Picasso's painting of a musketeer with a nude woman sold for £13.7 million.
Pablo Picasso, Mousquetaire et nu assis (1967). Courtesy of CHRISTIE'S IMAGES LTD. 2018.
On a chilly, snow-spattered evening, Christie’s kicked off a fortnight of auctions in London that are expected to collectively generate as much as £782 million ($1.1 billion). If achieved, it will be a record for a series of Impressionist and Modern and contemporary art sales in London, where a peak of £709.5 million ($1.2 billion) including premiums took place in February 2014.
Aiming high—and without regard for anyone’s dinner plans—the house piled 97 lots into their evening sale. In front of the packed room, in which many had attended in order to catch a preview of the Rockefeller treasures that will be sold later this spring in New York, the sale realized a healthy £149.6 million, squarely within its estimated total of £122 million-£167 million. (Prices include premium, estimates do not.)The total was Christie’s second highest in this category for a London sale and included £36 million from a catalogue of 34 Surrealist works. Twenty-two percent of the total lots failed to sell.
A modest four lots were guaranteed in the Impressionist and Modern section, including the top two by value. One of Picasso’s many late musketeer paintings sold for £13.7 million (with a £12 million low estimate). The buyer was Harry Smith, chairman of the London-based art advisors and valuers Gurr Johns. It last appeared at auction in 2007, when it sold for £6.8 million. Smith then went on to buy all seven Picassos in this section of the sale, spending more than £40 million of his client’s money and outbidding challengers from Asia, and the Acquavella and Lefevre galleries—all without ever breaking into a smile. But strangely he left before the Surrealist sale, in which there were other Picassos.
The second top lot, Edgar Degas‘s theatrical scene In the Wings (1882-85), had been bought in Paris in 1997 for £2.5 million, doubling its estimate. Now guaranteed with an £8 million low estimate and, although not designated as such in the catalogue, known to be the property of British billionaire collector Lord Graham Kirkham, it sold apparently to the third-party guarantor without competition for £9 million. A sale nonetheless....