On November 3, Christie’s launches the season’s fall auctions with its Impressionist and Modern offerings, followed by postwar and contemporary art on November 10. These are the houses’ do-or-die days, and both have wooed big sellers as if they were swing voters. Christie’s is betting its “Imp and Mod” sale will top $112 million.
Sure to sell: Monet’s Londres, le Parlement, Effet de Soleil dans le Brouillard (1904) has been in the same private collection for 100 years. Monet painted the view nineteen times; fifteen of the examples are in museums. Calculated to make casino magnates swoon, with an estimate of $12 million to $18 million. In Pissarro’s four-part Les Quatre Saisons (1872–73), winter is the oddest season; the painter abandons country skies in favor of chunky snowdrifts and smokestacks. The group is estimated at $8 million to $12 million, modestly above the $6.8 million it drew in 1991. Miró’s 1938 La Caresse des Étoiles was the artist’s bid to outdo Guernica. Topical—plus, so lively! This work, too, has never been auctioned before, has a fair estimate of $6 million to $8 million, and comes with a dramatic backstory: In newly liberated Paris, a collector traded his overcoat for the painting, bringing it to the U.S. in a blanket.
Likeliest bargain: Eugène Boudin’s 1886 Scène de Plage aux Environs de Trouville is a breezy beach party, easy to fall in love with at $250,000 to $350,000. Édouard Vuillard’s daring (if tiny) proto-abstract portrait Femme au Col de Fourrure (ca. 1890–91) has a forgiving estimate of $80,000 to $120,000.
The next day, Sotheby’s will up the ante, putting at least $208 million worth of Impressionist and Modern works on the block, and following that with its November 9 contemporary sale. Out of either confidence or hubris, the house has made season guarantees to sellers of nearly $130 million. Sure to sell: Modigliani’s 1919 Jeanne Hebuterne (Devant une Porte) is perhaps the most anticipated of the season, with an estimate of $20 million to $30 million. A rare period-perfect Mondrian, 1942’s New York/Boogie Woogie, is proof that less is more: Serious bids are expected to start at $20 million, high for the artist, since this work wasn’t mucked up by mid-century restorers.
Likeliest bargain: A fetching little Henri Fantin-Latour still life, Lilas (1872), is innocence embodied at $400,000 to $600,000. Manet’s Marine à Arcachon (Arcachon, Beau Temps) (1871), for $900,000 to $1.2 million, does everything but toss salt spray off the canvas.
At this price? Paul Gauguin’s Maternité (II), from 1899, is a masterpiece of Utopian longing, but the estimate of $40 million to $50 million is bullish. All the same, there may be a weepy romantic willing to shell out for the image of a 17-year-old Polynesian girl—said to be the artist’s mistress, nursing his son.