And all that jazz: upbeat sale at Christie’s sees Tamara De Lempicka portrait beat record set just three months ago

Tamara De Lempicka's record-breaking portrait of Marjorie Ferry Courtesy of Christie's

“Thirteen seventy-five. Thats an American bid. The next London bid will be £14m,” declaimed auctioneer Jussi Pylkkanen at Christies sale of Impressionist, Modern and Surrealist art last night, as he tried to push the record price being achieved for Tamara de Lempickas 1932 Portrait de Marjorie Ferry ever-higher.

The stylishly monochromatic Jazz Age portrait of Ferry, a British-born cabaret singer in Paris, eventually fell to a telephone buyer at £16.3m (with fees), far above the previous record of $13.4m (£10.4m), achieved last November in New York. The painting, originally commissioned by Ferrys financier husband (note the emphasis on that hefty engagement ring), had been estimated at £8m-£12m.

A painter with a distinctive Art Deco style highly prized by todays collectors for its instant wallpower, De Lempicka is one of the many long-undervalued female artists whose auction prices are currently being recalibrated.

The De Lempicka was one of three works last night that sold for more than £10m. Christies and other auction houses will be hoping that such results reassure the worlds wealthiest collectors that London remains a lucrative place to sell high-value art, notwithstanding the disruption of a General Election and the UKs long-awaited official departure from the EU.

Giovanna Bertazzoni, Christies co-chairman of Impressionist and Modern art, admits it was difficult coaxing consignments out of clients before the UKs crucial vote. “After 12 December, a lot of things that had been cooking came to fruition,” Bertazzoni says, referring to how sellers had been reassured by the pound stabilising after the Conservative victory.

“The fluctuations of the currency. That was the only thing that mattered to them,” Bertazzoni says, who adds the wealthy are “agnostic” about where they choose to sell.

Overall, Christies sale raised £106.8m (with fees) from 49 lots, a result that was 35% down on the equivalent, but much bigger, auction last year. The atmosphere was appreciably more upbeat than at Sothebys the previous evening, where sales at the companys first major post-Brexit auction had slid 43% to £49.9m (with fees).

A 1950 cast of Alberto Giacometti's Trois hommes qui marchent (Grand plateau), sold for £11.3m Courtesy of Christie's

The credibility of these biannual London sales depends on international buyers spending millions on fresh-to-the-market works by the major names. A 1950 cast of Alberto Giacomettis 28 inch-high bronze sculpture, Trois hommes qui marchent (Grand plateau), consisting of three of the artists celebrated “walking men”, had not been seen on the auction market since 2008 and was valued at £8m-£12m. It was bought in the room by the New York art adviser Nancy Whyte for £11.3m (with fees).

“It was pretty desirable and the estimate seemed fair,” says Hugh Gibson, a London dealer who specialises in Giacometti.

The most desirable of all the works in Christies sale proved to be Rene Magrittes classic 1962 painting, A la rencontre de plaisir (Towards Pleasure), showing one of the artists trademark bowler-hatted men from behind, gazing up at the moon. The painting had been acquired directly from the artist by a Brussels collector and had remained in the same family.

From a commercial point of view, this was a Magritte with everything going for it and at one point the auctioneer completely lost track of the number of bidders. It was eventually bought by another client on a phone at £18.9m (with fees), more than double the low estimate.

“It was an iconic subject with broad appeal,” says Hugo Nathan, the co-founder of the London-based advisory company, Beaumont Nathan. “Few artists are easier to put on social media. Its Instagram gold. Surrealists are riding high.”

Indeed they are, helped by crossover interest from contemporary buyers and by Christies holding thoughtfully curated specialist sales dedicated to the art movement since 2001. The auction room used to empty when the Surrealist section started, but now bidders stay on and this latest selection of a dozen works Read More – Source