Before I begin, I wish all of our friends and readers a very happy and healthy Holiday season!
Art Market Round-Up
Another season of sales has come and gone and as we have seen over the past few years, there is a continuing interest in all that is good … and even in some that is not so good.
The end of October brought forth the 19th century sales in New York and, as has been the norm, there was an equal helping of ‘the good, the bad, and the ugly’!
Let’s start with the Good. Emile Friant’s Cast Shawdows was offered with an estimate of $60,000 - $80,000, one, we in the know, knew was rather low. When the bidding ended, the new owner had paid $508,800. John W. Godward’s lovely Threading Beads commanded a respectable $262,000; Eugene van Blaas’ Catch of the Day made a robust $1.08 million; William A. Bouguereau’s Le Baiser brought $856,000; Ludwig Deutsch’s small, but spectacular oil, The Orange Seller, Cairo made $990,000; Jean B.C. Corot’s 8 ½ x 13 ½ inch sketch Venice, the Piazzetta looking toward San Giorgio Maggiore (1828) made $262,400; and Arthur J. Elsley’s rather large canvas, Well Done!, made $889,600 … whenever I see one of the Elsley paintings appear on the market it always make me think back to the days when I first came into the business and we were selling important works by the artist in the $15,000 - $30,000 range.
Now for the Bad and among the numerous works shown were M. Rico y Ortega’s A Promenade Along a Venetian Canal, which had its share of condition issues, brought $84,000; Pierre A. Brouillet’s Suzanne et les vieux messieurs, which also had condition issues, found a buyer at $96,000; and James J.J. Tissot’s badly estimated A Fete Day at Brighton ($3 - $5 million) failed to find a taker.
And finally --- the Ugly (please keep in mind that beauty is in the eye’s of the beholder, and from my perspective, there were many examples one could choose from); among them were: Fred Morgan’s The Harvest, an awkwardly posted composition that was rather poorly painted, which amazingly sold for $21,600; Jean B.C. Corot’s small Souvenir d’une villa Italienne, effet du soir, a dark boring sketch, made $54,000; his equally dark and boring Study of Trees (which had a stamped signature) also found a buyer at $45,000; Gaetano Chierici’s An Opportune Moment, featuring a somewhat unattractive little child, failed to find any takers with an $80 - $120,000 estimate; Lessur Ury’s The Seamstress, whose condition had seen better days, failed to find a buyer at $100 - $150,000; and Alfred Stevens’ Le coup de vent which failed at $200 - $300,000.
In the end over $29 million worth of art changed hands; 501 works were offered and 308 found new homes (61%). More specifically, one saleroom offered 225 works; of those 151 sold for a total of $11.7 million and the top 10 works made up more than 40% of the total sales. The other sale featured 276 works; of those 157 found buyers for a total of $17.36 million. In this sale the top 10 works accounted for almost 52% of the sale’s total.
On to the Impressionists!
While viewing the selection of works being offered during the first week of November I was struck by the fact that one sale room had much better offerings than the other. As it turned out, one was able to sew-up a couple of important private collections, while the other was left with … the leftovers. What was surprising is that when it was all over, even the less than desirable works had a good day. The results support my conclusion in Volume 54 that “more good times are on the way”.
Among this season’s more interesting highlights were Claude Monet’s Nymphéas which made $14.01 million and his Le Grand Canal that sold for $12.89 million; Pablo Picasso’s Nu jaune brought $18.6 million and his rather ugly portrait Buveuse accoudée, $6.28 million; Cezanne’s small, but powerful, Pommes et gateaux made $10.32 million; and the weeks superstar: Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec’s La blanchisseuse sold for more than $22.4 million. As we have seen in past seasons, if you took out a couple of the more expensive lots in the 19th century sales the week before, and the buyer of the Lautrec could have purchased just over 300 19th century paintings.
Among the low points, which included the bad, ugly and over estimated, were Renoir’s Gabrielle a la rose ($3.5 - $4.5 million estimate); Matisse’s Les marguerites ($10 - $15 million); and two Monet’s Les rosiers dans le jardin de Montgeron and Route a Louveciennes, effet de neige (both estimated at $4 - $6 million) ... all failing to find new owners.
At the end of the day, almost $370 million worth of Impressionist and Modern art changed hands; a 30% increase from the May results. Now before you jump to conclusions and say … wow, the market if still going strong … please remember that each work offered for sale is its own entity and the works offered this time were different than those offered in May. The only conclusion one can really draw is that there is still plenty of money our there looking for good quality works of art and if the right paintings appear, they will find buyers. We are still in a very healthy cycle.
And now, the Contemporary sales!
As usual, the high flying Contemporary market is climbing to new heights … just how high it will go is anyone’s guess. Just make sure that when it finally runs out of gas, you are not standing under it!
Prices throughout the week were strong and many of the Blue Chip names recorded record auction prices. The two stars of the week were Mark Rothko and David Smith, with the Rothko being the first to hit the block. His 9 foot tall Homage to Matisse (painted in 1954, the year Matisse died) cost the new owner paid $22.4 million; which was the highest price a post-war work of art had ever made at auction (recently higher prices, for more important works, have been reported in private transactions through various galleries including the reported $40 million David Geffen paid for a 1958 painting by Jasper Johns). However, that auction record did not last long. The next evening David Smith’s monumental sculpture – Cubi XXVIII (1965) – eclipsed that record when it sold for $23.8 million. Other impressive results included: Roy Lichtenstein’s In the Car which sold for $16.25 million; Wilhelm de Kooning’s Untitled (1977) that made $10.65 million; Francis Bacon’s Study for a Pope I which fetched $10.09 million; Andy Warhol’s Jackie Frieze that garnered $9.2 million and Cy Twombly’s Untitled (New York) that rounded out this group at $8.69 million. The Twombly was also a record auction price for the artist, but here again more important works have been sold privately through galleries; including the reported $20 million paid for his 2001 piece Lepanto.
As for the ‘New Chip’ artists, my favorite – Maurizio Cattelan – was poorly represented this time out. His The first, they said, should be sweet like love; The second bitter, like life (+ The third soft, like death; 2 works), a work featuring a stacked group of taxidermied animals, made $665,600 (against an estimate of $700 - $1 million and on top of that this work was last sold in 2001 for $610,750). Damien Hurst’s The Most Beautiful Thing in the World, from the artist’s butterfly series, commanded $1.3 million; and Jeff Koons’ Lifeboat (yes a full size replica of a rubber lifeboat done in bronze) made $3.37 million while his white-marble Self Portrait made $3.93 million.
When it was all said and done almost $390 million worth of Contemporary art changed hands with upwards of 20 new auction records.
Once the dust had settled, it was very clear that the art market, in general, is still in a very healthy cycle and that when good works of art appear in any arena … be it at auction or in a gallery … there are many ready and eager buyers.
Other Sales of Interest
What has been classified by some as the ‘Holy Grail of numismatics’, recently changed hands in a private transaction. The set of coins, known collectively as the King of Siam, which includes a rare 1804 U.S. silver dollar was sold for a record $8.5 million. The Art Institute of Chicago acquired, through a private transaction with a Belgian dealer, Salvador Dali’s Venus de Milo With Draws. While precise details were not disclosed, the price is believed to be in excess of $1 million. The Wadsworth Atheneum Museum of Art purchased, for an undisclosed sum, a set of four George Catlin paintings from a Connecticut dealer … the price is believed to be in the $1 million range. A rare copy of the first public printing of the Constitution, printed by the Pennsylvania Packet and Daily Advertiser newspaper on Wednesday, September 19, 1787, brought an impressive $207,225. An 18th century Philadelphia pewter tankard made a record $41,400 at a recent sale in Pennsylvania; and a Marie Zimmermann carved and painted, silk-lined, wooden jewelry box brought in $117,500 at a sale in New Jersey.
Gallery Updates: The gallery has acquired a number of wonderful paintings recently. Included among them are works by Daniel Ridgway Knight, Jean-Baptiste-Camille Corot, Adolph Dillens, Henry Victor Lesur, Louis Aston Knight, Eugene Galien Laloue, Edouard Cortes, and Antoine Blanchard. We have also received some very interesting paintings by Sally Swatland, Junn Roca and Allan Banks. A number of these new works have been added to our web site.
Web Site Updates: We are pleased to announce that a number of wonderful works of art have passed through our hands this month. Included among them were: Jean B.C. Corot’s Saulaie avant la fenaison; Eugène Boudin’s Le bassin, Deauville; Johann Hamza’s The Family Heirloom; three works by Edouard Cortes: Landscape with Horse and Carriage, A Little River Near Paris, and Place de la Madeleine; Victor Gilbert’s La marchande de fleurs; two works by Gregory Frank Harris and one large painting by Heidi Coutu.