Pierre Soulages Paintings Bring Highest Prices at Sotheby’s Paris Sale

Sotheby’s biannual Evening Sale of Contemporary Art in Paris realised the remarkable total of €8,051,100 (£7,302,584 /$11,947,027), far surpassing pre-sale expectations of €4,680,000-6,440,000* ($6,938,240-9,547,493/£4,192,797-5,769,575). The auction saw all but one lot sell, achieving the joint-highest sell-through rate of 96.3% for a Sotheby’s Paris Evening Sale of Contemporary Art, and established a sold-by-value rate of 98.1% – the second-highest for an Evening Sale of Contemporary Art at Sotheby’s Paris.

Commenting on the results of this evening’s Contemporary Art Evening Sale, Grégoire Billault, Vice President and Director of the Contemporary Art Department in Paris, said: “We are delighted with the results of tonight’s auction which surpassed the pre-sale high estimate by more than €1.5 million and established the joint highest sell-through rate of 96.3% for an Evening Sale of Contemporary Art staged at Sotheby’s Paris. We also set a new artist record for Günther Uecker. With works consigned from international collections, such as ‘Le village fantasque’ by Jean Dubuffet which came from the US, the level of bidding in tonight’s sale from across the globe and the overall success of the results achieved, Sotheby’s Paris continues to demonstrate its importance as an international selling centre.”

Pierre-SoulagesThe two top-selling lots of this evening’s sale were both works by Pierre Soulages. Peinture – 27 février 1954, which Soulages produced for his first exhibition in New York, at the Kootz Gallery, saw competition from two bidders on the telephone who drove the final price paid to €888,750 ($1,318,816/£806,122), in excess of its pre-sale high estimate of €600,000-800,000. An additional work in the sale by Pierre Soulages also achieved the second-highest price: Peinture – 28 février 1970 sold to a telephone bidder for the sum of €720,750 ($1,069,521/£653,741), well above pre-sale expectations of €300,000-400,000.

A further highlights of tonight’s auction was Jeff Koons’ Elephant (Purple), which was generously donated by the artist in 2009 to the Fondation Claude Pompidou and was sold tonight to benefit one of the foundation’s most recent projects dedicated to treating Alzheimer’s Disease. The work exceeded its pre-sale high estimate (estimate: €300,000-400,000) and finally sold for €400,000 ($593,560/£362,812) to a buyer on the telephone after a bidding battle with two other clients in the saleroom. Elephant (Purple) comes from Koons’ Easyfun series, and represents the first time a work by the artist has been offered at Sotheby’s saleroom in Paris.

Commenting on the sale of Elephant (Purple), Bernardette Chirac, President of the Fondation Claude Pompidou and wife of France’s former President, said: “This remarkable purple mirror is a very charming piece and I’m delighted that it sold tonight for such a good price. It was sold to benefit the Fondation Claude Pompidou and the money raised will specifically enable the construction of a hospital in Nice (South of France), dedicated to Alzheimer disease. This hospital, the Institut Claude Pompidou, will become a research centre on this disease. I am extremely grateful to Jeff Koons, a friend of Madame Georges Pompidou, for this magnificent present to the foundation.”

The cover lot of the Contemporary Art Evening Sale catalogue, Yves Klein’s 1961 F90, sold within its estimate of €500,000-700,000 to a buyer on the telephone for €504,750 ($748,999/£457,823) and Günther Uecker’s Energetic bilds feld commanded €444,750 ($659,965/£403,401), well in excess of its pre-sale estimate of €120,000-180,000, smashing the previous auction record for the artist of €294,800 by almost €150,000.

All four works in the sale from the Pierre Leroy Collection performed extremely well and realised a combined total of €369,000 ($547,560/£334,694), against a pre-sale estimate of €200,000-280,000. Andy Warhol’s Portrait of Jamie Wyeth – one of Warhol’s Society Portraits from the early 1970s– was the highlight of the group and sold for €114,750 ($170,278/£104,082), against an estimate of €100,000–120,000.

Selling to a private French collector, Jean Dubuffet’s 1964 Le Village Fantasque commanded €624,750 ($927,067/£566,667), a sum more than double its pre-sale high estimate of €200,000-300,000, becoming the third-highest price in tonight’s sale. Le Village Fantasque, a splendid example of Dubuffet’s Hourloupe cycle, has remained in the same collection since 1966.

Image: Pierre Soulages, Peinture 195 x 130 cm, 27 février 1954. Sold for: 888,750 €. ©Sotheby’s/ArtDigital Studio