Revealed: The Biggest Consignors to London’s $700 Million Summer Auctions, From a Billionaire Retailer to the Son of an Ex-President
Who is selling at London’s summer auctions this week?
The June sales of Impressionist, Modern, and contemporary art at Sotheby’s, Christie’s, and Phillips carry a combined pre-sale estimate of £358.5 million to £504.8 million ($439.4 million to $618.7 million), excluding the buyers’ premium. If they manage to meet the top estimate (about £580 million or $711 million, including premium), they will be the biggest June auctions since the global market’s previous peak in 2015. Because they follow the New York sales so swiftly, the London summer sales are normally of lower value than the city’s spring auctions in February and March. But there are still plenty of notable works on offer.
The auctioneers have named a number of sellers in print, including many estates, but Artnet News can now exclusively reveal the identities of a few consignors whose names have not been previously disclosed.
Earlier this year, Sotheby’s announced it would offer a trove of about 70 paintings, furniture, and works of art from an anonymous English collection, including pieces by Claude Monet, Pierre-Auguste Renoir, Edgar Degas, James Tissot, and John Everett Millais, under the sobriquet “A Vision of Arcadia – An Important English Private Collection.” We can now reveal that the collection, worth up to £35 million, belongs to the septuagenarian British billionaire Malcolm Healey, the founder of a design and kitchen-retail company who is leaving his Arcadian property in the U.K. for America. Eight of the best paintings, which he bought 20 years ago, are to be sold this month with a combined estimate of £19 million to £28 million ($23.3 million to $34.3 million).
Sotheby’s has placed the two best Victorian pictures from Healey’s collection in its Jubilee sale of British art on June 29. Sleeping, a portrait by the pre-Raphaelite Millais of his young daughter asleep, has been at auction twice in recent years, first at Christie’s in 1999 where it set a record for any Victorian painting at £2.1 million, and then in 2003, also at Christie’s, where it sold for £1.2 million to Healey. Sotheby’s has now estimated it at £1 million to £1.5 million. In a further test of the Victorian market, the languidly fashionable young lady reclining in James Tissot’s The Hammock, painted in the artist’s London garden, is estimated at £1.5 million to £2 million. Healey bought it in 2001 for £1.3 million.
The most valuable of the Arcadia works are on offer in Sotheby’s Modern and contemporary evening sale later that day. The top consignment is Monet’s summertime view of Vétheuil on the river Seine from 1880, which Healey bought in 2002 for £5.1 million, beating out competition at Christie’s from dealers Richard Green and David Nahmad. It is now estimated at £10 million to £15 million.
One of the punchiest estimates in the postwar Italian category is the £6 million to £9 million for Alberto Burri’s Nero Plastica L.A. (1963), which carries a guarantee. Billed as the “Property of an Important Private Collector” by Christie’s, the painting was acquired at Sotheby’s New York in November 2017 for $10.9 million by the Lebanese collector Samir Traboulsi. It is the second-highest price ever paid for the artist at auction, according to the Artnet Price Database. The work has not changed hands since then, although it was exhibited at Daniella Luxembourg’s London gallery last year. Luxembourg was an active participant in the boom for postwar Italian art, which has subsided as a number of Italian galleries left London in the wake of Brexit.
Traboulsi is a London- and Monaco-based financier who has been buying at the top end of the market for several decades and is said to be a favored guarantor for the auction rooms—though on this occasion, he is the one getting a guarantee.
At Phillips, there is a seven-foot-diameter spin painting by Damien Hirst, Beautiful tropical, jungle painting (with pink snot) (1998), from an “Important Private Collection” with an estimate of £270,000 to £350,000. If it looks familiar, that’s because Phillips sold it (with a guarantee) in February 2020 for £350,000 as part of the Robert Tibbles collection, jam-packed with works that the former banker had collected when the YBAs were on their way up. Only it didn’t actually sell. After the auction, a claim was issued in the U.K.’s High Court disputing Tibbles’s right to sell it. The painting, it emerged, had been the subject of a longstanding dispute between Tibbles and his father and brother, who both claimed part ownership. Tibbles bought the painting for £68,000 from White Cube in 1999 using offshore accounts held by his family. At the court hearing this year, the judge ruled in Robert Tibbles’s favor. Now the painting is being offered all over again with the same estimate. The only changes are that there is no guarantee and the vendor designation has changed from Robert Tibbles to “Important Private Collection.”
One of the most talked-about collectors in London is Fahd Hariri, the son of the late president of Lebanon, Rafic Hariri, who died in 2005 and left him with a sizable fortune. A resident of both London’s ultra-wealthy Knightsbridge quarter and Paris, where his home is packed with modern masterpieces by the likes of Andy Warhol, Jean Dubuffet, Jean Fautrier, Pierre Soulages, and Lucio Fontana, Hariri was the buyer at Sotheby’s 2016 David Bowie collection sale of a first-rate, thickly encrusted Frank Auerbach painting, Head of Gerda Boehm (1965), for a record £3.8 million.
Why he has decided to sell it now is a mystery, according to dealers familiar with his collection, but here it is, back on the rostrum at Christie’s with a £2 million-to-£3 million estimate and a guarantee.
At Sotheby’s, the family of African art scholar Daniel P. Biebuyck, who died in 2019, is selling a ceramic sculpture by Magdalene Odundo. Bought at Bonhams New York in 2007 for $45,000, it now has a low estimate of £60,000 ($75,000).
The bank HSBC has sent the bustling early painting A Town Square (1927) by the eccentric British artist L.S. Lowry (£1 million to £1.5 million).
The family of photographer Barbara Ker-Seymer, a friend of the artist Edward Burra, has consigned his lively 1930s Parisian bar scene, estimated at a record-threatening £1.5 million to £2.5 million.
The collection of the late Stanley and Marcia Gumberg, which featured in the New York sales in May, is back with works by Willem de Kooning, Georg Baselitz, and Howard Hodgkin.
Artist Chris Levine is donating the proceeds from his large 2008 hologram of Queen Elizabeth II, Lightness of Being (£100,000 to £150,000) towards the cost of Her Majesty’s Jubilee Pageant.
At Christie’s comes an impressive painting of a waterlily pond by Monet, estimated at £22 million to £32 million, from the estate of the U.S. watchmaker Paul Bulova Guilden, who died last year.
The Ukrainian collector Victor Pinchuk is selling a large Balloon Monkey sculpture by Jeff Koons (estimate: £6 million to £10 million) to support medical treatment and prosthetics for Ukrainian soldiers and civilians injured in the war.
From the collection of Laura and David Finn are sculptures by Alexander Calder, Henry Moore and Lynn Chadwick valued at up to £7 million.
From the collection of the late film producer Danny Arnold is a painting of a pool hall scene (£80,000 to £120,000) by the now incredibly sought-after Ernie Barnes, whose work scored a record $15.3 million in the New York May sales—76 times its high estimate of $200,000. Expect sparks to fly for this one.
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