Picasso’s dog without a home

High estimates fail to find support among buyers at Christie’s.

Expectations are naturally high for Christie’s upcoming sales during the weeks of November 4th – 13th, 2013. After all, the auction house set unprecedented records just 6 months before, bringing in almost $500 million during its, now legendary, Post-War and Contemporary auction. This time around they would have to not only mount a spectacular sale, but the goal, as echoed by several of the department heads at this morning’s presentation, is to supersede the May results.

Pablo Picasso - Claude et Paloma, 1950 Christie's Jan Krugier saleTonight’s first installment of the Jan Krugier single owner sale at Christie’s served as the unofficial start to the fall auction season. It was an art market’s litmus test of the health of the Impressionist and Modern art market and would set the tone for the next two days, although at this point many in the department are probably hoping for the opposite. Of the 63 lots offered in tonight’s sale 19, or approximately 30% didn’t sell. The evening’s top lot was Picasso’s 1950 oil on canvas titled Claude et Paloma that sold for a total of $28,165,000 – or more than double its high estimate of $12 million. The gray, white and brown painting of the artist’s two youngest children was in Picasso’s private collection until the artist’s death and then went to his grand daughter Marina. Find out who bought it.

Read our top 10 recommendations from the sale.

Pablo Picasso - Dog's head Christie's Jan Krugier evening salePicasso emerges as the evening’s top earner

The evening featured many works of art that were surprisingly expensive by the auction house’s estimates. Among them were the  1964 metal maquette for Picasso‘s famous Tête (Maquette pour la sculpture en plein air du Chicago Civic Center). This small-scale, highly stylized sculpture was a study for the final work which was Picasso’s gift to the city of Chicago. The maquette was  priced at an unexpected $25  $35 million and in this price range failed to find a buyer. The only Giacometti sculpture to sell this evening was the 1951 bust of the artist’s brother Diego, titled Tête de Diego au col roulé. It never reached its low estimate of $6 million selling instead for just below $4 million, which is the price suggested in our top recommendations.

pablo_picasso_le_jeune_homme_d5729536hOne of the pleasant surprises of the evening was the price realized for Henri Matisse‘s Arabesques Noires et Violettes sur un Fond Orange which sold for a total of $1,085,000. Picasso’s simplistic phallic wooden construction titled Le Jeune Homme (left) was a casualty of the evening, failing to realize its unprecedented estimate of $5 – $8 million. I am not sure who was supposed to buy it for that price but its failure to sell gives me hope that not all is lost in this, often irrational, marketplace. Making up the rest of the 19 lots are Wassily Kandinsky‘s Herbstlandschaft with its $20 – $25 million. Last year Kandinsky’s Studie für Improvisation 8 was the star lot of the Impressionist and Modern Art sale, barely making through the low estimate and selling for $23 million. Herbstlandschaft is considerably smaller, less dynamic with a paler, less exciting palette, far less compositionally complex and would have been better priced at $11  14 million. Another casualty of the elevated estimates, Alberto Giacometti’s Nu Debout didn’t reach its target price of $8 million. Joan Miró’s Peinture-L’Oiseau also went unsold failing to garner interest in the $8 – $12 million range.

Top lots by value:

In orange are paintings included in our Top 10 recommendations for collectors.

1. Pablo Picasso, Claude et Paloma, oil and ripolin on panel, painted in Vallauris, 20 January 1950. Estimate: 9,000,000-12,000,000. Price realized: $28,165,000

2. Pablo Picasso, Buste d’homme écrivant (Personnage [Autoportrait]), oil on canvas, painted on 28 June 1971. Estimate: $6,000,000-8,000,000. Price realized: $6,661,000

3. Pablo Picasso, Baigneuse sur la plage, pen and India ink on paper, drawn on 8 January 1931. Estimate: $4,500,000-6,500,000. Price realized: $4,645,000

4. Alberto Giacometti, Tête de Diego au col roulé, painted bronze, executed in 1951. Estimate: $6,000,000-9,000,000. Price realized: $3,973,000

5. Pablo Picasso, Carnet Dinard (Carnet 1044, page 5), pen and India ink on paper, drawn in Dinard, 29-30 July 1928. Estimate: $1,000,000-1,500,000 Price realized: $3,525,000

6. Pablo Picasso, Construction à la fleur (Nature morte à la fleur), oil, wood, cardboard and fabric on canvas, executed in 1938. Estimate: $2,000,000-3,000,000 Price realized: $3,133,000

7. Jean-Michel Basquiat, Crisis X, oil, acrylic and oilstick on canvas with rope on exposed stretcher, executed in 1982. Estimate: $3,000,000-4,000,000 Price realized: $2,853,000

8. Joan Miró, Sans titre, pencil, sandpaper, corrugated cardboard, cardboard, paper,
painting tubes and pastel box nailed on wooden box, executed circa 1934. Estimate: $1,500,000-2,500,000 Price realized: $2,853,000

9. Pablo Picasso, Nu appuyé (Femme étendue), oil on panel, painted in 1908. Estimate: $1,500,000-2,500,000 Price realized: $2,629,000

10. Marcel Duchamp, Chessboard (Echiquier), sixty-four wooden squares nailed and glued on plywood, executed in Paris, 1937. Estimate: $1,000,000-1,500,000 Price realized: $2,573,000

This article ©galleryIntell. Sales figures courtesy of Christie’s New york. Images courtesy of Christie’s Images Ltd.