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Sotheby's February Series Realises $394 Million: The Highest Total Achieved in London

LONDON.- Sotheby’s February Series of Impressionist, Modern and Contemporary Art auctions**, realised £242,109,075 / $393,550,838 / €286,186,170. This exceptional sum, which surpasses pre-sale expectations (combined pre-sale estimate for the series: £152-250 million), not only represents the highest total achieved in London by any auction house this season, but also the second highest total for any sales season ever held at Sotheby’s in London. In the course of the two weeks of sales, Sotheby’s established the three highest prices of the London season, leading the field in sales of Impressionist & Modern and Contemporary Art, as well as establishing the highest prices across a number of schools and periods.

Melanie Clore, Chairman Sotheby’s Europe and Co-Chairman Sotheby’s Worldwide Impressionist & Modern Art Department, “The last two weeks of sales have seen the vitality of the current market played out at Sotheby’s, with the top three prices – for Picasso, Dali and Bacon – demonstrating the huge demand for exceptional works from collectors throughout the world. Punctuated by a number of auction records for Impressionist, Modern & Contemporary masters, these sales have seen a hungry, collector-driven market competing avidly for works of the highest calibre.”

Discussing the results of this landmark sales series, Cheyenne Westphal, Chairman of Sotheby’s Contemporary Art Department Europe, commented: “Sotheby’s long standing association with this collection and the prodigious importance that we place on client relationships enabled us to offer one of the most exceptional private assemblages of Modern and Contemporary Art ever to appear on the market, ‘Looking Closely’. This historic auction, which brimmed with artistic treasures, revealed the market desire for masterworks by fully established blue-chip artists while also allowing for outstanding material by lesser-known names to realise their deserved market potential. Across collecting disciplines and the breadth of our business, including the Contemporary Art Evening Auction, buyers today value especially rare artworks, which are consequently entering a new price bracket.”

Henry Wyndham, Chairman Sotheby’s Europe, and auctioneer for the top-selling work of the season, Picasso’s La Lecture, said: “For this exceptional series of sales, Sotheby’s sourced property from 39 countries and attracted buyers from 47 countries spanning 5 continents. This extraordinary confluence of activity is further evidence of Sotheby's international reach, as well as the truly global nature of today’s market.”

Top prices of the season achieved at Sotheby’s

Top price of the London season:
• Pablo Picasso’s La Lecture, 1932, sold for £25,241,250 ($40,711,612)

Second-highest price of the season, and the top price in the field of Post-War and Contemporary art in London this season:
• Francis Bacon’s Three Studies for Portrait of Lucian Freud, 1964, sold for £23,001,250 ($37,004,411)

Third-highest price for the season, and the top price for Surrealist art:
• Salvador Dalí’s Portrait de Paul Eluard, 1929, sold for £13,481,250 ($21,688,635)
– a record for a work of Surrealist art, and a record for the artist

Sotheby’s leads the way in the following categories
Sotheby’s led in sales of Surrealist Art with a total of £26,060,150 / $41,386,807 / €30,726,922. In addition to the exceptional record achieved by the Dalí (see above), a new auction record was achieved for a work on paper by Surrealist artist René Magritte with the sale of Le Maître d’École for £2,505,250 / $4,040,718 / €2,952,187.
British Art: The £23,001,250 ($37,004,411) paid for Francis Bacon’s Three Studies for Portrait of Lucian Freud represents the highest price for a work by a British artist sold this season.

Spanish Art:
In both the Impressionist & Modern and Contemporary Art fields, Sotheby’s set the highest prices of the season for works by Spanish artists:
• Pablo Picasso’s La Lecture of 1932 sold for £25,241,250 ($40,711,612)
• Salvador Dalí’s masterpiece Portrait de Paul Eluard established a world record price for the artist and any surrealist work of art at auction, fetching £13,481,250 / $21,688,635 / €15,901,108 (pre-sale est. £3.5—5m).
• Sotheby’s also established the top price of the series for a Spanish work of Contemporary Art with Juan Muñoz’s Conversation Piece, which commanded the tripleestimate sum of £3,065,250 / $4,909,611 / €3,659,901 (est. £800,000-1,200,000 / €935,000-1,400,000 /$1,240,000-1,860,000).

Swiss Art:
• Across the two weeks of sales, the top price for an artwork by a Swiss artist was also achieved by Sotheby’s with Franz Gertsch’s Luciano I, which sold for the outstanding sum of £1,497,250 / $2,398,145 / €1,787,713, well above the pre-sale expectations (est. £500,000-700,000 / €585,000-820,000/ $775,000-1,090,000), exceeding the previous record for the artist by a factor of ten.

German Art:
• Sotheby’s achieved the highest price of the two weeks for a German work of Contemporary Art with Gerhard Richter’s museum-quality Abstraktes Bild of 1990, which sold for £7,209,250 / $11,547,056 / €8,607,827 - beyond the pre-sale high estimate (est. £5–7 million / €5,830,000–8,160,000 / $7,740,000–10,840,000).

• Sotheby’s also established the highest price of the two weeks for a German Expressionist work. Lyonel Feininger’s Raddampfer am Landungssteg of 1912 realised £3,177,250 / $5,124,587 / €3,744,072, more than double its high estimate (est. £1 1.2 million).

20th-century Italian Art:
• The highest price for a 20th-century Italian work achieved this week was for one of the most important works by Marino Marini ever to come to the market: his monumental sculpture of horse and rider L’idea del cavaliere sold for £4,185,250 / $6,750,390 / €4,931,900 (est. £3.7-4.5 million).

Statistics on the sales:
(nb. the following statistics relate to the entire series of sales listed in the table below)
• The sales attracted a total of 893 bidders from 61 countries across 6 continents
• 10% of the bidders in the sales were new to Sotheby’s
• 53% of lots sold achieved prices above high estimate (with premium)
• Overall sell through rates: 84% by lot, and 92% by value

The total achieved in the course of the last two weeks of sales at Sotheby’s, brings the company’s year to date total for auction sales across all categories and locations to well over half a billion US$.

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