Sotheby's Posts Smallest Contemporary Results in Six Years
At last night's contemporary art auction, Sotheby's brought in a meager $47 million – down 87 percent from last year's record of $315 million. The auction house wasn't even able to reach its low estimate for this year of $51.8million. Need some perspective? Last year's Francis Bacon triptych sold for 84 percent more (at $86.3 million) than all the lots purchased at last night's event.
The top sale last night was a blue and pink egg by Jeff Koons, measuring seven feet in width. At $5.5 million, it didn't even reach its estimate, which ranged from $6 million to $8 million. Last June, his pink "Balloon Flower (Magenta)" went for $25.7 million at a Christie's auction in London. Interestingly, art dealer Larry Gagosian was the buyer, though it's unclear if he bought it for himself or a client. Gagosian sold the egg back in 2004.
In general, buyers were in short supply, with most bidders choosing to remain on the sidelines. But, there is a sense that good works sold at fair prices ... unless you were one of the sellers, I imagine. Art market analysts, dealers and critics sought to find a silver lining, calling successes what would have been failures in previous years (such as the Koons egg price).
The shrinking pool of buyers reflected the artwork available. The number of lots offered at Sotheby's last night was down 42 percent, from 48 to 83. Only 81 percent – 39 – were sold.
Tonight, it's Christie's turn. Fifty-four contemporary pieces are set to come under the gavel, with total estimates ranging from $71.5 million to $104.5 million (not including commissions).
The only fingers not crossed, most likely, belong to bargain-hunters.