Adding piquancy to the big London February art sales, which get underway next week, is that these are the first post-Brexit auctions.
These annual sales usually attract round-the-globe interest and large numbers of Asian and US buyers. Sotheby’s kicks off on Tuesday with Impressionist and Modern art evening sales to include three works recently restituted to the heirs of Gaston Levy, two from the Musee d’Orsay in Paris headed by a Pointillist masterpiece by Camille Pissarro.
This work depicts a young woman and child building a fire on a cold winter morning.
On Wednesday evening Christie’s will follow with an Impressionist and Modern sale and an auction of the Art of the Surreal. Together these auctions will launch 20th-Century Week at Christie’s, spanning eight auctions and offering global buyers an opportunity to acquire some of the biggest names in Impressionist, Modern, post-war and contemporary art between now and February 18.
Gaston Levy was a notable art collector living in Paris in the 1920s and 1930s whose holding was dispersed under the Nazi occupation.
After the war the works were repatriated to the French state and two of them have recently been restituted by the French Government to Levy’s heirs from the Musée d’Orsay in Paris. The third of his works, Signac’s Quai de Clichy. Temps gris, found its way into the collection of the dealer Hildebrand Gurlitt, whose illicit hoard was discovered by the authorities in the Munich apartment of his son Cornelius in 2012. Through his patronage of the Pointillists, Levy formed a lifelong friendship with Signac, holidaying with the artist and sponsoring his project to paint 107 ports in France — securing his first pick from every batch of watercolours. Over the arc of his collecting career, Levy owned 44 oils by the artist.
The auction will offer two paintings from different points in Signac’s oeuvre — transporting the viewer from a brisk morning in a Parisian port to the exotic delights of Istanbul’s waterside.
Christie’s sale on Wednesday is highlighted by Tamara de Lempicka’s 1932 Portrait de Marjorie Ferry and Alberto Giacometti’s Trois hommes qui marchent from 1948. Each one is estimated at £8m-£12m. Further highlights include George Grosz’s highly politicised depiction of Germany at the close of the World War I.
Gefahrliche Strasse is being offered 100 years after it was first shown at Galerie Neue Kunst in Munich. Paintings from this series can be found at Tate Modern in London, MoMA in New York, the Nationalgalerle in Berlin and the Thyssen-Bornemisza in Madrid.
There are three Picasso still lifes and works on paper by Gino Severini, Paul Klee, Egon Schiele and Max Ernst.
Sotheby’s Evening Sale of Contemporary Art takes place in London on February 11 with Christie’s post-war and contemporary sale on the following day.