Auction Record Price For Edgar Degas Sculpture Headlines Sotheby's Sale Of Impressionist Art

Edgar Degas, Petite danseuse de quatorze ans, circa 1879-81. Estimate: £9 – 12 million. Photo: Courtesy of Sotheby's.



LONDON.- Tonight’s sale of Impressionist & Modern Art at Sotheby’s in London saw 22 works realise a total of £32,564,300 ($46,238,050). The sale was 75.9% sold by lot and 67.7% sold by value and it saw two works command prices in excess of £5 million, and six for more than £1 million.

Commenting on the sale, Melanie Clore, Co-Chairman, Impressionist & Modern Art, Sotheby’s Worldwide, said: “This evening’s sale was the first test of the market in this field this year and we’re delighted that the strategy we employed in assembling a tightly edited sale achieved the highest sell-through rate since last summer -- 76% sold by lot. In addition, we’re extremely pleased with the new world auction record price established for a Degas sculpture of £13.2 million, an excellent price given that the same sculpture sold in 2004 for £5 million. This is clear evidence that the market continues to respond to quality and rarity.”

The top price achieved tonight was for Edgar Degas’s Petite danseuse de quatorze ans (lot 8), which was competed for by three bidders before selling to a private Asian collector for £13,257,250. This price - which surpasses pre-sale expectations - establishes a new auction record for a Degas sculpture. The bronze captures a young ballet dancer assuming a delicate and subtle pose and it is one of the most ambitious and iconic works by Degas. One of only a handful of casts that had remained in private hands, the consignor of the sculpture was Sir John Madejski, one of Britain’s leading arts philanthropists whose generosity has helped to transform many cultural institutions in the UK, including The Royal Academy of Arts and the Victoria and Albert Museum. Mr Madejski purchased the sculpture at Sotheby’s London in February 2004 for £5 million/$9.1 million.

Discussing the record-price achieved for the Degas sculpture tonight, Helena Newman, Vice Chairman, Impressionist & Modern Art, Sotheby’s Worldwide, comments: “Petite danseuse de quatorze ans is the most important sculpture by Edgar Degas and it is undoubtedly one of the most iconic sculptures of the Impressionist period. The recordbreaking price achieved for this exceptional sculpture tonight is a testament to the strength of the market for rare works of exceptional quality.”

The £5,417,250 achieved for Ernst Ludwig Kirchner’s Strassenszene (Street Scene) from 1913 (lot 13) demonstrates the extraordinary growth that the German Expressionist market has witnessed in recent years. The painting - which captures a Berlin street scene, a theme which occupies a central position in Kirchner’s oeuvre - is one of the quintessential images of the German Expressionist movement. Kirchner produced only eleven Berlin street scenes in oil during the years 1913-15 and Strassenszene was the last of these important paintings from this series and date in private hands.

Further highlights of tonight’s sale were a recently restituted work by the Austrian Expressionist Oskar Kokoschka, which made £1,497,250, comfortably within the estimate of £1.2-1.8 million. The striking panoramic view of Istanbul (lot 4) was restituted in 2007 to the heirs of Oskar Federer, a prominent industrialist in Czechoslovakia in the 1930s.

Oskar Federer was acknowledged as one of the pre-eminent collectors of French Impressionism, 19th- and 20th- century German, Austrian and Czech Art. Joan Miró’s monumental oil Femmes et oiseaux dans la nuit (lot 26) also performed well, soaring above its pre-sale estimate of £750,000-1,000,000 and selling for £2,001,250.

Sculpture was once again highly sought-after this evening with not only the record breaking price for Degas’s Petite danseuse de quatorze ans but strong prices too for Auguste Rodin’s Les Bourgeois de Calais (which realised £657,250, comfortably within estimate) and Aristide Maillol’s Flore Nue (which made £433,250, against an estimate of £300,000-400,000).

Sale Statistics:
• 22 of 29 lots were sold
• Six lots sold for over £1 million and eight lots for over $1 million.
• Sale fetched $32,564,300 against a pre-sale estimate of £40,620,000-55,680,000
• New auction record was achieved for a sculpture by Edgas Degas (lot 8)
• 40% of lots sold this evening sold above their pre-sale high estimates.
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