ART MARKET ANALYSIS 2016

NEW YORK

Sotheby’s Contemporary Art Evening Auction in New York totaled $276.6 million with 93.8% of lots sold with a surprisingly low BI rate of 6%. Gerhard Richter’s “A B, Still” triumphed at $34 million, with a selection of works from the Stephen & Ann Ames Collection bringing a total of $122.8 million. Rounding out the night, Andy Warhol’s “Self-Portrait (Fright Wig)” achieved the highest total this week for a work by the artist at $24.4 million.

By the numbers, Sotheby’s evening November 14 sale of Impressionist and Modern art brought $157.7 million, down from last year’s $306.7 million, and the number of lots was a bit lower (42 this year as compared to 47 in 2015) while the percentage of sales was a bit higher (81%, as compared to 76 % last year). The evening’s sole star was the cover lot, Edvard Munch’s “Pikene pa broen (Girls on the Bridge)” from 1902, went for $54,487,500 (unpublished estimate in excess of $50 million).

Auction house Sotheby’s offered over 200 lots on its Latin American art sale, including Frida Kahlo’s “Niña con Collar”, an early painting whose whereabouts had been a mystery for 60 years, which was sold for $1.81 million. Leading the sale was Tamayo’s “Sandías y naranja”, a 1957 oil and sand on canvas once owned by the film star Audrey Hepburn, which was sold for $2.29 million. A Botero bronze sculpture, “Man on a Horse”, fetched $1.82 million, and his Homage to Bonnard, a large-scale nude painting, went for $1.39 million. The auction comprising the Evening and the Day Sessions totaled $21,047,375 usd.

Gigaweek opened with teaser sales. Christie’s, Sotheby’s and Phillips made sure that their respective events went well. Phillips, which guaranteed more than half of its lots, may have backed up that success with its investment in the art. Sunday night’s twentieth-century and contemporary art evening sale at Phillips auction house brought in $46.5 million.

A Claude Monet water lily work from 1919 led last Impressionist and Modern sale at Christie’s, where the hammer total of $121.9m fell short of the estimated $138.3m to $203.4m it was meant to take in. But just seven of the 51 lots on offer failed to find buyers resulting in a healthy sell-through rate of 86 percent. The figure is especially robust for the category, which is considered harder to sell than more trendy contemporary art (Sotheby’s Impressionist and Modern sale earlier in the week had a sell-through rate of just 66%).

A selection of artworks has gone under the hammer this week as part of Spring Latin American sales in New York, with paintings by Diego Rivera and Rufino Tamayo among the top lots. Auction house Sotheby’s offered around 200 lots on Tuesday, including Tamayo’s “El Fisgón”, which final sale for $970,000 failed to reach its low estimate of $1 million. Another attraction at the same auction was the 1973 painting “El Emperador” by Chilean artist Claudio Bravo, an example of hyperrealism that also failed its low estimate and sold for $910,000.

LONDON

Rebuffing speculation that the bottom has dropped out of the market for young and emerging artists. Speculation continues as to whether Brexit will harm or help the London trade, but the consensus is that foreigners were incentivized to bid at this week’s auctions as the pound slumped to a 31-year low. Christie’s, Sotheby’s, and Phillips all noted strong bidding from Asia, the U.S., and Europe. All in all it was a reassuring week for the trade in London, with many noting the market is moving in the right direction.

Financial markets may be fluctuating in the wake of the Brexit vote, but the art market showed its durability at Sotheby’s 28 June Contemporary Art Evening sale. Two artist records led the auction – Jenny Saville’s monumental “Shift” brought £6.8 million and Keith Haring’s “The Last Rainforest” which realised £4.2 million. Bidding was strong and competitive from the sale’s opening lots, notably Yayoi Kusama’s “Infinity Nets” (£677,000) and a buoyant Alexander Calder mobile (£1.7 million).

Helena Newman had plenty to smile about after Sotheby’s Impressionist and Modern Evening. The strong £103m ($152M) total midway between estimates was surely one reason. Amedeo Modigliani’s “Jeanne Hebuterne (au foulard)” (1919) had been initially guaranteed by the house, though this was later changed to an irrevocable bid (a type of third-party guarantee). This proved unnecessary, however, as protracted bidding saw the work sell for £34.3m (£38.5m with fees), again, well above its estimate of more than £28m.

The Contemporary art evening sale at Sotheby’s auction house realised a final total of £69,461,000 with a BI of 27% from the 59 artworks offered. The sale was led by Lucian Freud’s tender portrait of his lover Bernadine Coverley, pregnant at the time with their daughter Bella. The 1960-61 work was pursued by six bidders and sold for £16.1 million, more than £9 million above the pre-sale low estimate and a new record for an early painting by the artist.

The London auction season opened with a low-key yet reassuring result, as Christie’s “Impressionist and Modern Art” evening sale delivered £66,430,000. Small-scaled works seemed to be the flavor of the evening as Alberto Giacometti’s 11-inch high bronze “Femme debout”, from a posthumous 1976 cast, made £1,082,500, and the 16 by 13-inch Fernand Léger oil on canvas “Le moteur”, a mini tour-de-force from 1918, snared £5,234,500.

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