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Digital technology spurs Ketterer Kunst to world records in Covid year
Gerhard Richter, Christiane und Kerstin. Estimate: € 580,000. Sold for: € 2,625,000.



MUNICH.- Proceeds of nearly € 30 million grossed in the second half of 2020 made for the best season result on the German market for the fifth consecutive time for Ketterer Kunst, the leading auction house for Art of the 19th, 20th and 21st Century. A sales total of € 60 million for all of 2020 repeatedly confirmed the houses number one position in the ranking of German art auction houses. Despite Covid, the company keeps up with the record level of the two previous years. With 126 results in six-figure realms, the to date record mark of 114 was also topped. Additionally, three results beyond the magic million euro line, as well as numerous world records also contribute to the company’s excellent standing.

“This excellent balance is a strong and important signal in challenging times like these“, says auctioneer Robert Ketterer. While we saw slightly weaker markets in London and New York just recently, this past weekend showed that the demand for art is stronger than ever.“ The head of Ketterer Kunst continues to explain: “First and foremost, we owe this success to our customers. It is crucial to know how to best reach, satisfy and support them. Top quality and provenance, as well as a targeted digital strategy are key factors.“

After the Department of Rare Books had provided a grand opening of the auction season in late November, the Departments of Art from the 19th-21st Century made for a likewise convincing closing with a result of well around € 27 million. The Evening Sale alone, which realized a sales quota of 92%, grossed around € 18 million, nearly 2 million more than last spring.

A novelty in the auctions on December 11/12 was a directed live-stream that brought the exciting atmosphere in the saleroom directly to the living rooms allowing viewers to feel the action, which was also helpful when the evening‘s top lot was called up: Ernst Ludwig Kirchner‘s tremendously colorful oil painting “Unser Haus“ (lot 236). The unique depiction of the artist‘s residence “In den Lärchen“ was offered on the international auction market for the first time ever and was in strong demand with bidders from Germany and Switzerland. Called up with € 480,000, the work would soon begin to soar and easily crossed the million euro line before it was eventually knocked down in favor of a bidder present in the saleroom for a result of € 1,687,500, which was enough to stop the lively competition on site and on the phones.

With “Sitzende mit großem Hut, Emy Frisch / Szene im Atelier (Fränzi (Marzella) und Artistin)“ (lot 228) and “Frau mit Ziege“ (Los 2019) two more fascinating pieces by the ingenious expressionist were called up. While the paper work with painting on both sides will be part of the collection of a Swiss who stood his ground against mainly German phone bidders with a result of € 487,500 (starting price: € 210.000), the work “Frau mit Ziege“ (lot 2019) was sold online and will call Cyprus its new home. An interesting surprise was the sale of Kirchner‘s “Bauernwagen mit Pferd“ (lot 474), called up at € 90,000 it was won with a bold bid over € 587,500 placed online.

A Southern German fell in love with Tony Cragg‘s untitled stainless steel sculpture (lot 248), which was highly contested by a number of commissions and half a dozen phones. In the end a plucky bid of € 662,500 made for the victory and left art lovers from Germany, Austria, Spain and the USA empty-handed.

Gabriele Münter also played a key role in the auction with a total of five works which were all sold for excellent prices. The array was led by lot 249 “Blick aufs Murnauer Moos (Blaue Berge)“. The excellent composition from her best period of creation has found a new home in North Rhine-Westphalia for € 500.000 - against the will of collectors from Bavaria and Schleswig-Holstein.

Works from the Collection Deutsche Bank and Collection Haniel also saw fantastic results. Both had a strong pull effect that made for numerous top results and extreme increases – some even up to a sixty-fold of the calling price.

The sale of the first part of lots from the distinct Collection Deutsche Bank, a second load will be sold through Ketterer Kunst soon, was a big success. The top position is held by Karl Hofer‘s oil painting “Arbeitslose“ (Los 223). Collectors from Germany and the U.S.A. highly valued the haunting pictorial comment on the socio-political situation in Germany in the early 1930s. Eventually a persistent bidder from Berlin on the phone granted the final price of € 825,000 for the artist’s museum quality work and even set a new world record.




Next to Otto Piene‘s “Rasterbild“ (lot 259), called up at € 150,000 and sold to a Bavarian collector who beat competitors from Germany, Belgium and the U.S. with a result of € 325,000, Ernst Wilhelm Nay‘s “Blau bewegt“ (Los 217) was also highly contested. A phone bidder from the U.S.A. won the colorful and harmonious work from the artist‘s important ‘Disc Picture‘ period for a total of € 750,000 and relegated strong opponents from all over Germany to places second and beyond.

Emil Schumacher‘s contribution to documenta 1959 “Für Berlin“ (lot 246) even realized a new world record. A Hessian collector honored the large-size composition by the protagonist of German Infiormalism with a bid over € 562,500. Contenders from Germany, Austria and Switzerland left empty-handed.

More than a dozen phones from Germany, Europe and the U.S.A. entered the race for Renée Sintenis‘ delicate expression of graceful femininity called up at the very beginning of the Evening Sale as lot number 201. The lifetime cast “Große Daphne“, with a height of 145 cm the artist‘s largest bronze next to a sculpture of the Berlin Bear, went to a persevering Bavarian collector for a result of € 462,500, yet another world record price.

All 30 works from the Collection Haniel offered in the saleroom auction were sold. The array was led by a work from one of the most renowned artists of the Austrian post-war vanguard: Arnulf Rainer‘s 1955/56 oil painting “Schwarze Übermalung auf Braun“ (lot 262) nearly doubled the artist’s world record set just a few days prior. Most bidders came from the artist‘s home country. However, bidders from Germany and France also entered the race which would eventually lead to a six-fold of the calling price of € 100,000. A collection from North Rhine-Westphalia honored Rainer‘s black monochrome work that covers almost the entire canvas with a final price of € 750.000.

Hermann Nitsch‘s extremely rare and - not only for its dimensions of 187 x 296 cm - monumental Pour Picture (lot 229) from 1961 took a similar course. With a result of € 600,000* it also set a new world record. For more than 15 minutes over a dozen phone bidders, most of them from Austria, but also from Germany, France and Switzerland, competed against the internet and a number of commissions, of which two extremely generous ones came from the artist‘s home country. In the end an Austrian phone bidder granted an eleven-fold of the calling price of € 54,000 and carried the well-deserved victory home.

Three more world records were set by Henri Michaux‘s “Peinture mescalinienne“ (lot 55), which was sold to a North Rhine-Westphalian collection for a result of € 412,000 (starting price: € 7,200), as well as by the 1960 work from Günter Brus “Von unten nach oben“ (lot 79), which an Austrian trader lifted from a calling price of € 4,500 to € 200,000 and by Adolf Frohner‘s “Erstes Hackbild“ (lot 95) for which a German collection was willing to pay € 93,750 in other words eleven times the calling price.

The Department of 19th Century Art grossed annual proceeds of more than € 3.7 million, which is not only € 1 million more than last year, but also the department‘s best result ever. The sale was led by Pierre-Auguste Renoir’s “Portrait de femme” (lot 508) with a calling price of € 90,000. A Californian collector stood his grounds against French and Texan traders with his bid of € 246,250 placed over the phone. When the work “Rosen” (lot 366) by the famous French impressionist was called up a little later, it was a Frenchman whose bid over € 168,750* outperformed art lovers from GB and the U.S.A.

Next to the world records that Karl Hagemeister fetched in the last auction, and two more enormous increases landing in six-digit realms for his “Uferlandschaft mit Kiefern und Seerosen (Schwielowsee) (lot 359) and “Bewegte See mit gischtenden Wellenkämmen“ (Los 360) this December, Karl Philipp Fohr’s “Ruine Frankenstein” (lot 315) also delivered quite an impressive performance. A European collector, who stood his grounds against Hessian competition on the phone, let the work skyrocket to € 150,000. This is not only more than a six-fold of the starting price of € 24,000, but also a new world record.

With a result of € 162,500 Carl Spitzweg‘s“Nachtwächter bei Mondschein, Hund und Katze” (lot 304) realized a three-fold of its calling price and will call Spain its new home. Other big names that guarantee a successful sale are Franz von Stuck, Edward Cucuel, Edward Theodore Compton and Heinrich von Zügel.

Sarah Mohr, head of the Department of 19th Century Art sums up: “This has been a fascinating auction year for 19th Century Art. Several world records and eleven six-figure results, as well as a sales quota of 85% by lots are quite a remarkable performance.”

The department of Rare Books grossed an annual total of around € 4 million, which is a result on par with the extremely good previous year – despite the pandemic. Additionally, the department was able to land 76 results in five-figure realms – more than ever before. “This is a great success“, explains Christoph Calaminus, auctioneer and head of the Hamburg branch. He continues: “Especially in challenging times like these it is extremely important to quickly react to changes. In this context digitalization plays an extremely big role. Indeed, digital bidding options were well accepted. This year more than 20% of all lots were sold online, which is almost twice as much than last year and three times as much than in 2018 - a remarkable result with great potential for the future.“










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