Saint Laurent Sale May Fetch Record $380 000 000 at Christie’s

An undated handout image, provided to the media on Tuesday, Feb. 3, 2009, shows ''Instruments de musique sur un gueridon'' by Pablo Picasso

The Yves Saint Laurent sale in Paris next week, which includes paintings by Picasso, Braque and Mondrian, is set to become the most valuable auction of a private collection in modern times, Christie’s International said.

The 700 lots of furniture and artworks owned by the late fashion designer and his former partner Pierre Berge are expected to raise between 200 000 000 euros and 300 000 000 euros ($253 000 000-380 000 000) on Feb. 23-25, Christie’s said.

“It’s going to be one of those rare auctions that marks its own era and creates a reference long-term,” Philippe Garner, Christie’s head of 20th-century design, said in an interview. “The Saint Laurent collection is a homage to a great moment of creativity, Paris in the early 20th century. The basis of the collection is the birth of modern art.”

The presale estimate exceeds the record $206 500 000 with fees raised in a single-collection auction in 1997. If the estimate is reached, it will be a boost for the London-based auction house, which, along with its rival Sotheby’s, has been cutting jobs. The proportion of lots selling at some auctions — and prices of works — has dropped in the economic slump.

China’s government has urged the Saint Laurent estate to return two Qing Dynasty bronze sculptures scheduled for the sale, saying the works were taken by British and French troops. Christies said it expected the sale of the works to continue.

Proceeds from the event, held in collaboration with Berge’s own Paris-based auction house, Pierre Berge & Associates, will be used to create a new foundation dedicated to the fight against AIDS, said Christie’s.

Grand Palais

Saint Laurent and Berge’s respective apartments in the Rue de Babylone and the Rue Bonaparte contained 61 works by Paris-based modernist artists such as Brancusi, Gris and Leger that are expected to fetch up to 181 000 000 euros on the first day of the sale in the cast-iron and glass space of the Grand Palais.

Pablo Picasso’s 1914 Synthetic Cubist still life, “Instruments de musique sur un gueridon,” is the most highly valued work. The somber, gray-dominated 4-foot, 2-inch high canvas has an estimate of 25 000 000 euros to 30 000 000 euros.

Constantin Brancusi’s tribal-inspired wood sculpture “Madame L.R. (Portrait de Madame L.R.),” dating from 1914-17, has a minimum valuation of 15 000 000 euros; Piet Mondrian’s 1922 abstract, “Composition With Blue, Red, Yellow and Black,” is expected to fetch 7 000 000 euros to 10 000 000 euros.

YSL Premium

“It’s an important collection that’s fresh to the market, and the YSL name will add a bit,” said Robert Landau, a dealer in Impressionist and modern art based in Montreal, Canada. “People will gravitate toward what everyone wants to create high prices, but not as high as originally intended.”

Estimates had been reduced on a number of works since they were first valued in 2008, said Landau. When the sale was announced in September last year, the Picasso had a low estimate of 30,000 euros. This has become the high estimate in the published catalog, said Christie’s.

“You can’t go by the estimates,” said Landau. “These will be negotiated by the auctioneers, the seller and the buyers as they go along. They’re moving targets.”

Success rates of more than 70 percent at the February sales of Impressionist and modern art in London had shown that, if the auction houses lowered prices, they could still sell significant volumes of art, said Landau.

Estimates Watched

“These estimates are reflective of the market at its peak,” New York-based dealer Richard Feigen said in an interview. “I don’t know where they’re going to find buyers for a Picasso at $30 000 000 and a Mondrian at $10 000 000. After Monday night we’ll find out if people want to park liquidity in modern art. This sale will tell us a lot about a number of art markets.”

Though single-collection auctions tend to generate a higher level of bidding than mixed-owner sales, “I expect prices to be lower than they’ve been in the past,” said Feigen.

The Chinese bronze animal heads from a water-clock fountain in the summer palace of the Emperor Qianlong are due to be sold on the final evening of the sale. The palace was looted in 1860.

The rat and rabbit’s heads are expected to fetch up to 8 000 000 euros each. In January, a group of 67 volunteer lawyers said they were considering the filing of a lawsuit to block the bronzes’ sale.

“Christie’s supports repatriation of cultural relics to their home country,” the auction house said in an e-mail, “and aids in the process where possible by sourcing and bringing works of art to the auction platform to give buyers a chance to bid for them.” It said it respects the cultural context around the sale.

Art Deco

The five-volume catalog runs to 1,800 pages and weighs 10 kilograms. A highlight of the Feb. 24 Art Deco furniture section is a 1920s armchair by Eileen Gray decorated with dragons, expected to fetch at least 2 000 000 euros. A sideboard or “enfilade” by Gray is estimated to fetch up to 5 000 000 euros, a record price for an item of Art Deco furniture.

Saint Laurent and Berge co-founded the Yves Saint Laurent couture house in 1961. Saint Laurent died in June last year, aged 71. He bequeathed his share to the Pierre Berge-Yves Saint Laurent Foundation.

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Published in: on February 20, 2009 at 8:27 am  Leave a Comment  
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