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Impressionist & Modern Art

Sotheby's

7 PM, Monday, November 5, 2008

Sale 8445

"Suprematist Composition" by Malevich

Lot 6, "Suprematist Composition," by Kazimir Malevich, oil on canvas, 34 7/8 by 28 inches, 1916

Most photographs by Michele Leight

By Carter B. Horsley

The Impressionist & Modern Art evening Sale at Sotheby's November 3, 2008 is full of several major works with very high estimates set before this fall's global fiscal crisis and is likely to be a very difficult test for the art market.

"Arlequin" by Picasso

Lot 41, "Arlequin," by Pablo Picasso, oil on canvas, 1909

One of the auction's star lots, "Arlequin," Lot 41, a 1909 oil on canvas by Pablo Picasso was withdrawn from the auction "for private reasons," according to an article by Carol Vogel in the October 28, 2008 edition of The New York Times. The article quoted David Norman, a co-chairman of Sotheby's Impressionist and Modern Art department worldwide, who was "speaking on behalf of the seller," Enrico Donati, who had bought it for about $12,000 in the late 1940s and who had died in New York in April at the age of 99.

The painted, which measures 28 1/4 by 23 5/8 inches, was executed in 1909 and, according to the catalogue entry, "Stylistically "Arlequin occupies a momemt of exceptional balance in the rapid erratic development of analytic cubism. Painting in the spring of 1909 around six months after the critic Louis Vauxcelles first derided Braque's use of 'cubes,' Arqeuin nestles between the flat, heavily-outlined panes of Picasso's 'African' works following Les Demooiselles d'Avignon (1907) and the densely-sculptural style he used to depict his lover, Fernande Olivier...., in both painting and a plaster bust during the summer and fall of 1909; Arlequin represents a point of remarkable resolution between these two dramatically accented styles. Its almost amber tonality largely avoids the strong contrasts of ight and dark hues Picasso so frequehntly emjployed and may reflect his collaboration with Braque as the two artits investnted cubism. Arlequin's closer-keyed values create an unusually harmonious image, one that is further unified by Picasso's brushwork. Each color is laid on with loose strokes and allows the light underpaint and interspersed touches to brighten the entire canvas. The effect is a luminous field of subtle tones and fluidity through the layers of the composition."

Another major work in the auction is Lot 6, "Suprematist Composition," by Kasimir Malevich (1879-1935). An oil on canvas, it measures 34 by 28 inches and was painted in 1916. It carries the auction's highest pre-sale high estimate of $60 million. The painting sold for $60,002,400 including the buyer's premium as do all results mentioned in this article. The previous auction record for the artist was $17 million. The painting was executed the same year as the artist's published his "Suprematist Manifesto" and for the past 50 years had been exhibited in the Stedelijk Museum in Amsterdam until it and four other works by Malevich were restituted to the artist's family.

At the May 11, 2000 auction at Phillips, the auction's star lot and cover illustration, Lot 31, "Suprematist Composition," by Malevich sold for $17,052,500, which included the buyer's premium, a very impressive price for such a severly intellectual, sophisticated pure abstraction by an artist whose name is not bandied about in most households. That work was much simpler than the Malevich being offered at Sotheby's.

In the lead article in the Arts & Leisure section November 2, 2008 of The New York Times, Carol Vogel wrote that "Last spring, descendants of Malevich gained titled to the painting and four others from the collection in an accord with the Stedeijk after a court battle in the United States. Now, after the heirs tried to sell the five paintings privately for around $300 million but failed, they are trying to sell one of them at auction. Often pubic relations are a last resort as well as a way to reach an international pool of possible buyers....Determined to offset some of the risk, Sotheby's has lined up what it calls an irrevocable bid on the painting. That means the auction house has a buyer who has contractually agreed to purchase the painting for an undisclosed sum. If someone elese is willing to pay more, the original bidder will get a share of what is called the upside: the difference between what he was willing to pay and the higher price." The Stedelijk Museum at one point had about 15 Malevich paintings.

Ms. Vogel's article, whose headline was "Tapped out? With Anxiety in the Air, the Big Auction Houses Brace for the Fall Sales," noted that "only ten days ago, Sotheby's reported a loss of $15 million in guarantees - the undisclosed amount that the houses promise to sellers regardless of the outcome of a sale - from recent auctions in Hong Kong and London," adding that "While Sotheby's has said that it has provided only half the number of guarantees it did a year ago, the company still has outstanding guarantees of $285.5 million."

The article quoted Marc Porter, president of Christie's in America as stating that "prices of all assets have fallen - stocks, gold, oil, real estate - and it would be unrealistic to expect works of art to be immune to the market's pressures," adding "we are actively encouraging consignors to set reasonable reserves."

While it has not been uncommon in recent years for the auction houses to pressure consignors at the last minute to adjust their reserves when other economic indicators are down, the art market generally lags somewhat behind other major economic markets because of the individuality of the specific works, the fact that consignors and buyers are generally well-off, and that fact that it can be quite illiquid and not able to be offered again quickly in the marketplace. Furthermore, most buyers have long-term plans for their collections about which they can very passionate, which is to say that normal economic rules don't count for much in the art market, at least in the art market that existed before some of the auction houses began to offer guarantees, and, perhaps more importantly, also began to superinflate estimates, especially in the field of contemporary art.

It should also be noted that while art can be illiquid and not easy to sell in a short time period, it is probably the greatest long-term investment as long as one buys only what one loves, and becomes knowledgeable about, and without any intention of quick turnover. Thousand-fold increases in value are not uncommon over the period of a few decades. While it is true that some areas of art collecting go in an out of favor to a certain extent, the major categories are well established and fairly consistent. Furthermore, the burgeoning expertise and continued explosion of new museums have further fueled demand.

In their defense, the auction houses have in the last couple of years been inundated with material and have increased the number of lots in many evening sales by 30 to 50 percent taxing not only their specialist departments but buyers as well.

The phenomenal ascendance in values attached to some contemporary artists, nonetheless, astounds veteran collectors and virtually every major auction contains some real surprises and shocks.

"Vampire" by Munch

Lot 21, "Vampire," by Edvard Munch, oil on canvas, 39 3/8 by 43 3/8 inches, 1894

This auction has 71 lots and the cover illustration is a detail from "The Vampire," by Edvard Munch (1863-1944), which has an estimate of "in excess of $30 million." It sold for $38,162,500. Painted in 1894, the oil on canvas, Lot 21, measures 39 3/8 by 43 3/8 inches.

The catalogue provides the following commentary:

"Few images in the history of western art possess the symbolic resonance and visual impact of Munch's spectacular Vampire. Second only to the Scream, Vampire is Munch's most recognizable composition, and its powerful iconography has resonated with artists for over a century. This unforgettable picture features an intoxicating brew of sex, death and willful abandon in the form of a vampire seductress enveloping the object of her desire. At the heart of Munch's portrayal is the paradoxical nature of love, with its components of struggle and release, fear and desire. The present work is the very embodiment of these intense and on conflicting emotions. Visually, it is one of the most gripping pictures in the artist's entire oeuvre. The kaleidoscopic background of deep blue, purple and red swells to a visual crescendo, illuminating the central figures in the throes of their dark embrace. The present oil…is one of the four original versions of Vampire that Munch executed between 1893 and 1894….Munch intended that this passionate image be one of the meditations on love for his grand series, the Frieze of Life, which he first exhibited to great acclaim at the Berlin Secession of 1902."

Danceuse au Repos" by Degas

Lot 14, "Danceuse au Repos," by Edgar Degas, pastel and gouache on joined paper, 23 ¼ by 25 ¼ inches, circa 1879

Lot 14, "Danceuse au Repos," by Edgar Degas (1834-1917), was the lead illustration in Ms. Vogel's November 2, 2008 article in The Times. She identified the consignor as Henry Kravis and his wife, Marie-Josée Kravis, president of the Museum of Modern Art. The work is a pastel and gouache on joined paper and measures 23 ¼ by 25 ¼ inches. It was painted circa 1879. It had been acquired by a friend of the artist in 1885 and remained in his family for more than 100 years before being sold in London at Sotheby's in 1999 "for a price which remains the auction record for the artist to this day" of more than $27 million. The lot now has an ambitious estimate of "more than $40 million." It sold for $37,042,400.

Despite the impressive results for the Malevich, Munch and Degas, the results were very disappointing with only 64.3 percent of the 70 offered lots selling for a total of $223,812,500. The pre-sale estimates were $337,800,000 to $475,400,000. Most of the lots that did sell, sold below their low estimates.

"Paysage des bords de L'Oise" by Cézannennrr

Lot 51, " Paysage des bords de l'Oise," by Paul Cézanne, oil on canvas, 29 1/8 by 36 5/8 inches, 1873-4

Lot 51 is an early landscape by Paul Cézanne (1839-1906) that is an oil on canvas that measures 29 1/8 by 36 5/8 inches. It was painted in 1873-4 and was once in the collection of Auguste Pellerin, Sam Salz and William and Edith Mayer Goetz. It has a modest estimate of $8,000,000 to $12,000,000. It was passed at $7,250,000.

"Statuette de Platre" by van Gogh

Lot 8, "Statuette de Platre: Torse de Femme, vue de face," by Vincent Van Gogh, oil on canvas, 28 ¾ by 21 ¼ inches, 1887

Lot 8 is a quite striking and very bright oil on canvas of a marble torso of a woman by Vincent Van Gogh (1853-1890). It measures 28 ¾ by 21 ¼ inches and was painted I 1887. It has an estimate of $7,000,000 to $10,000,000. It was passed at $5,300,000.

"La Cathedral dans le Brouillard" by Monet

Lot 54, "La Cathedrale dans le Brouillard," by Claude Monet, oil on canvas, 41 ¾ by 28 ¾ inches, 1893

Rouen Cathedral was one of the great subjects of the serial pictures of Claude Monet (1840-1926). Lot 54 is from that series and is an oil on canvas that measures 41 ¾ by 28 ¾ inches. It was painted in 1893. It is almost monogrammatic in its light blue coloration and has almost no details. It was once in the collection of Mr. and Mrs. Roger L. Stevens of New York. It has an ambitious estimate of $16,000,000 to $22,000,000. It was passed at $11,250,000. There are about 20 paintings in the Rouen series.

"Nature More aux Trois Vases" by Matisse

Lot 23, "Nature Morte aux Trois Vases," by Henri Matisse, oil on canvas, 28 7/8 by 25 3/4 inches, 1933

Lot 23 is a very pretty still life by Henri Matisse (189-1954) that was painted in 1933. An oil on canvas, it measures 28 7/8 by 25 ¾ inches and has an estimate of $8,000,000 to $12,000,000. It was passed at $6,750,000. It was once in the collection of Evelyn Sharp of New York.

Femme se Coiffant" by Degas

Lot 18, "Femme se Coiffant," by Edgar Degas, pastel on joined paper, 29 1/8 by 33 1/8 inches, circa 1892-5

There are several other works by Degas in the auction including Lot 18, "Femme se Coiffant," a pastel on joined paper that measures 29 1/8 by 33 1/8 inches. Executed circa 1892-5, the lot has an estimate of $3,000,000 to $4,000,000 and was belonged to Jacques Seligmann, Ambrose Vollard and Sam Salz. It was passed at $1,900,000.

"Printemps à Vetheuil" by Monet

Lot 19, "Printemps a Vetheuil," by Claude Monet, oil on canvas, 23 ½ by 31 7/8 inches, 1881

While many of the auction's lots have quite high estimate, some do not. Lot 19, for example, is a very beautiful and very impressionistic landscape by Claude Monet (1840-1926) entitled "Printemps a Vetheuil." An oil on canvas, it measures 23 ½ by 31 7/8 inches and was executed in 1881. "This remarkably prescient depiction of the Seine at Vetheuil from 1881 foreshadows the many luminous depictions of his water lily pond that Monet would paint nearly two decades later," the catalogue entry notes. The lot has a very conservative estimate of $1,500,000 to $2,000,000. It sold for $1,100,000.

"Reclining figure" by Moore

Lot 43, "Reclining figure: open pose," by Henry Moore, bronze, 37 3/8 inches long, 1982, edition of 9 plus 1 artist's proof, foreground

Lot 43 is a very good "reclining figure: open pose" bronze sculpture by Henry Moore (1898-1986). Cast in 1982 in an edition of 9 plus 1 artist's proof, it has an estimate of $1,000,000 to $1,500,000. Its base is 37 3/8 inches long. It sold for $950,000.

Bsl Masque" by Toulouse-Lautrec
Lot 24, "Bal Masque," by Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec," oil on card, 25 5.8 by 23 5/8 inches, 1888

Lot 24 is a fine black and white study of a masked ball by Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec (1864-1901). An oil on card that measures 25 5/8 by 23 5/8 inches, it was executed in 1888. It has an estimate of $4,000,000 to $6,000,000. It sold for $4 million.

"Construction:Stone with a Collar" by Gabo

Lot 33, "Construction: Stone with a Collar," by Naum Gabo, stone and plastic with slate base, 8 inches high, 1933

Naum Gabo (1890-1977) was a Russian artist fascinated by the "interplay of lines and rhythmic dimension. Lot 33, "Construction: Stone with a Collar," is a small but wonderful stone and plastic with slate base sculpture. It is 8 inches high. It has an estimate of $400,000 to $600,000. It was passed at $320,000.

"Homme Assis" by Modigliani
Lot 26, "Homme Assis (Appuye sur une canne)," by Amedeo Modigliani, oil on canvas, 49 5/8 by 29 ½ inches, 1918

Lot 26 is a large painting of a man seated in a chair leaning on a cane and wearing a hat by Amedeo Modigliani (1884-1920). An oil on canvas, it measures 49 5/8 by 29 ½ inches and was painted in 1918. It has a very ambitious estimate of $18,000,000 to $25,000,000 especially since the lower third appears a bit unfinished. It was passed at $15,500,000.

A better Modigliani is Lot 35, "Louise," an oil on canvas, 21 ¼ by 17 ¼ inches, 1917. It has an estimate of $7,000,000 to $10,000,000. It passed at $5,500,000.

Lot 30 is a simple painting of a woman in a coat and hat by Henri Matisse that was painted in 1934. An oil on canvas, it measures 28 by 23 inches. It has a very, very ambitious estimate of $12,000,000 to $18,000,000. It was passed at $8,750,000.


"Violett-Grunn" by Kandinsky

Lot 46, "Violett-Grun (Violet-Green)," by Wassily Kandinsky, oil on board, 25 ¼ by 21 1/8 inches, 1926

The auction has several good works by Wassily Kandinsky (1866-1944). Lot 46, "Violet-Green," is an oil on board that measures 25 ¼ by 21 1/8 inches and was painted in 1926. It has an estimate of $1,800,000 to $2,500,000. It sold for $2,000,000.

"Untilted" by Kandinsky

Lot 2, "Untitled," by Wassily Kandinsky, watercolor, India ink and pencil on paper, 20 by 13 3/8 inches, 1917

Lot 2 is an untitled watercolor, India ink and pencil on paper drawn by Kandinsky in 1917. It measures 20 by 13 3/8 inches and has an estimate of $1,000,000 to $1,500,000. It passed at $700,000.

"Le Remorqueur" by de Vlaminck

Lot 3, "Le Remorqueur," by Maurice de Vlaminck, oil on canvas, 23 1/4 by 31 1/2 inches, 1906

Lot 3 is a handsome oil on canvas by Maurice de Vlaminck (1876-1958). Entitled "Le Remorqueur," it measures 23 ¼ by 31 ½ inches and was painted in 1906. It has an estimate of $4.000,000 to $6,000,000 and was once in the collection of Mr. and Mrs. Leigh B. Block of Chicago. It sold for $3,200,000.

"Rider Astray" by Klee

Lot 62, "Rider Astray," by Paul Klee, oil on canvas, 21 1/8 by 16 7/8 inches, 1929

Lot 62, "Rider Astray," is a whimsical and charming work by Paul Klee (1879-1940). An oil on canvas that measures 21 1.8 by 16 7/8 inches, it was painted in 1929. It has an estimate of $700,000 to $1,000,000. It sold for $500,000.

The auction houses are now included more Russian works than usual in an attempt to appeal to new Russian collectors. The Berkshire Museum in Pittsfield, Massachusetts, has consigned several Russian works to this auction. The museum was founded in 1903 by Zenas Crane, a grandson of the founder of Crane & Company, a stationery concern that also supplied paper used for United States currency.

Two paintings by Grigoriev

Lot 38, "Binious (Pipe Player)," by Boris Dmitrievich Grigoriev, oil on canvas, 81 by 59 ¼ inches, 1924, left; Lot 37, "Shepherd of the Hills," by Boris Dmitrievich Grigoriev, oil on canvas, 38 by 33 inches, 1920, right

Boris Dmitrievich Grigoriev (1886-1959) is represented by several works. Lot 37 is entitled "Shepherd of the Hills" and is an oil on canvas that measures 38 by 33 inches. Painted in 1920, it has an ambitious estimate of $2,500,000 to $3,500,000. It sold for $3,250,000. Lot 38 is entitled "Pipe Player," and is an oil on canvas that measures 81 by 59 ¼ inches and was executed in 1924. It has an ambitious estimate of $4,000,000 to $6,000,000. It sold for $2,800,000.

After the sale, Tobias Meyer told a news conference that "we are addressing a very intelligent market, and William F. Ruprecht said that the auction did away with most guarantees." David Norman, vice chairman of the Impressionist and Modern Art Worldwide department, remarked that "more than half the sale was bought by Americans," and that "the sale demonstrated that the high endis just as strong." Mr. Norman also said that the sales were not made by consignors "in distress" and he reminded the press that "the market in all other fields is frozen and that there still is a lot of wealth in the world."

See The City Review article on the Spring 2008 Impressionist & Modern Art evening auction at Christie's

See The City Review article on the Spring 2008 Impressionist & Modern Art evening auction at Sotheby's

See The City Review article on the Fall 2007 Impressionist & Modern Art evening auction at Sotheby's

See The City Review article on the Spring 2007 Impressionist & Modern Art evening auction at Christie's

See The City Review article on the Spring 2007 Impressionist & Modern Art auction at Sotheby's

See The City Review article on the Fall 2006 Impressionist & Modern Art auction at Sotheby's

See The City Review article on the Spring 2006 Impressionist & Modern Art evening auction at Sotheby's

See The City Review article on the Spring 2006 Impressionist & Modern Art evening auction at Christie's

See The City Review article on the Fall 2005 Impressionist & Modern Art evening auction at Christie's

See The City Review article on the Impresssionist & Modern Art evening auction at Sotheby's November 2, 2005

See The City Review article on the Impressionist & Modern evening sale at Sotheby's in the Spring, 2005

See The City Review article on the Impressionist & Modern Art evening auction in the Fall, November, 2005

See The City Review article on the Impressionist & Modern Art day auction at Sotheby's November 5, 2004

See The City Review article on the Impressionist & Modern Art evening auction at Christie's May 4, 2004

See The City Review article on the Impressionist & Modern Art day auction at Christie's May 5, 2004

See The City Review article on the May 5, 2004 evening auction at Sotheby's of Property of the Greentree Foundation from the Collection of Mr. and Mrs. John Hay Whitney

See The City Review article on the Impressionist & Modern Art evening auction at Sotheby's May 6, 2004

See The City Review article on the Spring 2004 Impressionist & Modern Art day auction at Sotheby's

See The City Review article on the Fall 2003 Impressionist & Modern Art evening auction at Sotheby's

See The City Review article on the Fall 2003 Impressionist & Modern Art evening auction at Christie's

See The City Review article on the Spring 2003 Impressionist & Modern Art evening auction at Christie's

See The City Review article on Spring 2003 Impressionist & Modern Art day auction at Christie's

See The City Review article on the Spring 2003 Impressionist & Modern Art evening auction at Sotheby's

See The City Review article on the Spring 2003 Impressionist & Modern Art Part 2 day auction at Sotheby's

See The City Review article on the Fall 2002 Impressionist & Modern Art evening auction at Sotheby's

See The City Review article on the Fall 2002 Impressionist & Modern Art evening auction at Phillips de Pury & Luxembourg

See The City Review article on the Spring 2002 Impressionist & Modern Art day auction at Christie's

See The City Review article on the Spring 2002 Impressionist Art evening auction at Sotheby's

See The City Review article on the Spring 2002 Impressionist Art Part Two day auction at Sotheby's

See The City Review article on the Nov. 5, 2001 auction of the Smooke Collection at Phillips de Pury & Luxembourg

See The City Review article on the Nov. 5, 2001 auction of the Hoener Collection at Phillips de Pury & Luxembourg

See The City Review article on Phillips May 7, 2001 Impressionist & Modern Art auction

See The City Review article on the November 9, 2001 Impressionist & Modern Art auction at Sotheby's

See The City Review article on Phillips Fall 2000 Impressionist & Modern Art auction

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