The Impressionist and Modern Art Evening Sale and the auction of The Art of the Surreal took place on the evening of 4 February at Christie’s London, realising a combined total of £176,986,000 and selling 86% by lot and 95% by value. The auctions had a combined pre-sale estimate of £113.3 million to £162.9 million.
The top price at the auction was paid for Nature morte à la nappe à carreaux, 1915, by Juan Gris (1887-1927) which was offered at auction for the first time and sold for £34,802,500, setting a new world record price for the artist at auction (estimate: £12-18 million). This large-scale landmark painting by Gris dates from 1915, a watershed year in which he shifted further from his earlier Analytical Cubism to the more lyrical Synthetic Cubism. The importance of this picture, which is over a metre tall, is reflected in the fact that it has featured in a number of significant collections since its execution, including that of one of the greatest patrons of Cubism, Dr. G.F. Reber of Lausanne. Gris’ move away from Analytical Cubism is demonstrated in the exuberant energy of this painting which features an explosion of objects, seemingly radiating from a point in the lower centre of the composition. There is a sense of dynamism to this composition which contrasts with the more static still life works that he often created prior to 1915. It was painted in March, only a few months after Gris had returned to Paris, following some months in the South of France after the outbreak of the First World War.