Don't call it a comeback ... well, because the bar's been lowered. At the post-war and contemporary art sales last Friday, both Christie's and Sotheby's nearly hit the high end of presale estimates. This marks a distinct turn from earlier this year, when the auction houses couldn't even reach the lowest ends of reduced expectations. Any comparison to last year is made difficult by the fact that both houses combined their auctions with Italian art sales. So, they open with "close to the top end of the range" and can't really be evaluated on anything else.
Values for the pieces are off -- that's pretty well known (especially to anyone trying to sell right now). Sotheby's brought in $32.8 million at the sale -- which also had Arab and Iranian art on top of the contemporary and Italian lots. Christie's picked up $27.7 million, with more U.S. buyers than expected.
We're again seeing an engineered reality that's driven by performance relative to presale estimates -- this is all the hint we nee to know that the art market is still pretty far from recovery. But, as we know, it could have been much worse. Hell, we saw how bad it could be for most of this year.