May Art Auctions Likely to Bring Back Excitement
The May art sales are coming, and I, for one, can't wait to see what happens. The art market took an exciting turn at the end of 2009. Prices appeared to be on the mend, though nobody was willing to believe it fully – not after the tumult experienced for the year and a half before it. Tentative steps gave way to optimism at the beginning of this year, leading many to accept that the art market is coming back. Collectors opened their wallets. Auction houses put better works on the block. Everything looked good.
Unfortunately, there hasn't been much action in the major categories since February. This is strictly a function of the auction seasons. Sure, we've had the Armory Show in New York and Phillips de Pury's anemic sex-themed auction, but this doesn't scratch the big-money art market itch. At the beginning of March, Sotheby's moved Andy Warhol's "Self Defense" for $420,000, well ahead of the presale estimate of $250,000 to $300,000. Christie's pushed "Two Jackies" for $446,500, more than 10 times more than the low-end presale estimate of $40,000. Yet, without piercing the million dollar mark, it's hard to capture anyone's imagination.
So, we've had to wait – and will have to continue to do so until May. In the meantime, anticipation has been mounting. What's coming up next?
There are major sales coming next month in New York, Hong Kong and Paris, and the results are expected to be much better than what we saw in March. The headliner at the Sotheby's New York sale is Matisses "Bouquet pour le 14 juillet 1919," which is estimated to go for between $18 million and $25 million. Sotheby's is also auctioning a late self-portrait by Warhol. Christie's is sending a piece from Pablo Picasso's blue period under the gavel, "Portrait of Angel Fernandez de Soto," in late June. A year earlier, sending such impressive pieces to auction was almost unimaginable, given the turmoil in the art market, particularly the low prices and the reluctance of houses to take risks on major pieces.