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Latest Art News

Beckmann leads in a £149.5 million London sale

(June 27, 2017)

Beckmann leads in a £149.5 million London sale

Masterpieces by Beckmann, Picasso and Van Gogh contribute to another stellar set of results for Impressionist and Modern Art at Christie’s

The highlight of 20th Century Week  at Christie’s in London, the Impressionist and Modern Art Evening Sale  was 94 per cent sold by lot and 87 per cent sold by value, realising a total of £149,500,000 (including premium), with three works selling for more than £20 million. 

The top lot of the night was Max Beckmann’s Hölle der Vögel (Birds’ Hell). Completed over the course of 1937 and 1938 and depicting mankind’s descent into darkness and terror, the painting is the artist’s visceral response to the rise of the Nazi regime in his native Germany. 

There was keen bidding before the painting was hammered down for £36,005,000 / $45,834,365 (with premium), setting a new world auction record for the artist, as well as the highest price realised for an Expressionist work. The previous world auction record for Beckmann was $22,555,750, set in 2001.

‘The sale of such a historically significant painting as Beckmann’s Birds’ Hell  demonstrates Christie’s ability to lead with masterpieces that resonate on the international market,’ commented Adrien Meyer, International Director of Impressionist and Modern Art at Christie’s in New York. ‘This emblematic picture has become unanimously recognised as the Guernica  of Expressionism and the international appetite was evidenced in the spirited bidding witnessed in the saleroom and on the phone.’ 

Max Beckmann (1884-1950), Hölle der Vögel, 1937-38. Oil on canvas. 47⅛ × 63 in (119.7 × 160.4 cm). Sold for £36,005,000 in the Impressionist and Modern Art Evening Sale on 27 June at Christie’s London © DACS 2017

Max Beckmann (1884-1950), Hölle der Vögel, 1937-38. Oil on canvas. 47⅛ × 63 in (119.7 × 160.4 cm). Sold for £36,005,000 in the Impressionist and Modern Art Evening Sale on 27 June at Christie’s London © DACS 2017

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