A painting of London by L.S. Lowry, from a collection formed by the late U.K. caterer and hotelier Charles Forte, sold last night for 5.6 million pounds ($8.8 million) at an auction in London.
The price achieved for the 1960 work “Piccadilly Circus, London,” at Christie’s International equaled the record set at the same auction house for Lowry’s 1949 painting, “The Football Match” in May.
The figure-packed scene had been estimated at 4 million pounds to 6 million pounds and was bought by a private collector on the telephone. It was the most expensive of 14 Lowry paintings offered by Forte’s descendants at Christie’s sale of 20th-century British Art. The group made 17.7 million pounds ($27.8 million) with fees, against an upper estimate of 16.9 million pounds at hammer prices.
Lowry (1887-1976) was a Lancashire-born artist best known for his industrial scenes inhabited by crowds of stick-like pedestrians. Forte bought the paintings during the 1960s, ’70s and ’80s. The Northern naive painter continues to be a favorite with wealthy collectors of modern British art.
Ex-Forte Lowrys captured seven out of the top 10 prices at the sale. The 1953 oil “Fun Fair at Daisy Nook” reached 3.4 million pounds against a valuation of 1.5 million pounds to 2 million pounds. Before 2011, only one work by the artist had sold for more than 2 million pounds, said Christie’s.
Earlier in the evening at Christie’s in Paris, a 13th-century ivory group of the Madonna and Child from the French-based Marquet de Vasselot collection sold for 6.3 million euros, ($8.5 million), an auction record for a medieval work of art.
The gothic sculpture was in fine condition apart from a restored head of Christ, which had been knocked off during the French Revolution. It attracted competition from at least 10 bidders before falling to the London dealer Sam Fogg, bidding on the telephone on behalf of a client, said Christie’s. It had been valued at 1 million euros to 2 million euros.
It was one of 24 works being offered in a single-catalog sale by descendants of Jean-Joseph Marquet de Vasselot (1871-1946), a French collector who inherited pieces from his father-in-law Victor Prosper Martin Le Roy (1842-1918).
“This was a family collection. It was very private and hardly anyone knew about it,” Donald Johnston, Christie’s head of sculpture, said in an interview. “There is a revival in medieval works.”
U.S. contemporary artist Jeff Koons paid $6.3 million for a limewood figure of St. Catherine by the German late medieval sculptor Tilman Riemenschneider at Sotheby’s, New York, in January 2008.
The Marquet de Vasselot collection raised 9.4 million euros, three times the upper estimate. All but two of the lots found buyers.
(Scott Reyburn writes about the art market for Muse, the arts and culture section of Bloomberg News. Opinions expressed are his own.)