Impressionist And Modern Art Sotheby’s Comes Up Trumps

Sotheby’s have enjoyed considerably more success at their first “Impressionist and Modern Art” sale of the autumn season than their rivals Christie’s, who suffered mixed results on November 1st.

In contrast to the Christie’s sale, where excessive estimates for the leading lots seemed to put potential buyers off, the top-valued piece at Sotheby’s – Gustav Klimt’s ‘Litzlberg am Attersee’ – had no problem attracting interest. The 1915 landscape comfortably surpassed its $25m estimate, reaching an impressive $40m. The painting was stolen from its Jewish owner by the Nazis in 1938 and was only returned to the family this year.

Several other works contributed to a successful auction at Sothebys: Picasso’s ‘L ‘Aubade’ of 1967 drew bids from several high profile dealers including Larry Gagosian and was eventually sold for $23m to an anonymous telephone bidder. The third-highest selling lot of the night came as something of a surprise; Gustave Caillebotte’s ‘Le Pont d’Argenteuil et La Seine’ doubled its pre-sale low estimate, bringing in $18m.

The sale total for Sotheby’s Impressionist and Modern sale was a healthy $200m, comfortably inside its estimate. However, this figure may have increased had one of the key pieces in the catalogue, Matisse’s sculpture ‘Nu de Dos’, not been withdrawn for a private sale before the auction, together with the other pieces in that collection. Sotheby’s had been wary of offering the four as a group given a less than confident market, but in fact managed to find a buyer for the complete set. The amount paid has not been disclosed.

The strong sales at Sotheby’s, following Christie’s disappointment only a day earlier, serve to indicate the current unpredictability of the market. Both houses will now be looking towards their contemporary sales next week.

The Klimt Austrian Secessionist masterpiece that was the highlight of the sale was looted by the Nazis during World War II. It was sold on behalf of the original owner’s great-nephew.The 1915 landscape, entitled Litzlberg on the Attersee, realised $40m

The Heirs of a Canadian Jewish family are said to be delighted to have had the painting returned after so many years.. It has been in the collection of a well known Austrian museum (the Museum of Modern Arts in Saltburg) for decades but under restitution laws was returned to the grandson of its original owner, Amalie Redlich, who died in the Holocaust.  Georges Jorisch is an 81 year old man living in Montreal and the only surviving member of the family. It is speculated that the Neue Gallery in New York a private museum owned by the Estee Lauder family purchased the painting for its collection.

Under the  1998 restitution law, Austria has returned some 10,000 paintings confiscated by the Nazis to the heirs of their rightful owners. “The conditions for a return of the painting to Amalie Redlich’s rightful heirs were fulfilled,” said Salzburg deputy governor Wilfried Haslauer in a statement. “As painful as returning this painting is for the, collection, the province and all of Austria, I believe the Salzburg government must stay on the path started in 2002 and not allow itself to benefit from a criminal regime,” Wilfried Haslauer, director of the Museum of Modern Arts, also said,he wishes the family well with the painting.


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