Auction Art Market February 2012

1. Sothebys - Strong Modern and Impressionist Sale
LONDON.- Tonight in a packed saleroom, Sotheby’s Impressionist & Modern Evening Sale brought a total of £78,893,650 / $125,504,018 /€94,491,096 (est. £79– 113.3 million). The top price of the sale was achieved for Claude Monet’s previously unseen painting of 1885 L’Entreé de Giverny en Hiver, which sold in a four-way bidding battle to a buyer in the room for £8,217,250 / $13, 072,001 / €9,841,818 (est. £4.5-6.5 million) – an auction record for a snowscape by the artist. The sale saw a high average lot value for the works sold of £1,922,870, and was 76.9% sold by lot and 76% sold by value.
Commenting on the sale, Helena Newman, Chairman, Sotheby’s Impressionist and Modern Art, Europe, commented: “Tonight we saw global bidding across the sale, with avid collectors competing for museum quality and rare works. There was strong competition for exceptional paintings, notably for Claude Monet, Ernest Ludwig Kirchner and Georges Braque. As we have seen in our recent international auctions, we continued to see the enduring appeal of works that are fresh to the market and are of exceptional quality.”
Other notable prices this evening
As was announced during the auction, Gustav Klimt’s rare 1901 landscape Seeufer mit Birken – which had not been seen in public in over a century – sold post-sale for £5,641,250 $8,974,100 / €6,756,525.
Ernest Ludwig Kirchner’s monumental Das Boskett: Albertplatz in Dresden of 1911 fetched £7,321,250/$11,646,644/€8,768,677 (est. £5 – 7 million). The work is one of the artist’s last canvases to depict the topography of Dresden - a recurrent theme in his oeuvre and the city where he came of age as an artist and as a man.
Georges Braque’s L’Oliveraie of 1907 sold for £5,081,250/ $ 8,083,252 / €6,085,824 (est. £2 – 3 million). The work provides a rare glimpse into the Fauve revolution at the beginning of the 20th century and Braque’s seminal contribution to the movement.
Selling for almost three times its high estimate, Otto Dix’s Die Elektrische (The Electric Tram) sold for £2,953,250/$4,698,030/€3,537,114 (est. £700,000-1,000,000).
Fernand Léger’s La Jeune fille à l'échelle, one of the artist’s definitive compositions of the 1940s, sold for £3,961,250 / $6,301,556/ €4,744,398 against a pre-sale estimate of £3.8 – 4.5 million.
Edouard Vuillard’s 1890 masterwork, Les Couturières fetched £3,401,250/ $5,410,708/€4,073,685 (presale est. £3 - 5 million).
One of Henry Moore’s most important monumental sculptures Reclining Figure no. 2, Three-Piece Bridge-Prop sold for £3,289,250 / $5,232,539 / €3,939,542. Estimated at £1.5 - 2.5 million, the work was conceived in 1963 and cast in an edition of six. It is one of his most technically sophisticated and complex iterations on his dominant theme – the reclining figure.
The auction saw strong prices achieved for Surrealist works in the sale
A group of 14 surrealist works were offered, achieving a combined total of £16,083,000, representing an average sold lot value of £1,340,250. Highlights among this group include:
Giorgio de Chirico's monumental and boldly coloured Ettore e Andromaca of 1925-30, regarded as one of his most successful metaphysical compositions, was sold for £2,841,250/ $4,519,860 / €3,402,971, against an estimate of £2.8 – 4 million).
Yves Tanguy’s 1941 oil on canvas Deux fois du noir sold for £2,505,250/ $3,000,543/3,985,352 (est. £2 -3 million) exemplifies the refined and personal language with which Tanguy transformed the boundaries of Modernist painting.
Max Ernst’s 1941 oil on canvas La Comédie de la soif, a masterpiece of the artist’s wartime oeuvre, was sold for £1,609,250 / $2,559,995 / €1,927,402 (est. £1.2 - 1.8 million).
René Magritte’s Souvenir de Voyage of 1962-63 sold for £1,609,250 / $2,559,995 €1,927,402 against a pre-sale estimate of £1.5 - 2 million.
The sale featured a strong offering of works by German artists, including the above mentioned Ernest Ludwig Kirchner painting Das Boskett: Albertplatz in Dresden of 1911; Emil Nolde’s 1908 Blumengarten, ohne Figur, which sold for £2,057,250/$3,272,67/ €2,463,973 (est. £2 – 3 million); and Alexej von Jawlensky’s 1911 Mädchen mit Roter Schleife, which sold for £ 3,065,250/$ 4,876,200/ € 3,671,257 (est. £3-5 million).
Sale statistics:
• Sold by lot: 76.9%
• Sold by value: 76%
• Of the 53 lots offered, 41 sold
• Average lot value: £1,922,870
• 25 lots sold for over £1 million, 34 sold for over $1 million 
2.  Bonhams Finds Chinese Jade Masterpiece for May Sale
LONDON.- A stunning discovery at Bonhams turns out to be a gift passed between two of the most important statesmen of the late Qing Dynasty, who attempted to modernise China and represented the Qing Dynasty in diplomatic negotiations with Western powers.
A magnificent and important pale green jade mountain, dating from the 18th century, and dedicated by Li Hong Zhang to Prince Gong will be the highlight of Bonhams next Chinese Art Sale on May 17th in New Bond Street, London.
Estimated to sell for £400,000 to £600,000, the large jade boulder is carved as a mountain peak in high relief with four sages and an attendant on a narrow ledge above a stream, amidst a mountainous landscape with pine and wutong tress. The reverse side is carved with bare rocky cliffs and pine trees, with a nine character inscription incised on an overhanging precipice with traces of gilt, reading: Jin Feng Gong Qing Wang Chen Li Hong Zhang (‘Humbly Presented [to] Prince Gong [by] Minister Li Hong Zhang). It comes with its original 19th century carved wooden stand. The artwork stands 14 1/2in (37cm) wide and 7in (18cm) high.
The history of this rare royal gift can be first dated to ownership by: Li Hong Zhang, GCVO (1823-1901), Premier of the Viceroyalty of Zhili, a leading statesman during the late Qing Dynasty who gifted it to Prince Gong,Yixin (1833-1898), formally known as Prince of the First Rank, the sixth son of the Daoguang Emperor (reigned 1821-1850) and half brother of the Xianfeng Emperor (reigned 1850-1861), who served as Prince-Regent during the Tongzhi Emperor’s reign (1861-1875). The carving was then passed on by descent to his grandson, Prince Gong.
When next heard of it was owned by the renowned Japanese dealers Yamanka & Co., who offered it for sale through the American Art Galleries, New York, on 22 February 1913, as lot 252 in The Remarkable Collection of the Imperial Prince Kung of China. It was subsequently sold at auction in London on 27th May 1963 to an English private collection of important jade carvings, and thence by descent to the current owner.
Asaph Hyman, Director of Bonhams Chinese Art Department, says: “We are delighted to have discovered this historically important work of art, presented by the leading statesman Li Hong Zhang to Prince Gong. This exceptional jade carving not only embodies the superb craftsmanship of the jade carvers of the 18th century, but is a unique representation of the relationship between two of the most important statesmen of the late Qing Dynasty, who attempted to modernise China and represented the Qing Dynasty in diplomatic negotiations with Western powers. The jade mountain was previously treasured in the Prince Gong Palace in Beijing until it was sold by his grandson. It has been cherished by two generations since it was last acquired in 1963.”

3. Middle East Buyer Expected to be Major Player for Scream in Sothebys NY May Sale
NEW YORK The only version of Edvard Munch's iconic painting left in private hands will lead a sale at Sotheby's in New York this May as the market for big-name artists shows no sign of receding.
Philip Hook, senior specialist in impressionist and modern art at Sotheby's, said: "This is one of the most important works of modern art we have ever sold."
Sotheby's believes that The Scream may be second only to the Mona Lisa as one of the most recognisable works of art, and points out that it has influenced Andy Warhol and The Simpsons.
Munch painted this version of The Scream in 1895 as the central part of his Frieze of Life series. One expert on the artist said: "He looms large in the imagination. The Scream may not look particularly striking or shocking these days, but at the time it was radical. It was all about expressing the psychological state."
Sotheby's said that accurately valuing the painting was difficult because it was rare that "true icons" come to the market. Recent sales of masterpieces at the auction house "suggest that the price could exceed $80m". Sotheby's currently holds the record for a Munch sale when the work Vampire was bought for $38.1m in New York in 2008.
The art market has this year shrugged off the gloom enveloping the wider economy. In a series of auctions in London, works by artists including Francis Bacon, Gerhard Richter and Mark Rothko raised tens of million of pounds.
This comes soon after the emirate of Qatar paid a world-record sum of $250m to buy Cezanne's The Card Players in a private sale. One auction expert said Middle-Eastern buyers were likely to be involved in this bidding process for The Scream. "They have a lot of museums and are looking to fill them with high-quality pieces," the expert said.
Munch completed four versions of the work. Three are in Norwegian museums. The piece going up for auction is owned by Petter Olsen, whose father Thomas was a friend and patron of the artist. The 1893 version and the 1910 version have both been stolen from different Norwegian museums, but both were recovered and remain on display.
Mr Hook said: "It speaks to the anxiety and alienation of modern man. It is the image that launched a thousand therapists." This version is more vibrant than the others and has a poem painted onto the frame by the artist.
Petter Olsen said: "I have lived with this work all my life, and its power and energy have only increased with time. Now, however, I feel the moment has come to offer the rest of the world a chance to own and appreciate this remarkable work."
The Norwegian businessman said the proceeds would establish a new museum, art centre and hotel at his farm, opening next year to coincide with the 150th anniversary of Munch's birth.
A major exhibition of the artist's work is to open in the UK later this year, when Edvard Munch: The Modern Eye opens at the Tate Modern in June.
Sketchy past: Thefts and recovery
The Sotheby's sale presents the opportunity for The Scream to leave Norwegian ownership for the first time – the other three versions are all owned by domestic museums. Munch painted the prime example of the expressionist work in 1893, which hangs in Norway's National Gallery.
A pastel version painted in the same year is thought to be a preliminary sketch for the work and is owned by the Munch Museum in Oslo. That museum also owns a 1910 version. The image became more widely known after Munch created a lithograph of it in 1895.
In 1994, the year Norway hosted the Olympic Winter Games, thieves stole the 1893 version from the National Gallery. Following a sting operation it was returned the same year. A decade later, masked gunmen stole the 1910 version. It was recovered two years later.

4. Heritage Auction House Sells Comic book Collection for 3.5 million
DALLAS (AP).- "Billy Wright plunked down dime after dime for comic books while growing up in the late 1930s and early 1940s, caring for the collection he started around the age of 9 until his death more than half a century later. On Wednesday, most of that collection sold for a whopping $3.5 million.

Wright's 345 comics, nearly all of which were published from 1936 through 1941, included many of the most prized issues ever, including Detective Comics No. 27, which features the debut of Batman, and Action Comics No. 1, in which Superman's first appears.

Experts say Wright's collection, which included 44 of The Overstreet Comic Book Price Guide's top 100 issues from comics' golden age, was remarkable for its number of rare issues, but also because it was compiled by a single person in childhood who kept it in good condition until his death in 1994 at age 66.

"This really has its place in the history of great comic book collections," said Lon Allen, the managing director of comics for Dallas-based Heritage Auctions, which oversaw the auction in New York City.

The copy of Detective Comics No. 27, from 1939, drew the highest bid Wednesday, selling for $523,000, including a buyer's premium, Allen said. Wright's Action Comics No. 1, from 1938, sold for about $299,000; Batman No. 1, from 1940, sold for about $275,000; and Captain America No. 2, a 1941 issue with Adolf Hitler on the cover, sold for about $114,000.

"It was amazing seeing what they went for," said Michael Rorrer, who discovered his late great uncle's neatly stacked comics in a basement closet while cleaning out his great aunt's Martinsville, Va., home after she died last year.

Most comics from the golden age — the late 1930s into the 1950s — fell victim to wartime paper drives, normal wear and tear and mothers throwing them out, said J.C. Vaughn, associate publisher of Overstreet. Of the 200,000 copies of Action Comics No. 1 produced, about 130,000 were sold and the about 70,000 that didn't sell were pulped. Today, experts believe only about 100 copies are left in the world, he said.

"The scope of this collection is, from a historian's perspective, dizzying," Vaughn said.

There were 227 of the collection's comic books sold on Wednesday for $3,466,264. The remaining comics, which are of lesser value, will be sold in online auctions Friday and Sunday and are expected to fetch about $100,000.

Rorrer, 31, said he didn't realize how valuable the comics were until months after returning home to Oxnard, Calif., when he mentioned them to a co-worker who mused that it would be quite something if he had Action Comics No. 1.

"I went home and was looking through some of them, and there it was," said Rorrer, who then began researching the collection's value in earnest.

He reached out to his mother, Lisa Hernandez, who still had half the comics at her home in League City, Texas, that she intended to give to his brother in Houston. They then went through their boxes, checking comic after comic off the list.

Hernandez said it really hit her how valuable the comics were when she saw the look on Allen's face when the auction house expert came to her house to look through the comics.

"It was kind of hard to wrap my head around it," Allen said.

The find was a complete surprise for the family, and it is unclear if Ruby Wright was aware of the collection's significance. Rorrer said he remembers her making only one fleeting reference to comics: Upon learning he and his brother liked comic books, she said she had some she would one day give them. He said his great uncle never mentioned his collection.

Allen, who called the collection "jaw-dropping," noted that Wright "seemed to have a knack" for picking up the ones that would be the most valuable.

"There were some really hard to find books that were in really, really great condition," said Paul Litch, the primary grader at Certified Guaranty Company, an independent certification service for comic books.

"You can see it was a real collection," Litch said. "Someone really cared about these and kept them in good shape."

Hernandez said it makes sense that her uncle — even as a boy — had a discerning eye. The man who went to The College of William and Mary before having a long career as a chemical engineer for DuPont was smart, she said. And, she added, Wright was an only child whose mother kept most everything he had. She said that they found games from the 1930s that were still in their original boxes. " Associated Press

5. NEW YORK Wall Street Journal March 1, 2012 Sothebys reported that profits fell on weaker revenues causing their shares to drop 7.2% to $36.49. Although the stock was off over 20% this past year, analysts did not expect the weak earnings to be this far below expectations.  "The company blamed lower net auction sales, fewer single-owner sales and a significant decrease in auction commission margin for the latest decline."  Maybe the Wall Street Journal will follow up on this story which is interesting in light if their gross sales at almost 5 billion dollars, cost cutting measures, and their reports of booming private contract sales. We will follow Christies rpeorts as well.