Sotheby’s first-ever Impressionist & Modern Art Day Sale Online concluded yesterday afternoon, achieving $9.9 million. Attracting an average of 3.5 bidders for every lot sold, the auction saw competition from more than 30 countries, with 29% of all buyers new to Sotheby’s.
The sale was led by Giorgio Morandi’s Natura Morta (Still Life) from 1951, which realized $1.6 million – the highest price for any lot sold in an online sale at Sotheby’s. The previous record was held by Friedrich von Hayek’s Nobel Prize for Economic Science, which sold for $1.51 million in 2019.
In the last week, Sotheby’s Online Day Sales of Contemporary Art (closed 14 May) and Impressionist & Modern Art together achieved $23.6 million, during what would traditionally be a major moment in the international art market calendar. Their results represent our two highest online auction totals and propelled our online sales above $110 million to-date in 2020 – more than 1.5 times our full-year results in 2019.
Scott Niichel, Head of Day Sales and Deputy Co-Head of Impressionist & Modern Art at Sotheby’s in New York, commented: “The depth of bidding we saw over the last two weeks, especially on some of the top lots, is a testament to the strength of market demand when great material is presented. It was gratifying to see strong interest across all the many genres we present in our category, including excellent results for Impressionists Pissarro, Degas and Renoir, and Modernists Morandi, Lempicka and Léger, as well as Latin American artists Rivera, Tamayo and even Ivan Tovar – whose painting La Menace achieved a new auction record for the artist. It’s clear that our clients are responding well to our expanded calendar of online sales, and we’re proud to have the leading platform to support the market.”
Amy Cappellazzo, Chairman of Sotheby’s Fine Art Division, commented: “Our Impressionist & Modern, Contemporary and Latin American teams worked with innovation, harmony and precision to achieve amazing results that exceeded our expectations. These results are testimony to our teamwork and commitment to creating a more robust and efficient marketplace for both buyers and sellers. This week’s sales were peerless in this regard, especially in a time when normal business functions have been uniquely challenging, and are an encouraging sign of market appetite as we look forward to our sales at the end of June.”
The fluted white oil bottle depicted in Natura Morta (Still Life) appears in some of Giorgio Morandi’s earliest work from the mid-1910s, and is perhaps the most recognizable and iconic of all his subjects. Morandi repeatedly painted the same objects over the course of several decades, and the groupings begin to take on the feel of family gatherings to those familiar with his work. Morandi’s profound influence on contemporary art is indisputable, including the work of Wayne Thiebaud, Agnes Martin, Philip Guston and Sean Scully, and even extends to contemporary architect Frank Gehry.
While many of Edgar Degas’ works from this rare and early period are formal portraits or history paintings, Buste de jeune femme presque nu (Bust of Young Woman Almost Nude) foreshadows his obsession with beauty and line. Here the artist synthesizes the frieze-like technique inspired by his trips to Italy in the 1850s, with the “exotic” appeal and radical cropping of the Japanese prints that intrigued his generation. The painting’s first owner was George Jay Gould, the son of Jay Gould, an infamous “robber baron” who made his fortune as a financial speculator and railroad magnate. George Jay Gould was a successful financier in his own right and amassed an impressive collection of Dutch, Italian and Impressionist art.
Sold for $560,000 Painted in 1882, Effet de niege à Osny, “La Ferme à Noël” is a superb example of Pissarro’s stylistic experimentation of the early 1880s. The work represents a transitional moment between the artist’s more spontaneous Impressionist works and the Neo-Impressionist style he would practice later in the decade, which is characterized by small dots of pigment juxtaposed against each other on the canvas. It also showcases Pissarro’s new-found focus on the human figure; like his Impressionist colleagues Monet and Sisley, Pissarro had largely painted landscapes up to this point, so the introduction of the human figure in the centre of the composition signals a new direction in his work. The painting also boasts a distinguished provenance, first appearing in the collection of Georges de Bellio, a Romanian-born physician who moved to Paris to study medicine and became one of the most important early patrons to the impressionist group.