Sotheby's Triples Christie's Result, Top Estimate Beat
A big auction with major pieces actually beat the top-end estimate – when's the last time you heard that? Wednesday night at Sotheby's, the Impressionist sale brought in $181.8 million, thrashing the high estimate of $163 million and almost tripling the Christie's auction from November 3, 2009. It's also around three times the last equivalent sale by Sotheby's, which was back in May.
The Sotheby's auction was packed with notoriety. Conde Nast's top dog, S. I. Newhouse Jr., sent some work under the gavel, as did Louis Reijtenbagh. Artwork by Giacometti, Picasso and Renoir was sold. Sixty-six lots were offered, with only 10 failing to sell.
New York art dealer Helly Nahmad told Bloomberg News, "The art market is back," but that may be premature. Bidders were chasing the high-quality pieces, and it is tempting to believe that what auctioneer Tobias Meyer calls "a year of abstinence" is over. The fact that the Sotheby's auction was so much greater than that at Christie's, though, makes me want to see a few more sales before calling it a trend.
Newhouse moved his Giacometti sculpture "L'Homme Qui Chavire" (Falling Man), which brought in $19.3 million – far above the high estimate of $12 million. Six of these two-foot sculptures were made, with another from it moving for $18.5 million at Christie's in May 2007. So, the latest sale has actually topped a comparable piece from the art boom. Let's just hope Newhouse isn't sinking this money into operations at Conde Nast ... that's just throwing good money after bad.
"Buste d'Homme" by Picasso brought in $10.4 million, not too far below the $12 million top estimate, and "Barques au port de Collioure" set a record for the artist at auction, selling for $14.1 million. The painting went to Guy Bennett, previously the head of the Impressionist department at Christie's New York.
More than a third of the auction inventory sold came from Reijtenbagh's collection. He moved 22 pieces for $58.5 million. Some of the pieces had been pledged as collateral for bank loans, and the man with homes in New York, Monaco and Belgium sipped white wine while watching his art collection disappear.
In November 2007, the Sotheby's Impressionist sale was good for $269.7 million and saw 10 lots move for more than $10 million. This time around, only five cleared that price hurdle.