a diminutive work (which is not from the famous ‘Constellation’ series).
Also in the modern sphere is the large and lovely Yves Tanguy (1900-1955), ‘L’Extinction des especes II’, at Christie’s. These pieces are rarely in such great condition and this is the highlight of the Surrealist portion of their sale. Estimated at a very conservative level it is on the wall at 2.5m GBP low estimate but I expect it to make close to 5m GBP on a good night.
In the Contemporary arena the sales are again, understandably, limited with presale estimates well down on previous years. That said there is the odd gem including a signature Francis Bacon Self-Portrait of 1975 at Sotheby’s and a strong 1961 Jean Dubuffet at Christie’s entitled ‘Cérémonie’. Both are well estimated and should find buyers.
If you are bidding I wish you luck but please use an advisor when spending significant sums!