Sotheby's and Christie's Show that Art Market Comeback Is Real
The Giacometti set a new record for the artist, sailing past the $27.5 million picked up by "Grand femme debout II" at a Christie's sale in May 2008. In driving nearly half the auction's sales, this piece made it clear that the art market comeback is more than the wishful thinking of collectors who have spent more than a year and a half watching their pieces lose value. A year from now, we'll be looking at "Homme" as the symbol of the art market's recovery, much as we've come to see that final $85 million Francis Bacon sale in May 2008 as the peak before the decline.
Eight lots failed to sell at the Sotheby's Impressionist and Modern evening sale, but this hardly matters when considered against the auction's overall performance. Presale expectations were beat by more than 100 percent, thanks in large part to the fact that 17 of the lots sold for more than £1 million each. Three lots crossed the £10 million threshold. Works by Georges Seurat, Paul Cezanne, Gustav Klimt and Camille Pissarro easily pushed into seven-figure territory.
The action at Sotheby's follows a strong night at competitor Christie's, which sold lots worth £76.8 million, and impressive result until the action under the gavel at Sotheby's overshadowed it.
Change is in the air. Art collectors and dealers are becoming more comfortable with the market dynamic. Sellers are providing better inventory -- as we can see from the presence of pieces by Klimt, Giacometti and Cezanne at Sotheby's -- and buyers are raising their paddles more. The auction houses are keeping an open mind on guaranteed minimum prices. After a year and a half of brutality, we finally have some relief, and this is just the beginning.