Estimated to fetch in the region of £10m, the 157-lot Milwaukee-based collection was particularly rich in works by Neue Sachlichkeit [New Objectivity] artists from the inter-war years, artists whose uncompromising images of sex, death and urban alienation were far removed from the market’s usual idea of the “commercial”.
The intimidating nature of these images, together with some equally intimidating estimates, resulted in a below-target total of £6.6m (including premium) with 41 per cent of the lots failing to sell. Most expensive casualties were Ludwig Meidner’s 1913 oils Apocalyptic Landscape and My Nocturnal Visage, estimated at £3m and £2m respectively, which failed to attract any bids. Sotheby’s also failed to attract any bids for the German Expressionist icon The Death of the Poet Walter Rheiner by Conrad Felixmuller, ambitiously estimated at £4-5m, at their afternoon mixed-owner sale. However, a private American buyer was found immediately after the sale for a price “in excess of £3m”. Sotheby’s were also compensated by the unexpected double estimate £6.5m given by an anonymous telephone buyer for Egon Schiele’s Portrait of the Art Dealer Guido Arnot.
The previous day Christie’s had achieved a premium-inclusive £12.3m for their 99-lot offering of German and Austrian art. Bidding here was also selective – 37 per cent of the lots were left unsold – but a new record was achieved for the short-lived Expressionist artist August Macke when the 1914 oil Markt in Tunis fetched £2.6m.
Bidders send a mixed message in 20th century German sales
The market for 20th century German art proved dramatically selective last week when the much-promoted Marvin & Janet Fishman Collection came under the hammer at Sotheby’s on the evening of October 18.