Fernand Léger, Le Buste (1925)
When the excitement died down around Sotheby’s New York selling Monet’s Meules for $110.7 million last spring, a little perspective was surely in order. Paul Gaugin’s Nafea Faa Ipoipo? (When Will You Marry?) had actually sold for more than $200 million in a private exchange in 2015; and yet another Impressionist masterpiece, Cézanne’s The Card Players, was sold privately for about $250 million four years earlier.
But a year previous to the Monet sale, Sotheby’s’ sale of Modigliani’s Nu couché (sur le côté gauche) for $157.2 million seemed to be something of a watershed, signaling a fervor for modernism across periods and genres that would likely not ebb any time soon.
The exalted auction house, however, is now presenting a jaw-dropping Impressionist, Modern and Surrealist auction in London on February 4 & 5, which will include some surely highly coveted gems, but at significantly more approachable prices, including a number of genuine rarities.
Pablo Picasso, Visage de profil, brush and ink on paper, 1959
Firstly, a quartet of early works by Vincent van Gogh will be on offer, which have been out of the public eye since 1995; and a still life with flowers by Chagall, also unseen for 25 years, will be awaiting some lucky collector’s embrace.
Perhaps even more thrillingly, a pair of revolutionary works by Fernand Léger will be making their first ever auction appearance (his industrial age commentary is surely still relevant). And there are fascinating ceramics and works on paper from the collection of Marina Picasso, Pablo’s granddaughter…as well as a recently restituted Pointillist masterpiece—Gelée blanche, jeune paysanne faisant du feu— by Camille Pissarro, and two paintings by Joan Miró, including the stunning Groupe de personnages (1938).
Generously, all will be exhibited for a week before the auction commences, for those whose budgets are more “lookie” than “ownie.” Still and all, if your checkbook allows, this is a rare opportunity to commune with these artistic legends. Consider it accordingly.