Alberto Giacometti’s Walking Man I Sells for a Record $104,327,006 at Sotheby’s

At Sotheby’s, Alberto Giacometti’s L’homme qui marche I (Walking Man I) sold for £65,001,250 / $104,327,006 /€74,185,983 becoming the most expensive work of art ever sold at auction. The sale of that work was swiftly followed by that of Gustav Klimt’s Kirche in Cassone, which made £26,921,250 / $43,208,606/ €30,725,246 – a new record price for a landscape by the artist. These two works headlined a sale that realised a record-breaking total of £146,828,350 / $235,659,502 / €167,575,324 – making it the highest value sale ever staged in London. (Pre-sale estimate for the sale was £69,060,000-102,130,000).

Melanie Clore, Co-Chairman, Impressionist & Modern Art, Sotheby’s Worldwide, said: “We are thrilled to have sold these great works this evening and that they have been recognised for the masterpieces that they are. The competition which generated these exceptional results demonstrates the continued quest for quality that compels today’s collectors.”

GiacomettiGiacometti’s L’homme qui marche I (Walking Man I)
The expectant saleroom fell quiet as bidding opened at £12 million. Some eight minutes later, after a fast and furious bidding battle between at least ten prospective purchasers, this spectacular piece – the only life-time cast of this iconic subject ever to have come to auction – sold to an anonymous telephone bidder, establishing a new record price not only for the artist, and for any piece of sculpture ever sold at auction but also, and more importantly, taking its place in history as the most expensive work of art ever sold at auction, and eclipsing Pablo Picasso’s Garçon à la Pipe, which sold for $104,168,000/ £58,052,830/ €85,949,017 at Sotheby’s New York in May 2004.

Commenting on the price achieved for the Giacometti, Helena Newman, Vice Chairman of Sotheby’s Impressionist & Modern Art department worldwide, said: “The price is a reflection of the extraordinary importance of this exceptionally rare work, and the only life-time cast of this iconic subject ever to have come to auction.”

Formerly part of the corporate collection of Dresdner Bank AG, the sculpture came into the possession of Commerzbank AG after the latter’s takeover of Dresdner Bank in 2009. Commerzbank intends to use the sale proceeds to strengthen the resources of its new Foundation Centre, and also to provide funds to their partner museums for restoration work and educational programmes.

Gustav Klimt’s Kirche in Cassone (Church in Cassone)
Also the subject of keen interest and excitement was Gustav Klimt’s beautiful, jewel-like Kirche in Cassone – an intensely powerful work charged with historical significance, the painting attracted four bidders who together took the final price to £26,921,250 / $43,208,606 / €30,725,246 – well in excess of the pre-sale estimate of £12-18 million and establishing a new auction record for a landscape by the artist.

Once part of one of the greatest early collections of Klimt’s work – that of the Austro-Hungarian iron magnate and collector Victor Zuckerkandl and his wife Paula – the work went missing in Vienna during the Nazi period and only resurfaced decades later. It was offered for sale tonight pursuant to an agreement between Georges Jorisch, the now 81-year old great nephew of the original owner, and the European private collector in whose family the painting had been for several years.

After the sale, Georges Jorisch said: “Today’s sale closes a long-open chapter in my life in which I recover a part of my forbears’ legacy and pass it on to future generations, just as my parents would have wished.”

Other notable prices, moments and information

• Important still life by Paul Cézanne sells for £11,801,250 / $18,941,006 /€13,468,777
Painted in 1893-4, when Cezanne’s mastery of the still life was at its height, Pichet et fruits sur une table ranks among the finest works by the artist ever to have come to auction. Once part of such illustrious collections as those of Dr Albert C. Barnes, Chester A. Beatty and Laurance S. Rockefeller, the painting has now found a new place in the home of the collector who paid £11.8 million to secure it.

• Egon Schiele’s, Sitzende Frau mit violetten Strümpfen, (Seated Woman in Violet Stockings), of 1917, made £4,857,250/ $7,795,886 /€5,543,584 against an estimate of £3,000,000-5,000,000. Fresh to the market and never previously offered at auction, this powerful work had been in the same distinguished private collection for the 34 years prior to this evening’s sale.

• Henri Matisse’s Femme Couchée – a magnificent example of Matisse’s favourite subject, made £4,409,250/ $7,076,846 /€5,032,281 against an estimate of £3,500,000-5,500,000

• The sale saw the highest price of the week for a Surrealist work: Rene Magritte’s Le Beau Navire – one of the finest 1940s nudes ever to have appeared on the market, and in the same private collection since 1977 – made £3,737,250 / $5,998,286 / €4,265,327 against an estimate of £2,500,000-3,500,000.

• Fauve and Expressionist works, which were well represented in the sale, also performed strongly. In addition to the prices achieved for the Matisse and Schiele mentioned above, Ernst Ludwig Kirchner’s Variétéparade (Variety Show) almost doubled its pre-sale high estimate when it sold for £2,953,250 / $4,739,966 / €3,370, 547 (est: £1,000,000-1,500,000) – the third highest price for the artist at auction.

• Georges Seurat’s Garçonnet Assis (Maurice Appert) – one of the finest works on paper by the artist to appear at auction, and with an excellent provenance – was pursued by no fewer than four bidders, who drove the price to £1,945,250/ €3,122,126 (est: £750,000-1,000,000).