ART MARKET / Up for sale

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The Independent Culture
TODAY and tomorrow you can catch an exhibition of magnificent modern paintings at Sotheby's in Bond Street. It is putting on show the top paintings that will be offered for sale in New York in May and in London in June. The pictures are starting a world tour which takes in Basel, Zurich, Brussels, Paris and Tokyo.

Two of the pictures are so important that Sotheby's does not dare publish price estimates this far ahead of their sale in New York: Cezanne's Still Life with Apples and a Matisse portrait, Fatma, la Mulatresse. Both are likely to fetch between dollars 10m ( pounds 7m) and dollars 20m ( pounds 14m).

The Cezanne, painted around 1890-94, is the better picture. I am told that it has belonged to a very good but very private European collection since it appeared in the landmark Goldschmidt sale of 1958 at Sotheby's in London; it fetched pounds 252,000 in 1958, then one of the highest picture prices on record. Sotheby's Alex Absis points out that two Cezanne still-lives were sold in 1989, at the top of the art price boom, one for dollars 17m ( pounds 12.14m) the other for dollars 11m ( pounds 7.86m). Still Life with Apples is a better painting than either of these, he says.

The 5ft Matisse picture was painted in Morocco in 1912, one of the most highly rated periods of the artist's career. It comes for sale from the collection of Josef Muller of Sothurn, Switzerland. Here the two price benchmarks are the dollars 11m ( pounds 7.86m) and dollars 14.5m ( pounds 10.36m) paid for Matisses at Sotheby's and Christie's respectively last November. These prices were taken as the first signs that the modern picture market was recovering from the recession.

There are 20 paintings in Sotheby's special exhibition, including a Daumier oil slated for sale in London with an estimate of around pounds 2m, and works by artists including Magritte, Dali, Klee, Kandinsky, Monet and Vlaminck.

(Photographs omitted)