Schjerfbeck paintings to be sold at Sotheby's​

Finland may not be the first place that pops into people’s heads when they think of fine art. Indeed, Scandinavia is often overshadowed by the rest of Europe in most areas of culture.
However, there is evidence of change in attitudes, with the work of Finnish artist Helene Schjerfbeck seemingly leading a shift in opinion among art lovers and investors alike.
The painter is set to take centre stage at auctioneering giant Sotheby’s in December, with four works in total up for grabs.
Given the understated reputation of Finland’s art, it is not surprising that this collection is somewhat breaking new ground for Sotheby’s, with the auction house rarely showcasing such works.
But those in the know are unlikely to share such surprise, with Schjerfbeck being well-known in certain circles for pushing some pioneering painting techniques, including the reusing some of her canvases.

Final recognition

The four pieces, including ‘Girl with Blond Hair’ from 1916 were initially showcased in Sotheby’s Helsinki, but will go on sale at the auction house’s British branch.
Girl with Blond hair has something of an iconic status in certain art circles and could fetch between  €680,000 (£477,000) and €950,000 (£666,000), which would be a welcome price tag, albeit not the largest one for a Schjerfbeck painting.
The highest price for one of painter’s works was ‘Dancing Shoes’, which sold for a staggering €4 million in 2008.

Small discovery

While Girl with Blond Hair may not reach that top price bracket, there is something of a hidden surprise that may well heighten its appeal.
Claude Piening from Sotheby’s told YLE News: “We made a bit of a discovery. On the back is a sketch for another picture, a study for the figure in another very famous painting by Schjerfbeck. It’s a rather wonderful thing to have discovered.”
The excitement among auctioneers is palpable, particularly at a time when its recent sale of a collection of Modigliani works yielding mixed success.
Sotheby’s will be well aware of that performance in New York with the sale of this latest lot, with several analysts predicting some of the other works up for grabs may not perform as well.
Even if there is success all round, there will still be a tinge of disappointment within the Finnish art scene amid the news that the cultural board in the Finnish town of Riihimäki is set to shut down its museum and move its collections in storage in Vantaa.
A group of Riihimäki artists have already responded by launching a petition supporting the city museum and opposing its closure.