France, which has been staging contemporary art sales in France for ten years, registered a total of 28.4 million ($31.8 million) yesterday and today, beating the previous record for a sale in this category in France. The evening sale posted a total of 24.1 million ($26.6 million), with 94% of lots sold and an average lot price of 780,000 ($872.000). 31 of the 33 lots offered at this session found takers, and the bidders included collectors from 17 countries. It was followed by the daytime sale, which totalled 4.2 million ($4.7 million).
According to Stefano Moreni, Head of the Contemporary Art department at Sothebys France: "Choosing the Paris marketplace to sell artists of international scope was a gamble that paid off handsomely, proving that top prices for major contemporary works can be achieved in Paris."
The big stir at the event was the first-time auction of two masterpieces by Zao Wou-Ki, painted just four days apart in 1960, the master's most magnificent year. These two pictures form pendants that echo each other, with the lagoon blues of 5.5.60 (lot 8, which at 2,723,000 ($3.001.890) largely exceeded its estimate of 1,400,000-2,000,000, responding to the golden yellows of 1.5.60, which at 3,843,000 ($4.236.600) beat the artist's record in France (lot 9, estimate: 1,200,000-1,800,000).
Another masterpiece acclaimed by collectors was a vibrant Mariale by Simon Hantaï from one of the artist's most sought-after series, of which there are only 27 works. At 2,555,000 ($2.816.683), Mariale (M.C.5), 1962, equalled his world record (lot 5, estimate: 1,500,000-2,000,000) achieved in 2013 at Sothebys Paris for a painting from the same series (2.56 million).
Collectors were enraptured by the staggering modernity of Jean Dubuffet's LHomme au Plastron Bleu painted in 1944, which at 1,563,000 ($1.783.082) more than doubled its high estimate of 650,000 (lot 3). This work is remarkable as one of Dubuffet's rare portraits of this period, and dates from the 1940s. The painting had been carefully preserved in the Jerome H. Stone collection in the USA since 1967.
Nomade aux traces de pas dans le sable by Jean Dubuffet led to an impressive bidding battle, and at 2,163,000 ($2.384.534) garnered the artist's highest price since 1990 (lot 7, estimate: 1,400,000-1,800,000). This result beat the one achieved by Sothebys France in June 2013 (Les riches fruits de lerreur, 1963, 1.6 million). Produced in 1948, the subject of this work is the desert, one of the chief sources of inspiration for the celebrated "Clowns du désert" series. The artist only painted eighteen pictures in this series; seven of them are now in international museums.
Three records in France were obtained by artists who appear rarely in the French market:
Zao Wou-Ki, 1.5.60, 1960 3.843.000/ $4.236.600 (lot 9, estimate: 1,200,000-1,800,000)
Lee Ufan, From Line No. 790188, 1979 579,000/ $638.031 (lot 14, estimate: 300,000-400,000)
On Kawara, July 5, 1978 387,000 / $ 426.637 (lot 12, estimate: 200,000-300,000)
* Estimates do not include the buyer's premium; prices include the hammer price and buyer's premium