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    Friday, February 16th, 2018

    Peter Doig, The Architect’s Home in the Ravine (1991

    The Architect’s home in the Ravine by Britain’s most expensive living artist Peter Doig will headline Sotheby’s Contemporary Art evening auction in London on March 7.  Painted in 1991 and estimated at £14-18 million it last changed hands at Christie’s in London two years ago when it sold for £11,282,500.   In 1991, just a year after graduating from his Master’s degree at Chelsea, Doig was awarded the highly prestigious Whitechapel Artist’s award.

    This was  one of only four works the artist chose to be included in the subsequent show at the Whitechapel Gallery. Others include Iron Hill (1991) which became the first work by the artist to sell for over £1 million at Sotheby’s auction in 2006, and Rosedale (1991) which established a new $28.8 million auction record for any living British artist last year.   The Architect’s Home in the Ravine refers to a building remembered from the artist’s childhood in Canada – the home of Eberhard Zeidler, which is situated in the wealthy Toronto suburb of Rosedale.

    Three of the four highest prices for the artist at auction have been set in the past 12 months.

    (See post on for February 11, 2016)


    Tuesday, February 6th, 2018

    Pablo Picasso – Le Matador

    Picasso’s Le Matador will make its auction debut at Sotheby’s Impressionist and Modern art evening sale in London on February 28.  Monumental in scale and painted in vivid colours Le Matador is the culmination of a life-long obsession of Picasso’s that remained one of the most important themes throughout his career.

    The painting is a brilliant display of the virtuosity with which the artist combined the complex elements that had shaped his life and art and stands as a defiant tribute to the heroic figure of the matador – embodying the artist’s own Andalusian machismo as the master of modern art takes centre-stage in the arena.

    Picasso had begun to feel that his time on this earth was running out, and so engaged in constant conversation with the great masters before him – Goya, Velasquez and Delacroix – following the traditions they had set in order to reinvent them and make a lasting mark. Painted in October 1970 it is estimated at £14-18 million.

    Helena Newman, Global Co-Head of Sotheby’s Impressionist & Modern Art Department & Chairman of Sotheby’s Europe, said:   ‘This powerful portrait exemplifies Picasso’s creative force in his final years and represents the culmination of a life-long obsession. Through the subject of the bullfight, Picasso explores the theme of life and death, creation and destruction, earth and sun, casting himself at the centre stage of the spectacle. We are thrilled to be presenting two prime examples of works by Picasso at his very best in one sale – Le Matador and Femme au béret et à la robe quadrillée (Marie-Thérèse Walter) –  both from key periods of the artist’s career.’ 


    Monday, January 29th, 2018

    Alberto Giacometti – Lustre avec femme, homme et oiseau

    A dramatic chandelier by Alberto Giacometti comes up at Sotheby’s Impressionist and Modern Art evening sale on February 28.  Estimated at £6-8 million Lustre avec femme, homme et oiseau  brings together the artist’s most celebrated figures, Walking Man and Standing Woman.  It is one of only three casts by Giacometti for select patrons  and a unique instance where all of the key motifs of the artist’s career appear in a single work.

    The chandelier encapsulates the existential anxiety of the post-war period whilst casting magical shadows that animate Giacometti’s heightened reality. It is coming to auction for the first time.

    Thomas Bompard of Sotheby’s said:  “This beautiful chandelier by Alberto Giacometti is the tangible coming together of visual arts, decoration and theatre. Despite a natural tendency for introversion, Giacometti became a figurehead of existentialism – finding his place at the centre of the avant-garde scene of artists and intellectuals in Paris. He was sought after by patrons, dealers and fellow artists, collaborating with the likes of modernist playwright Samuel Beckett to capture the fragile but powerful beauty of what hadn’t been destroyed by the Second World War. This is much more than a chandelier: it is a beacon of universal symbolism, of hope and humanism.”


    Sunday, January 14th, 2018

    Pablo Picasso
    Femme au béret et à la robe quadrillée (Marie-Thérèse Walter)

    A 1937 portrait of Picasso’s powerful muse Marie-Therese is to be the highlight of Sotheby’s Impressionist and modern art evening sale in London on February 28.  Picasso’s Femme au béret et à la robe quadrillée (Marie-Thérèse Walter) brings to a climax a turbulent and highly charged year. Guernica was created in 1937, and in the final month of that year he painted this intense image of his golden muse Marie-Thérèse Walter.

    The painting Picasso’s evolving relationship with his muse Marie-Thérèse Walter, to whom he was ostensibly still devoted at the time, and the increasingly dominant presence of his new lover Dora Maar. Indeed, the work appears to have been used as a means for exploring his feelings for the two women. There is a conscious blurring of the two styles inspired by the two muses, reaching its pinnacle in the silhouetted ‘other’ that emerges from behind the main subject. Whether it represents Maar or indeed a self-portrait, the implication is that of duality and conflict. Picasso is quoted: ‘It must be painful for a girl to see in a painting that she is on the way out’.


    Sunday, January 7th, 2018

    The Victory Jack.  UPDATE: THIS SOLD FOR £297,000

    A selection of 256 royal and aristocratic heirlooms at Sotheby’s in London on January 17  is spearheaded by 79 objects celebrating Lord Horatio Nelson. The “Of Royal and Noble Descent” sale will include a large fragment of the Union Jack believed to have flown from  HMS Victory at the battle of Trafalgar.  It is estimated at £80,000-100,000.  Nelson’s grog chest  with its carefully cased set of fine decanters kept in his cabin at sea has an estimate of £35,000-45,000.  Love letters from Nelson to his mistress Lady Hamilton shed light on a liaison that scandalised England in the 18th century.

    Nelson’s victory at the battle of Trafalgar confirmed Britain’s  naval supremacy for the next hundred years. His Nelson’s legend is increased by his death at the very moment of his greatest triumph – shot down in the heat of battle, in the midst of his men, leading from the front.

    The sale offers furniture, paintings, decorative arts and precious objects  from European dynasties and historical figures, including the Duchesse du Berry, the House of Bourbon and a number of German princely families.


    Thursday, December 21st, 2017

    Untitled (1982) by Jean MIchel Basquiat sold for $110.5 million.

    Auctions at Sotheby’s in 2017 totalled $4.7 billion worldwide, a 13% increase over 2016.   It led all international houses in Asia with an annual auction total of $850 million.  Asian clients contributed $1.6 billion to Sotheby’s sales in 2017 and online buyers spent more than $180 million.

    The top lot of the year at Sotheby’s was Jean Michel Basquiat’s Untitled from 1982.  It set a $110.5 million auction record for the artist and for any work of American art.  The price comfortably exceeded the previous record for the artist, as well as the pre-sale estimate of $60 million and was achieved after a 10-minute contest between multiple bidders.

    It was bought by collector and entrepreneur, Yusaku Maezawa, founder of e-commerce giant, Start Today, and ZOZOTOWN, the virtual mall on Japan’s largest fashion e-commerce site. It is to be housed in a museum based in Mr. Maezawa’s hometown of Chiba, Japan.


    Wednesday, December 6th, 2017

    Joseph Wright of Derby, A.R.A. An Academy by Lampligh

    One of Joseph Wright of Derby’s most important candlelit pictures, and one of the last major works by the artist remaining in private hands, made a £7,263,700 record for the artist at Sotheby’s in London tonight.

    An Academy by Lamplight, painted in 1769, is a supreme example of Wright’s dramatic rendering of light, which in itself is a kind of metaphor for the Enlightenment movement with which he was so closely associated: the introduction of light into darkness acting as a metaphor for the transition from religious faith to scientific understanding and enlightened rationalism. Almost certainly the picture that Wright exhibited at the Society of Artists in 1769, this rare painting was first securely recorded in the collection of Sir Savile Crossley, 1st Baron Somerleyton (1857-1935), the scion of a great carpet manufacturing dynasty from Halifax, and has remained in the possession of his family ever since. It had been estimated at £2.5-3.5 million.

    The previous record for the artist was set in 2007 when Portrait of Robert Shore Milnes, with his horse and groom beyond sold for £3,647,830 at Sotheby’s New York.

    Two recently rediscovered landscapes by John Constable attracted competitive bidding: a first sketch for The Opening of Waterloo Bridge, c. 1819–20  made £2,289,000:  Dedham Vale with the River Stour in Flood, c. 1814-17 made £1,809,000.


    Monday, December 4th, 2017


    Irish interest in Sotheby’s Old Masters evening sale in London on December 6 will centre on a 1789 work by George Stubbs (1724-1806). Two Bay Hunters in a Paddock was commissioned by the Irish peer Arthur Annesley, 8th Viscount Valentia.  It is estimated at £1.5-2 million.  Highlights of the sale include one of the last and most important candlelight pictures by Joseph Wright of Derby left in private hands, a luminous 18th-century view of Venice by Bellotto, two recently rediscovered landscapes by Constable, and a gallery of portraits covering 300 years, from Cranach and Titian to Van Dyck.

    Alex Bell, Worldwide Co-Chairman of Sotheby’s Old Master Paintings Department: “Strong imagery, luminous works and great names have long been driving the Old Masters market but in the last couple of years, we have witnessed a surge of interest in Early Renaissance and high Renaissance paintings among international collectors. With their simple and striking imagery, these works often find their way in very eclectic collections. We are therefore delighted that nearly half of the works in the sale consist of Renaissance pictures. We are also privileged to present rare works by three of the greatest and most influential British artists of the 18th century whose work transcends national boundaries and speaks to a wider global sensibility: Constable, Wright of Derby and Stubbs.”


    Wednesday, November 15th, 2017


    A romantic masterwork by Marc Chagall smashed a long established record for the artist when it sold to a Russian private collector for $28.5 million at Sotheby’s in New York last night.  The evening sale of Impressionist and Modern art totalled $269.6 million, up 71% on last year.  Five of the top ten works went to Asia. Chagall’s Les Amoureux broke a record set for the artist in 1990 when his Anniversaire sold for $14.9 million at Sotheby’s. It had been in the same family collection since it was painted in 1928.

    Simon Shaw, Co-Head of Sotheby’s Worldwide Impressionist & Modern Art Department, commented: “Tonight we saw an enthusiastic and expanding client base respond to a particularly strong and varied offering. From the depth and geographical spread of bidders, to auction records set for both established artists and those we don’t see as often in this category, it’s clearly an exciting time for the Impressionist & Modern Art market. While Russia took home tonight’s top prize, Asia was clearly a major story – we had seven different buyers spanning China, Taiwan, Japan and Hong Kong, and many more under-bidders.”


    Thursday, November 9th, 2017


    A rare pair of  famille-rose decorated cups from the Yongzheng period sold for £1.9 million at Sotheby’s in London on November 8.  The top lot in a sale of Important Chinese Art the cups are masterpieces of the fencai (‘famille-rose’) colour scheme. With the introduction of white enamel from Europe in the early 18th century, craftsmen working at the imperial kilns in Jingdezhen developed a new palette and realised its full potential in the early years of the Yongzheng reign (1723-1735).

    These cups, painted with sophisticated shades of pastel tones to capture a sense of three-dimensionality, embody to perfection the refined aesthetic of the Yongzheng Emperor. The design, with sprays of fruiting pomegranate, peach and loquat, represents a variation of the auspicious ‘sanduo’ (‘three abundances’) motif – long life, an abundance of offspring and plentiful blessings.  The sale brought a total of £6.4 million.