Jean Michel Basquiat

Beautiful Italian Figures

As always, the second quarter of the year is the period when many important international auctions take place – most of them in New York – and top records are set, as in the case with works by Paul Cézanne, Jeff Koons, Pierre Bonnard, Jean Michel Basquiat (works on paper), Ubaldo Oppi, Sergio Lombardo, Mario Schifano and Claude Monet. Although they did not set any record, works by Gustave Caillebotte, Pablo Picasso, Tamara de Lempicka, Kaws, Amedeo Modigliani and Keith Haring, also ranked high in each artist’s top ten, going for six-figure sums.

However, the most important piece of news about international auctions is the confirmation of the increase in the collectors’ interest in modern figurative art. As we foresaw in previous issues of this magazine, collectors are growing more and more interested in Italian modern and figurative artists, so much that, in Paris, Sotheby’s has devoted a whole auction session to them. The top selling artist was Giorgio de Chirico, with three oils on canvas ranking first, second and third in the top ten. These works have different subjects (a metaphysical interior, an Italian piazza and a still life) but were all painted from 1951 to 1953. Another top selling artist in this auction was Armando Spadini, the Tuscan artist who died untimely at the age of 42. Since 2017, he has been constantly on the rise with two oils on canvas that have become the most expensive among his works.

In Milan, Ubaldo Oppi reaped great success at Christie’s, with two works ranking first in his top ten (Giovani donne al mare, oil on canvas, 1924, 120×101 cm, EUR 200,000; and Contadino a sera, oil on canvas, 1928, 160×115 cm, EUR 175,000) and breaking his 2004 record sale, set with an oil on canvas (Il figlio dell’armatore, 1925, 127×93 cm) that went for EUR 81,600 at Sotheby’s in Milan.

As for Italian contemporary art, Sergio Lombardo set his own top record with John Fitzgerald Kennedy (enamel on canvas, 1961, 182×230 cm), which went for EUR 275,000 at Sotheby’s in Milan, a sum that is eight times all his previous international auction prices.

We conclude with Mario Schifano who, in just one day, broke the record he set at Christie’s in New York in 2015 (Cleopatra Dream’s, enamel on canvas, 1960/1961, 130×120 cm, sold for EUR 833,700) with two works going for over EUR 900,000 and confirmed the market’s interest in the Roman artist’s works that date from the early 1960s. The two record paintings are Con anima (enamel on canvas, 1965, 220×200 cm), which went for EUR 972,500 and 7 agosto 1961 (enamel on paper with canvas backing, 1961, 160×130 cm), which sold for EUR 948,500.

Roberto Capitanio

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