Published: July 10, 2007
The tenth Greek Sale at Bonhams’ 101 New Bond Street gallery on May 15 achieved $7.6 million and broke a number of world records for Greek artists.
The sale of predominantly Twentieth Century Greek art featured more than 200 pictures and sculptures by the very best Greek artists, including Yiannis Moralis (b 1916), Theofilos Hadjimichails (1867‱934), Nikos Engonopoulos (1910‱985) and Constantinos Volanakis (1837‱907). Top prices were led by the modern and contemporary Greek art in the sale, with no fewer than five paintings topping $495,360.
A painting by Moralis from 1965 titled “Composition,” which was estimated to sell for $258/356,500, achieved $968,384, making it the highest price ever paid for a work by a living Greek artist at auction.
Accepted as being the greatest living Greek artist, Moralis’s monumental piece, 35½ by 86½ inches, simply called “Composition,” is a revival of the archetypal universe of an Ionian frieze or a Doric metope. Architectural motifs portray fragments of an ancient Greek temple or neoclassical Athenian mansion and the artist has combined these with austere horizontal and vertical lines from which the human form appears †a young woman and a loving couple embracing.
Another Moralis picture was the third highest price at the sale, making $638,000 for an image titled “West Side Room.” The previous top price for a Moralis work was $616,400 at a Sotheby’s sale.
A Bonhams’ spokeswoman, Titi Terpsichore, said, “This sale indicates that the market for Greek art continues to grow and also shows strength in depth. The sale topped the last Greek sale at Bonhams by more than $1.9 million, with 90 percent sold following a very successful preview at Art Expertise in Athens, Bonhams’ local agents. Buyers were almost exclusively Greek, with 500 bids left before the sale.”
A world record price was also achieved for one of the most significant items in the sale, a fresco “Katsantonis in the Ravine near ‘Pende Pigadia'” by Theofilos Hadjimchail, which has been in a private collection for 40 years. The painting pays homage to Katsantonis (1873/5‱907/8), one of the great figures of prerevolutionary Greece, who was a constant source of inspiration to Hadjimchail. It is one of just a few surviving murals by the great Twentieth Century artist. At the sale, it achieved $568,742, the best price for this artist.
Originally, Hadjimchail had produced the work for the wall of a coffee shop in the village of Parkoila on the Greek island of Lesvos (Mytilini), where it remained for 30 years, accumulating soot and smoke residue from the coffee shop’s stove, gas cooker and cigarette smoking patrons. In the early 1960s, the work was transferred onto canvas and subsequently restored by an Athens National Gallery expert.
Another Twentieth Century artist, Nikos Engonopoulos, also achieved a strong price at $250,000, a distinctive nude, the bold Hero (Philopemen), which was painted in oil in 1957.
Prices reported include the buyer’s premium and have been converted from British pounds to US dollars. For information, www.bonhams.com or 20 7468 8229/8259.
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