Christie's Maxes The Minimum Yet Again
Paintings by Claude Monet and Pablo Picasso may have sold for $20 million, but the overall take of $61 million was off 74 percent from last year's Christie's Impressionist art auction. Forty-four lots came under the gavel last night with results good enough to beat the minimum estimate by ₤250,000 ($400,000) ... but you have to remember that the low end of the estimate is already low-balled. Even though expectations were roughly met, it was a tough night in London.
Last year, 81 lots fetched more than $250 million, close to $100 million of which came from Monet's "Le Bassin aux Nympheas." Monet was among the stars at Christie's this year, too, but at a fraction of the amount. As expected, the number of high-profile pieces coming to auction is down because the auction houses are no longer guaranteeing minimum prices.
Only 68 percent of the lots brought under the gavel moved this year mostly in the range of $450,000 to $900,000. In this "middle market," a third of the lots failed to sell, and only two were able to beat their high estimates. Usually, Christie's is able to hit a sale rate of 80 percent for this sector.
So, what does this art auction teach collectors across the market? Hitting low estimates is no sign of recovery. Lower standards that are barely met is far from an upswing. Managing expectations is far from art market managing returns.