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Magritte painting breaks record at Christie’s Surrealist sale

Market reassured after high sell-through rates at the auction house's two sales

by Ermanno Rivetti  |  1 March 2017
Magritte painting breaks record at Christie’s Surrealist sale
Christie’s sells René Magritte’s La corde sensible (1960) for a record £14.4m with fees (Image: courtesy of Christie’s)
The mood was high at Christie’s last night after the total haul for the evening’s Impressionist & Modern and Surreal auctions—£136.9m with fees and a high combined sell through rate of 92%—showed a 45% increase on results this time last year. Jay Vincze, the head of Impressionist and Modern art for Christie’s London, called this “incredibly reassuring for the market”, which was further bolstered by the continued slump in the value of the pound, making works more attractive to foreign buyers, especially Asian collectors, who seemed to be out in force last night.

Among the highlights of the evening was a record for René Magritte’s La Corde Sensible (1960). It fetched a hammer price of £13.5m (£14.4m with fees) just short of its lower estimate of £14m, but this was nonetheless £5m more than the previous record for the artist. The work led the Surrealist sale, which achieved its highest-ever result at Christie’s (see below for numbers).

Magritte proved popular, with another work of his, Le domaine d’Arnheim (1938) selling for £9m (£10.2m with fees), above its upper estimate of £8.5m. This work, however, left a sour taste in the mouth of its owner, the Russian billionaire Dmitry Rybolovlev who, as reported by Bloomberg, bought it for $43.5m from the Swiss private dealer and Free Port impresario Yves Bouvier. The two are currently locked in a legal battle, with Rybolovlev claiming he was overcharged on a number of works that he bought through Bouvier. 

Christie’s reportedly sold more works from Rybolovlev’s collection on the night, including the highest-selling lot, Paul Gauguin’s colourful Te Fare (La Maison) (1892), which fetched £18m (£20.3m with fees), though this was far below the reported $85m that the Russian collector had paid for it. His bronze model of Auguste Rodin’s Le basier (cast in 2010), meanwhile, failed to find a buyer with its £4m-£6m estimate, though he had bought it for a reported $10.4m.

It was good news for the philanthropist and collector Barbara Lambrecht, however, who sold 13 works to benefit the Rubens Prize Collection in the Museum of Contemporary Art in Seigen, Germany. All lots sold for a combined total of £15.9m with fees, including a beautiful, sober and almost monochrome portrait by Berthe Morisot, Femme en noire (1875), which more than doubled its high estimate, selling for £1.7m (£2m with fees). 

Impressionist & Modern sale
Estimate: £65.8m-£97.7m
Total: £80.6m (£94.3m with fees)
Sold by lot: 92%

The Art of the Surreal sale
Estimate: £32.8m-£44.9m
Total: £37.3m (£42.6m with fees)
Sold by lot: 91%

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