Christie’s Global President Jussi Pylkkanen at the rostrum during the auction of Picasso’s Les femmes d’Alger, Version O from 1955 that made auction record selling for $179,365,000. Image courtesy of Christie’s Images Ltd
NEW YORK, NY. -When Picasso’s Les femmes d’Alger, Version O from 1955 sold for $179,365,000 (£116,395,198/€160,276,188) in 11 and ½ minutes at Christie’s Evening Sale, it was clear that Monday was going to be a great night at the auction. The sale made Les femmes d’Alger, Version O from 1955 the most valuable work of art ever sold at auction. The painting was part of Looking Forward to the Past auction organized by Loic Gouzer, International Specialist, Post-War and Contemporary Art and curator at Christie’s.
But Picasso was not the only famous artist at the auction that made record price at the art sale that many have come to describe as historic. Soon after Picasso’s Les femmes d’Alger, Version O from 1955 broke all auction records, Giacometti’s L’homme au doigt (Pointing Man) conceived in 1947 was put on the floor for sale.
Just like the Picasso’s painting, bidding was intense as collectors were unrelenting in their effort to acquire this important sculpture that is noted as one of the most important works by Giacometti. As the bidding went on, collectors did everything possible to out maneuver one another using strange gestures and weird signs. In the end the sculpture sold for $141,285,000 (£91,683,971/ €126,248,829), setting a new record for any sculpture sold at auction, and a record for the artist.
The sale of Picasso‘s Les femmes d’Alger, Version O from 1955 and Giacometti’s L’homme au doigt (Pointing Man) at the same auction is an historic event in art action history. It was the first time that two works valued at over 120 million were put on sale at the same auction. This historic significance is what makes Looking Forward to the Past very important.
Jussi Pylkkänen, Global President and the sale’s auctioneer at Christie’s notes that excitement among global collectors heightened as soon as the Looking Forward to the Past auction was announced. He notes:
From the moment that we announced the sale, global collectors embraced the concept and were prepared to consign masterpieces to the auction. Over 70 percent of the works included in the sale have been shown in major museum exhibitions and the works themselves spanned over 100 years of modernism, beginning with Monet’s Le Parlement of 1901 to Urs Fischer’s wax figure of Rudolf Stingel of 2011.
Looking Forward to the Past was put together by Loic Gouzer, Christie’s contemporary art specialist, who has made a name for himself in the auction world by putting together auctions that have resonated in auction history. In May 2014, for instance, Mr. Gouzer put together the auction If I Live I’ll See You Tuesday that featured 35 works by celebrated contemporary artists, including Christopher Wool, Richard Prince, Jeff Koons and John Baldessari among several others. If I Live I’ll See You Tuesday realized $134.6 million.
When news went round that Mr. Gouzer was putting together Looking Forward to the Past, a unique art auction which combines Contemporary and Modern Art spanning 100 years, there were speculations that the auction may not meet its expected goal. The record prices achieved Christie’s Evening Sale have proven doubters wrong. Looking Forward to the Past, Christie’s Curated Evening Sale of Impressionist, Modern and Contemporary Art achieved $705,858,000 (£458,051,914/ €630,737,486) with sell-through rates of 97% by lot and 99% by value.
With the record prices made Monday at Christie’s Looking Forward to the Past auction, it is clear that Mr. Gouzer has elevated himself to a higher pedestal in the art auction world, and he now knows his place in the art auction history. Consequently, he has enough reason for chest thumping. He notes:
There are few companies where you could dream up a new sale concept like this, and gain the support and understanding to make your idea to become a reality, let alone a major success. Christie’s created this event tonight as a team, and we are thrilled to see collectors have responded to this cross-category approach so enthusiastically.
Picasso’s Les femmes d’Alger, Version O from 1955 and Giacometti’s L’homme au doigt (Pointing Man) were not the only works by famous artists that made record prices at the Looking Forward to the Past auction. Mark Rothko (1903-1970), No. 36 (Black Stripe), an oil on canvas painted in 1958 sold for $40,485,000, (£26,271,901/€36,176,408), while Claude Monet (1840-1926), Le Parlement, soleil couchant (The Houses of Parliament, at Sunset), an oil on canvas painted in 1900-1901 achieved $40,485,000 (£26,271,901/€36,176,408). Chaim Soutine (1893-1943), Le Bœuf, an oil on canvas painted circa 1923 sold for $28,165,000 (£18,277,093/€25,167,557), a world auction record for the artist.
The outstanding auction prices recorded for Looking Forward to the Past is evidently the beginning of a greater auction season. In the next few days, Christie’s will be presenting some more important works for auction. Some of the works included in Christie’s next auctions are already generating great excitement. As the year moves on, many have concluded that this might be another record year for Christie’s auction. The auction house had an outstanding year in 2014, surpassing all other auction houses. Pylkkänen puts it succinctly: “Christie’s will continue in years to come to innovate more sale concepts that inspire the art collecting public. We have entered a new era of the art market where collectors from all parts of the world compete for the very best across categories, generating record prices at levels we have never seen before.”
Below are details of the works sold at Looking Forward to the Past and the auction record auction price achieved. All sold prices include buyer’s premium