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.