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Art Market#12: Some Highlights from the London Sales - February/March 2023

Updated: Mar 9, 2023

The beginning of the auctions season in London did not hold any major surprises from a market that remains conservative, and increasingly conditioned by guarantees and ultra-contemporary art.

At Christie's The Art of the Surreal has achieved a satisfying 94% sell-through rate, with a confirmation of the renewed interest and positive vibe for surrealistic paintings, and in particular for Leonora Carrington, stimulated among collectors and dealers by the 2022 survey "Surrealism and Magic: Enchanted Modernity" at the Peggy Guggenheim Collection and, more recently, by the exploration of the movement through the lens of feminism at the last Venice Biennale, The Milk of Dreams.

New and predicted auction record at Sotheby's for the museum-quality restituted Kandinsky from Murnau period.

At Phillips the large Willem de Kooning has remained well below the pre-sale expected estimate of £7 million, whilst the Richter from the same owner, the French collector Marcel Brient, was withdrawn just before the beginning of the auction because the generated interest from buyers apparently didn't meet Brient's expectations, as explained by the Auction House.

Hammer prices do not include buyer's premium.

Sotheby's Modern & Contemporary Evening Auction

Courtesy Sotheby's

Wassily Kandinsky (1866 - 1944)

Murnau mit Kirche II (Murnau with Church II)

signed Kandinsky and dated 1910 (lower right); inscribed by Gabriele Münter on the stretcher

oil on canvas

96 by 105.5 cm. 37¾ by 41½ in.

Executed in 1910.

Property from the Collection of Johanna Margarete and Siegbert Stern.

Starting Estimate: around £28 million

Hammer price: £33 million

Courtesy Sotheby's

Pablo Picasso (1881 – 1973)

Fillette au bateau, Maya

dated 4.2.38. (lower right)

oil on canvas

73.3 by 60 cm. 28⅞ by 23⅝ in.

Executed on 4 February 1938.

Starting Estimate: £9 million

Hammer price: £15.5 million

Courtesy Sotheby's

Gerhard Richter (b. 1932)

Abstraktes Bild

signed Richter, dated 1986, numbered 596 and inscribed Teil A (on the reverse of left panel); numbered 596 and inscribed Teil B (on the reverse of right panel)

oil on canvas, in two parts

overall: 260 by 400 cm. 102⅜ by 157½ in.

Executed in 1986.

Starting Estimate: £18 million

Hammer price: £24.2 million

Courtesy Sotheby's

Lucian Freud (1922 - 2011)

Ib Reading

oil on canvas

134 by 158 cm. 52¾ by 62¼ in.

Executed in 1997

Starting Estimate: £10 million

Hammer price: £15 million

Christie's 20th/21st Century: London Evening Sale

Courtesy Christie's

VINCENT VAN GOGH (1853-1890)

Head of a Woman [Gordina de Groot]

oil on canvas laid down on panel

16 1/4 x 11 7/8 in. (41.3 x 32.6 cm.)

Painted in Nuenen in March-April 1885

Starting Estimate: £850,000

Hammer price: £4 million

Courtesy Christie's

JOSEF ALBERS (1888-1976)

Study for Homage to the Square ‘Greek Tragedy’

signed with the artist's monogram and dated 'A61' (lower right); signed, titled and dated 'Study for Homage to the Square "Greek Tragedy" Albers' 1961' (on the reverse)

oil on masonite

29 7/8 x 29 7/8in. (76 x 76cm.)

Painted in 1961

Starting Estimate: £320,000

Hammer price: £800,000

Courtesy Christie's


Chair with a Horse Drawn by Picasso

signed, titled and dated ‘chair with a horse drawn by Picasso David Hockney 1970’ (on the reverse)

acrylic on canvas

33 7/8 x 28in. (86.2 x 71.1cm.)

Painted in 1970

Starting Estimate: £1.1 million

Hammer price: £3.6 million

Phillips 20th Century & Contemporary Art Evening Sale

Courtesy Phillips

Willem de Kooning (1904-1997)


signed ‘de Kooning’ on the stretcher

oil on canvas

223.5 x 195.6 cm (88 x 77 in.)

Painted in 1984.

Starting Estimate: £4.2 million

Hammer price: £5 million


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