Christie’s Manages Soft Landing in London

Christie's Sale Photo 216

Christie’s pulled off a very well managed sale yesterday showing that a down market need not be a spooked one. Even though the £58m total was substantially lower than Sotheby’s the previous night, the impression of an orderly, mid-price focused market did much to sustain confidence, especially as global markets dropped all during the sale.

The Wall Street Journal captured the mood:

Christie’s, which historically shines in contemporary sales, once again managed to pull off a brisk auction dominated by pieces in the $500,000 to $5 million range—a middle-market price point that feels solid to wary bidders. The major soft spot was its supposed masterwork, an Yves Klein painting that stalled at $10.9 million and went unsold. Christie’s contemporary specialist Francis Outred said the house prepared “with a cautious frame of mind” by focusing on realistic estimates and walking away from a few top lots.

Colin Gleadell seconded the thought:

“This sale was more about the strength of the middle market,” said Lock Kresler, a director of the Dominique Lévy gallery in London, who used to work at Christie’s.

Christie’s sale strength was based upon elements of several strong collections. For example, Gleadell points to the Hockney umbrella that out performed:

The surprise, though not to Christie’s Francis Outred, was the performance of David Hockney’s paintings from the Miles and Shirley Fiterman collection. A simmering Beach Umbrella, from 1971, sold to a staffer from the Gagosian Gallery, who was competing against New York dealer Nicholas Maclean, for £3.1 million ($4.5 million), double the estimate.

“Hockney is totally underrated in the market place,” Outred said after the sale. “This price will look cheap before too long.”

However, not everyone viewed the pieces as selective. The Journal also spoke to one collector who simply sat this one out:Continue Reading

$160m in Art Sales Attributed to Jho Low

Jean-Michel Basquiat, Untitled (Head of a Madman)It’s been a fairly open secret this season that the young Malaysian social figure Jho Low has been a big seller of art in London. But Katya Kazakina reveals the extent of his short-term buying and selling. She traces more than $160m in art sales to Low. (With the additional reports of his having set the record for a Basquiat with ‘Dust Heads’, his total art holdings were in excess of $200m at some point.)

In London, Low seems to have sold £37m worth of art bought in the last four years:

This month, his 1935 painting by Picasso — a portrait of the artist’s lover, Marie-Therese Walter — fetched 18.9 million pounds ($27.6 million).

Basquiat’s 1982 oilstick drawing “Untitled (Head of Madman)” garnered 6.2 million pounds.

The third work offered by Low, Monet’s painting of the Palazzo Ducale in Venice, sold for 11.6 million pounds, falling below the bottom end of the presale estimate. Sotheby’s catalog shows the consignor acquired the piece from a Swiss collection.

Kazakina also traces Low’s ownership to another $110m sales over the last year or two:

Last February, his 10-foot-tall Gerhard Richter abstract painting fetched an artist record 30.4 million pounds in London, selling to billionaire Ken Griffin, the founder of hedge fund firm Citadel. Low made money on that painting, according to a person familiar with the sale.

In May, Low’s 8-foot-tall yellow and blue Mark Rothko painting sold for $46.5 million, the top lot of Sotheby’s contemporary art sales in New York.

In October, Low’s black, punctured, egg-shaped canvas by Lucio Fontana fetched 15.9 million pounds in London

Flashy Malaysia Financier Said to Sell Picasso, Basquiat at Loss (Bloomberg Business)

Sotheby’s Stock Drops 17% on Analysts Downgrade

BID Feb 11 2016

Headlines noting the 44% drop in Sotheby’s London Evening sale total seemed to provoke analyst downgrades today even though the day sale was essentially flat and Sotheby’s still outsold Christie’s comparable sale.

Today’s market panic around the world would seem to be pricing the stock with expectations of an art market crash even as gold rose another 4.5% bringing it up 20% year to date.

Nonetheless, Sotheby’s stock is now below $20. BID was around $34 before the earnings call that announced the Taubman guarantee would impact commissions.

Sotheby’s London Contemporary Day Sale Lots Rise in Average Value by 35%

2016 February Day Sale = £16,164,500 GBP (23,453,073 USD)

163 lots sold with an  average lot value around £100,000

2015 February Day Sale = £16,915,189 (25,785,514 USD)

231 lots sold with an average lot  value around £75,000

The folks at Sotheby’s did a little quick math on their London day sale of Contemporary art. This February the sale total was down about 4.4% year over year with 30% fewer lots sold.

That means Sotheby’s Contemporary Day sale average lot value rose substantially by nearly a third.

Christie’s London Post-War & Contemporary = £58m

Bonhams London Postwar Cont = ~$9m

Kazuo Shiraga, Untitled (red fan) 1.53m GBP

Bonhams doesn’t release sales totals but their London Evening sale of Postwar and Contemporary art seemed to do about $10m in sales even without the lead Warhol reversal lot.

  1. Lot 12 Frank Auerbach, EOW on her Blue Eiderdown V £2,042,500 ($2,943,389)
  2. Lot 33 Kazuo Shiraga, Untitled (Red Fan) £1,538,500 ($2,217,089)
  3. Lot 9 El Anatsui, Peju’s Robe £806,500 ($1,162,224)


Sotheby’s Stock Gets Hammered on London Sale Market Pros Found Reassuring

Sotheby's London Cont Eve 216

Sotheby’s stock price took a dramatic 13% hit this morning as global markets sell off amid fears of deeper macro dislocation. But yesterday’s sale hardly justifies the pessimism. It’s true that the bulk of the sale was plagued by the same estimate resistance that was seen last week during the Impressionist and Modern sales.

Sotheby’s specialists, nonetheless, managed their consignors’ expectations well and, except in a very few cases, were able to bring the reserves into line with buyer’s comfort levels. The sale’s 78% sell-through was hardly indicative of a market dislocation even if the results were shadow of the previous year’s haul.

Perhaps the biggest problem with the sale was the headline work that was withdrawn and would have closed the gap between last year’s results and this year’s substantially. On the outside, it looked like a vote of no confidence on the market even though the work had impeccable provenance. Colin Gleadell asked around:

The top lot, a luxurious abstract by Gerhard Richter owned by London collectors Eskandar and Fatima Maleki, carried a £14-20 million estimate, but was withdrawn at the owners request, said Sotheby’s—stressing that it was not due to lack of interest. One of the theories being bandied around was that Richter’s dealer, Marian Goodman, from whom (together with Anthony d’Offay) the painting had been acquired in the 1990s, objected to the sale, but that could not be established.

The sale opened with a run of hotly contested works by artists without deep auction records. That culminated with Adrian Ghenie’s The Sunflowers in 1937 which made a record £3.1m. Judd Tully spotted Thaddeaus Ropac bidding:

Ropac was unhappy that the Ghenie found its way to auction, since the buyer had apparently promised it would go to a museum when it was acquired on the primary market at Galerie Judin, Berlin in 2014. “It’s one of his best paintings,” said Ropac, “and I’m definitely not happy it went to auction so fast.”

The other high point of the evening came when Lucian Freud’s portrait of his former lover made a very strong price above the estimates. The rest of the evening involved transactions that either showed a level of market ennui or distress sales. The most visible distress sale was a Basquiat work on paper that got backstopped by the smartly opportunistic Nahmads. Here’s Tully:Continue Reading

When the Bidders Showed Up at Sotheby’s, They Showed Up in Force

Adrian Ghenie, The Sunflowers in 1937 (400-600k) 3.117k GBP

Sotheby’s put together some interesting stats on the bright points of their London Contemporary Evening sale:

Depth of bidding across broad range of artists and schools

  • Nine bidders (inc. Asian) for Adrain Ghenie’s “Sunflowers in 1937” (see above)
  • Six bidders (inc. Asian and Russian) for Lucian Freud’s “Pregnant Girl” (see above)
  • Five bidders for Mike Kelley’s self-portrait work on paper, Visceral Egg(1994). Sold for £245,000 / $354,294 (est. £80,000-120,000) [lot 2].
  • Five bidders for Günther Förg’s untitled work from 1989. Sold for £389,000 / $562,533 (est. £180,000-220,000) [lot 4]. These works have been in exhibitions both at White Cube, London, and Skarstedt Gallery, New York, in 2015.
  • Four bidders for Gebirge, the first Gerhard Richter mountainscape to come up at auction since 2008. Sold for £1.5 million / $2.2 million (est. £800,000- £1.2 million)  [lot 27].
  • Six bidders for Ai Wei Wei’s iconoclastic  photograph “Dropping a Han Dynasty Urn”. Sold for £755,000 / $1.1 million (est. £150,000-200,000) [lot 42]. Another version of the same photograph featured in the Royal Academy show in 2015. The last time a work from the same edition appeared at auction in 2008, it sold for just under £50,000.

Artists offered for the first time in London tonight:

  • Cheyney Thompson: “Chronochrome XIII” from 2009 (the first work by the artist to appear at auction in Europe), sold for an above estimate £197,000 / $284,882 (est. £70,000-90,000) [lot 1]
  • Richard Diebenkorn: an untitled work on paper from 1976 (the first work by the artist to appear at auction in Europe) sold for an above estimate £269,000 / $389,001 (est. £120,000-180,000) [lot 24]
  • Chung Sang-Hwa: “Untitled 81-5” from 1981-5 (the artist’s first work offered at auction outside Asia) also sold for an above estimate £269,000 / $389,001  (est. £200,000-300,000) [lot 47]

Sale Overview

  • 75% of the works offered tonight had never been offered at auction before
  • Particpataion from 38 countries (similar to Febraury 2015 sale)