The auctions in London began on 21 June with an evening dedicated to Impressionist and modern art at Sotheby’s. Following the success of Art Basel (see Artistic and Commercial Success at Art Basel), all eyes were turned towards the salesroom. The evening represented a sum of €149 million, a much better result than in the spring.

The undoubted star of the evening was the Russian painter Kandinsky, and with reason, because his record at auction was beaten twice. The first time it was with the sale of Murnau – Landschaft mit grünem Haus, a painting influenced by Fauvism that Sotheby’s had spoken much of before the sale (see Sotheby’s Plans to Offer a Rare Work by Kandinsky). Estimated at around £15 million, it was eventually sold for £21 million. Sotheby’s forecast that the painting would set an auction record for the artist was correct. Later in the evening another painting by Kandinsky was offered: Bild mit weissen Linien (1913). Several collectors fought for the work, which was finally sold to a telephone buyer from Asia. It went for £33 million, thus easily beating the price of the landscape sold a short while earlier.

The sale was split into two parts. The first, Actual Size, was dedicated to small works. A still life by Ambrosius Bosschaert the Elder was snapped up for £3 million. The ring designed by Picasso (see last week’s Sotheby’s to Sell a Ring Designed by Picasso) was sold for £584,750. Artnet noted however that this “apéritif” did not whet collectors’ appetites.

Vassily Kandinsky

Vassily Kandinsky, Murnau – Landschaft mit grünem Haus © Sotheby’s

The second half of the evening was reserved for the great names of modern art. Kandinsky of course, but also Joan Miró, whose Femme et oiseaux reached £24.6 million. Sotheby’s notes that it was the first of his series of Constellations to appear on the market since 2001. A work by Giacometti, Grande figure, also interested collectors and was bought for £17.9 million.

After the sale, Helena Newman of Sotheby’s remarked on the good health of the art market for the most sought-after signed works by recognised artists – a tendency that had been noticed at Art Basel the previous week. The sales will continue next week with an evening dedicated to Impressionist and modern art at Christie’s and contemporary art at Sotheby’s.

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