Sotheby’s Impressionist and Modern art evening sale in London in 2017 achieved an astounding £177 million—the highest value ever achieved at a European auction. This year, however, they face stiff competition from Christie’s, who believe that this year they can beat that record and attain a whopping £183 million.

Christie’s has achieved this huge pre-sale estimate by including double the amount of lots as Sotheby’s, who are only expected to reach around £126 million. Sotheby’s has the tastiest and most plentiful array of the Picasso’s on offer which are collectively valued at £87 million. They include his portrait of Marie-Thérèse Walter titled Femme au beret et à la robe quadrille, painted in Picasso’s landmark year 1937—the same year he painted Guernica. But Christie’s has an eye-watering selection of surrealist works valued at £58 million, which includes a rare Francis Picabia painting dating from 1924. 

Pablo Picasso, Femme au beret et à la robe quadrille and on the right Salvador Dalí, Maison pour Erotomane

It is believed, however, that the main battleground between these two esteemed auction houses lies with the Fauves, the so-called Wild Beasts. Henri Matisse is clearly the most well-known protagonist in the movement, but it is the work of André Derain, fresh from a major exhibition at the Centre Pompidou in Paris, who is causing the most excitement. As soon as Christie’s announced the sale of his seminal work, Londres: la Tamise au pont de Westminster, 1906 (expected to reach £9 million), Sotheby’s announced the sale of Bateaux a collioure, 1905, which is expected to reach £10 million at auction.

The work last appeared at auction in 2011 when the work of the Fauves—who in the early 1900s exploded on the Paris art scene with their exuberant color—were a favorite of Russian Collectors, one of whom bought the work for £5.9 million. According to The Telegraph, the highest price ever paid for a André Derain artwork at auction is £16.3 million. 

On the left André Derain, Londres: la Tamise au pont de Westminster and on the right André Derain, Bateaux a collioure

Although interest from Russian collectors has dropped off in recent years, they have been replaced by Chinese collectors who are eagerly snapping up works of the Fauves. Both Christie’s and Sotheby’s will be hoping that enthusiasm continues on the 27th and 28th of February. 


Sotheby’s Impressionist & Modern Art Evening Sale and Surrealist Art Evening Sale take place on the 28th of February in London. 

Christie’s Impressionist and Modern Art Evening Sale and The Art of the Surreal Evening Sale take place on the 27th of February in London.