Pricey Portraits Lead Christie’s 2013 Fall Impressionist & Modern art auction in New York – UPDATED WITH SALE RESULTS
UPDATE: Were it not for a third party guarantee on the evening’s highest estimated lot – the Giacometti above – the event would have been even gloomier. The Giacometti sold for a hammer price of $29 million ($32,645,000 with the buyer’s premium), but only barely. There was not bidding in the room. The Modigilani portrait Monsieur Baranowski bombed (estimate: $25-35 million) as did the giant, late Picasso (lot 31, below). Despite all this, the evening’s tally was $144,299,000 (results inclusive of buyers’ premiums), well below the low estimate of $188 million (a figure that does NOT include the buyers’ premiums), and there were a couple of battles for some lots, including Lot 16, a van Gogh drawing, and Lot 39, a Kandinsky painting. Complete results.
ORIGINAL POST: Portraits by Giacometti, Modigilani and Picasso lead Christie’s November 5, 2013 Evening Sale of Impressionist & Modern art auction in New York, with an Alberto Giacometti oil on canvas portrait of his brother Diego poised by bring in an estimated $30 – 50 million. How high will that lead lot go? Hard to know, but it will sell. As Christie’s notes on its Web site: “On occasion, Christie’s has a direct financial interest in lots consigned for sale, which may include guaranteeing a minimum price or making an advance to the consignor that is secured solely by consigned property.”
With Giacometti sculptures setting record prices, it seems auction prices for the paintings could follow – the artist did want to be recognized equally for both his two dimensional and three dimensional works and auction prices are one determinant (though its critical value is questionable).
From the lot notes:
The present work which was executed in 1954 is, perhaps, one of the most fully worked and deeply realized of all Giacometti’s portraits. He knew Diego intimately; he knew him almost as well as he knew himself. He already captured him many times on canvas and he would continue to do so until the very end of his life but never before or after did Alberto paint Diego with quite the same energy or fervor as he did in the present work. The surface of the painting is deeply rich in texture showing how Alberto compulsively worked and re-worked his material. Moreover, the essentially monochromatic palette of blacks and grays and whites has been significantly enhanced in this portrait of Diego wearing a tartan shirt.
Color was not deliberately eliminated from Giacometti’s paintings although it does, however, play a subsidiary role to line.
This slender portrait is not quite the sinuous and iconic Modigliani painting I’d wish to own. There’s a certain clunkiness to the treatment of the figure and the painting’s lower half.
From the lot notes:
If you’re fated to own a large, late and lugubrious Picasso, this may be the one. And, good luck to you.
The portrait of [Pierre-Edouard] Baranowski [a Polish émigré to Montparnasse] takes its place in the peerless visual history of Left Bank culture that Modigliani produced during the second decade of the twentieth century. Werner Schmalenbach has written, “In his portraits, without ever setting out to be so, Modigliani was a chronicler of the vie bohème of Montparnasse, the district where in his time the artistic life of the French capital was being transformed. He painted so many people from this world that one is almost impelled to ask whom he did not paint. Modigliani was part of this bohème in a highly personal and indeed an exemplary way. In the eyes of his contemporaries, he was–as he has remained–its epitome” (Modigliani and the Artists of Montparnasse, exh. cat., Albright-Knox Art Gallery, Buffalo, 2002, p. 33).
“Who was Monsieur Baranowski?” Alfred Werner has written. “One of the hundreds of artists and intellectuals who flocked to Paris from Eastern Europe, most of whose talents were to remain unrecognized, their dreams unfulfilled.”
From the lot notes:
True to synthetic cubist practice, manifest here is Gris’ method of composing with tilted and angled translucent color planes, stacked one atop another like panes and shards of tinted glass, glowing with both brilliant and deeply resonant chroma. “The only technique,” Gris declared, “is a sort of flat, colored architecture” (quoted in D.-H. Kahnweiler, Juan Gris: His Life and Work, London, 1969, p. 197). In an otherwise darkened room, a shaft of light as if streaming through an opened door has struck the face of the guitar, also illuminating two sheets of staved music paper and a section of molding on the wall behind. Gris has dovetailed these various elements into a grandly conceived but entirely lucid composition–the poet-critic Apollinaire dubbed him “the demon of logic” (L.C. Breunig, ed., Apollinaire on Art, New York, 1972, p. 254). Here is a recent development in the artist’s painting, which commenced in his canvases during the spring 1915 and lasted about a year thereafter: Gris has contrasted imitation textures and solid color planes with passages of pointillist dots, stippled in regular rows, functioning by way of contrast with adjacent planar elements as if to aerate the geometry and lighten the density of his conception, while sensuously animating the overall effect of the composition.
From the lot notes:
The young blonde woman in this painting is unmistakably Marie-Thérèse Walter, since 1927 Picasso’s mostly hidden mistress and the mother of his second child, their daughter Maya, who was a toddler when this was painted in December 1937.
[O]n the evening of 8 January 1927 … Picasso walked up to Marie-Thérèse, then only seventeen-and-a-half years old, as she stood outside the Galeries Lafayette department store in Paris. “You have an interesting face. I would like to do a portrait of you,” he told her. “I feel we are going to do great things together.” It should have been the greatest pick-up line in the history of courtship when he then announced: “I am Picasso” (quoted in J. Richardson, A Life of Picasso: The Triumphant Years, New York, 2007, p. 323). She did not know who he was, however, and Picasso later took her to a bookstore and showed her a book with his name on the cover.