Flash News : Picasso’s Ceramic – Claude Monet’s recent $53 million – One Vermeer surely makes a summer…



Every fortnight, Artprice provides a short round up of art market news: How much for a ceramic by Picasso? – Claude Monet’s recent $53 million – One Vermeer surely makes a summer…

How much for a ceramic by Picasso?

Are ceramics old hat? Certainly not for the numerous Picasso enthusiasts who turned up to the Christie’s London sale of some 150 terracottas by the master on 26 June 2014. Pablo PICASSO became a ceramist as well as painter, sculptor, engraver and assemblage artist in a positively bulimic experimental period at Vallauris – a bulimia that led him to create some 600 pieces, starting in the late Forties. These terracotta works, which often have the feel of genuine sculptures, have become rare since the Madoura workshop stopped production, and are now a promising investment. The price of many pieces has doubled, tripled and even increased tenfold over a generation. And there is good reason for this, because some are real exercises in painting and sculpture, or a dialogue between the painted form and the form imposed on the object – such as vases whose curves are a pretext for expressing the sensual lines of female bodies. Picasso also experimented with repetition, making several versions of the « Grand vase aux femmes voilées », for example. Vases painted with this subject (« veiled women ») were already garnering bids of between $90,000 and $100,000 in the late Nineties. The same type of work can fetch over a million today – because Picasso can also attract prices of that order with his ceramics, and has even done it on four occasions, if the buyer’s premium is included. The Christie’s sale of 26 June did not offer such high-flying works – rather the occasion to obtain some original pieces for between $2,000 and $15,000. Affordable Picassos!

Claude Monet’s recent $53 million

On 23 June 2014 in London, Sotheby’s knocked down a work by Claude MONET for the equivalent of $47.3 million. This tidy sum for a Nymphéas painted in 1906 was the Impressionist master’s second-best result at auction. The painting started off within its estimate, but finally went for the equivalent of $53.1 million including the buyer’s premium. Claude Monet is such a touchstone in art and its market that the buyer did not flinch at paying out $28.3 million more than the painting’s value in 2000. For these famous Nymphéas had already been to auction before, as lot number 21 at a Christie’s New York sale on 8 May 2000, when they obtained $19 million ($20.9 million including the buyer’s premium): a result under the low estimate. The Nymphéas painted at Giverny during the last 30 years of Monet’s life are his most sought-after series and the works with the highest price index.

They consist of some 250 paintings on the borderline of abstraction, of which around 60 have come up at auction over the past 20 years, and three since the beginning of 2014: a Nymphéas fragment of 73 cm, which fetched nearly $500,000 in London (Christie’s sale of 5 February); a painting of 1907, which went for $27 million including the buyer’s premium at New York (Christie’s, 6 May), and this painting of 23 June, already earmarked for the exhibition Painting the Modern Garden: From Monet to Matisse, taking place at the Cleveland Museum of Art and the London Royal Academy of Arts between 10 October 2015 and 11 April 2017.

One Vermeer surely makes a summer…

This sale is eagerly awaited in London as a red-letter day, because all in all, only 37 works by Jan VERMEER VAN DELFT have come down to us. This one, Saint Praxedis from 1655, an oil painting of 101.6 × 82 cm, was recently authenticated after years of research and debate. The estimate of $10 –$30 million (£6 – £8 million) supplied by Christie’s for its Old Masters sale on 8 July 2014 provides a basis and a point of reference that could well be exceeded – and how! – since opportunities to bid for a painting by this master of the Dutch Golden Age are few and far between. Such an occasion has only come up once in 30 years, in fact: in 2004 (again in London) with Young Woman Seated at the Virginals, a picture as exquisite as its format, 25 x 20 cm. This small oil painting was estimated at around $5 million and finally went for nearly $30 million including the buyer’s premium (hammer price: £14.5 million: £16.2 million including the buyer’s premium, 7 July 2004, Sotheby’s). Saint Praxedis will also be historic, as it is the earliest known painting by Vermeer: an additional incentive, if any were needed, for this painting to go sky high.