Art market

Auction records off the beaten track

A new Orientalist star overturns Gérôme; Italo-Swiss Alpine artist fetches $9.5 million and “The big wave” sweeps photography to new heights


With hammer prices reminiscent of the late Eighties at the New York sales of Impressionist, Modern and twentieth-century art dominating the headlines, it was easy to overlook some of the more interesting results elsewhere in the market.

The sale at Christie’s of nineteenth-century European art in New York on 1 November was most notable for overturning what has been taken for granted hitherto in the market for Orientalist pictures—namely, that Jean Léon Gérôme is the most highly prized exponent of the genre. The sale featured Austrian artist Ludwig Deutsch’s masterful portrait of a Mamluk palace guard, which soared over an estimate of $400,000-600,000 to reach $3,192,500 (£1,946,646). This established a new record for the artist and a new record for an Orientalist painting at auction. Afterwards Christie’s described Orientalism as an “expanding field” which is attracting new collectors in Europe, America and the Middle East.

In London, the October 27 Sotheby’s sale of the Marie-Thérèse and André Jammes collection of nineteenth- and twentieth-century photographs marked something of a watershed in the photography market as records fell like skittles. As we point out in our report on this page, the resounding success of Gustave Le Gray’s epic landscapes demonstrates that historical photography can now be considered alongside other established blue-chip sectors of the art market.

Finally, such was the oxygen of publicity surrounding Picasso’s “Nu au fauteuil noir” at Christie’s New York on 9 November, that one could be forgiven for not noticing Italo-Swiss artist Giovanni Segantini’s monumental landscape “Spring in the Alps” at the same sale. That too set a new auction record for the artist when it was sold to a US dealer for $9,572,500 (£5,908,951) against an estimate of $4-6 million. The previous auction record for a Segantini was $260,000, at a 1995 Zurich sale, but it is longer since a such an important example of the artist’s work has come up at auction.

Originally appeared in The Art Newspaper as Records off the beaten track