Slideshow: Christie’s Auction Total Highest Ever in UK, Closing Days of Record Sales

Impressionist and modern paintings up for grabs in London, Polaroid collection breaking records, a rogue copy of the Declaration of Independence...Break out your wallets, it's June auction season!

-Julia Halperin


André Derain, Arbres à Collioure. Courtesy of Sotheby's

This crime makes also makes us blue.

Christie's blockbuster Impressionist and modern sale on Wednesday night brought in $226.5 million, the highest ever total for an art auction in the United Kingdom. The sale is a blow to Sotheby's, whose Impressionist and modern sale on Tuesday night brought in $134.4 million.

The top lot of the night was Picasso's Portrait of Angel Fernández, which sold for $51.6 million to an anonymous telephone bidder. Proceeds from the sale will benefit The Andrew Lloyd Webber Foundation, which promotes arts and culture in the U.K. and acquired the painting at auction in 1995. 


Pablo Picasso, Portrait of Angel Fernández. Sold for $51.6 million.


Sotheby’s controversial sale of photographs from the Polaroid Collection, which ended late Tuesday, brought in a total of $12.5 million, swiftly exceeding the sale’s high estimate of $10.7 million. Buyers set 10 new artist records at the crowded auction, including ones for Lucas Samaras, Harry Callahan, and Ansel Adams.

The controversial sale was the result of a bankruptcy court order. John Stoebner, the court appointed bankruptcy trustee, said in a statement, "Sotheby's did a superb job in accomplishing our primary goal—to achieve funds with which to pay creditors."

Lucas Samaras, Ultra-Large (Hands). Sold for $194,500.



The top lot, Clearing Winter Storm by Ansel Adams, brought in $722,500, a record for the artist. Jim Alinder of Gualala, Calif.’s Alinder Gallery won the photograph after losing several of the evening’s other large Adams’ in bidding wars. “It’s unfortunate Polaroid went bankrupt, but digital photography killed them,” Alinder told the Observer after the auction.


Ansel Adams, Clearing Winter Storm, Yosemite National Park. Sold for $722,500.


The record for an Andy Warhol photograph was broken not once, but twice during the auction. Self-Portrait (Grimace)—a large-format Polaroid print of the artist looking like he just stuck his toe into an ice-cold pool—sold for $146,500 (est. $10-15,000). Immediately afterward, Self-Portrait (Eyes Closed) shattered the freshly minted record, selling for $254,500 (est. $10-15,000).

But really, if you had the money, wouldn’t you pay more for serene-looking Andy than creepy-looking Andy too?


Andy Warhol, Self-Portrait (Grimace). Sold for $146,500.


No one would have predicted Christie's success on Wednesday after seeing the Sotheby's rocky start to the blockbuster London sales of Impressionist and modern art, held every June. The Tuesday auction brought in $165,282,230, over the $150 million low estimate but well below the $220 million high estimate. About a third of the lots (16 of 51) went unsold.


Henri Matisse, Odalisques Jouant aux Dames. Sold for $17.4 million.



Despite the substantial number of unsold lots, Sotheby's Tuesday night auction did set a record for French painter Edouard Manet. His self-portrait, Manet à la palette, sold for $33.1 million (including auction house fees) to an anonymous bidder. The painting’s price is almost double what it was in 1997, when it sold for $18.7 million.

Highlights of the evening also include André Derain’s Arbres à Coillioure, which had been discovered in a Paris bank vault in 1979. The work sold for $24,005,075, almost double the painter’s previous record.


Edouard Manet, Manet à la palette. Sold for $33.1 million.


Christie’s hosted a relatively successful sale of printed books and manuscripts on Tuesday, which included a signed manuscript of Einstein’s famous lecture “The Origin of the General Theory of Relativity” (selling for $578,500) and a copy of the Declaration of Independence (bringing in $302,500).


Wall Street nostalgia might be a little gauche these days, but it didn’t stop a late-19th to early-20th century intersection street sign from Wall St. and Broad St. from selling for well over its high estimate at $116,500. You won’t see the sign awkwardly standing in a hedge fund lobby anytime soon, though—it sold to an Asian private buyer.

And earlier in the week: Saffronart, the online auction house for Indian art, raised $6.7 million at its summer sale. Most interesting: 10 bidders, according to the auction house, bought through Blackberry and iPhone apps.

-Julia Halperin


Impressionist and modern paintings up for grabs in London, Polaroid’s collection breaking records, and a rogue copy of the Declaration of Independence…Break out your wallets, it’s June auction season!


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