Art market news: Serge Lifar’s estate sold for 7.3 million

iamageBuyers were on a high at the Geneva sale of dancer Serge Lifar’s estate.

Buyers were on a high at the Geneva sale last week of dancer Serge Lifar’s estate. The sale was estimated to fetch 1.5 million Swiss Francs (£1 million), but realised 7.3 million SFr. Top lot was a set of 48 drawings by Jean Cocteau for his book Opium, which sold for 912,000 SFr – nearly 10 times the estimate – to Paris book dealer Jean-Claude Vrain. The Musée des lettres et manuscrits de Paris was extremely active, spending nearly 1 million SFr on autographed manuscripts and drawings by Cocteau and his friend Raymond Radiguet. One of the most extraordinary results was the 430,000 SFr paid for two inscribed photographs of Lifar with Coco Chanel, and a letter from Chanel. The estimate was 300 SFr.

The art critic and curator Andrew Renton made his first appearance as a commercial gallery director at Maastricht last week, where Marlborough Fine Art has hung a number of paintings by younger artists selected by Renton, who has been head-hunted from Goldsmith’s College of Art to bring the gallery into the 21st century. The paintings by Renton’s contemporaries, Koen van den Broek, Jason Brooks, Pam Golden and Graham Gussin, were priced between €7,000 and €55,000. Marlborough will officially open its London gallery extension for the contemporary art programme which Renton will direct, in October, to coincide with the Frieze Art Fair.

A highlight of the British Antique Dealers’ Association fair, which opens in Chelsea on Wednesday, is the display of watercolours by the 19th-century artist William Callow. Assembled over two decades by art consultant Julia Korner, and presented on the 200th anniversary of his birth, the collection shows Callow as a classical, plein-air watercolourist, who has perhaps unjustly been overshadowed by Girtin, Sandby and Bonington. Prices range from £900 to £40,000.

The best collection of paintings ever auctioned by north country artist Alan Lowndes is to be presented by Tennants in Leyburn, North Yorkshire, on Friday. Lowndes, who died in 1978 aged 57, was unfairly described a “the poor man’s Lowry”, but is currently being recognised as a highly individual artist. Highest estimate for the group is £12,000 for March Fair (pictured), which had been owned by Hollywood film star Rod Steiger. Expect Tennants’ conservative estimates to be left in the dust.

When London dealer Johnny van Haeften could not fly to Vienna to inspect a rare masterpiece by the Flemish painter Frans Francken, because of the 2010 Icelandic volcano eruptions, he bought it on the strength of internet reproductions for a staggering €7 million ($9.5 million). Last weekend, the dealer’s judgment was endorsed at TEFAF in Maastricht, when he sold the painting, Mankind’s Eternal Dilemma – the Choice Between Vice and Vertu, to an American collector for close to $14 million.

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