Peter Aspden gets into the art-market-is-back act with this FT story on Sotheby’s strong sale. He touches one theme important from the last two weeks, the prevalence of jumped bids. It started with a Chinese buyer in the Sotheby’s Impressionist and Modern sale where the collector who bought four works and bid on more was consitently pushing his Sotheby’s representatives via telephone to bid more than either the next increment proposed by the auctioneer or his own representatives would allow him to bid. They often kept him to $500,000 increments when he was pushing to go up by a million even though the auctioneer was only looking for a few hundred thousand or less.
At Christie’s, the bidding for a Robert Smithson work involved one strawberry blonde woman bidder who bid in $50,000 increments three separate times hoping it would scare off Todd Levin who was her competition. She finally won. Then at Sotheby’s there was the $12m first bid for the Warhol 200 One Dollar Bills. Let’s let Aspden tell the story:
Nowhere was the buyers’ pent-up demand more conspicuous than in the battle for the 1962 Warhol painting “200 One Dollar Bills”. The bidding was opened by Tobias Meyer, Sotheby’s auctioneer, at $6m, but it was doubled by the first bid from the floor – an unusually aggressive move. Five more collectors joined in the bidding war, which went up swiftly in $1m increments, before an anonymous buyer clinched the painting on a telephone bid. “There were gasps in the room,” said Mr Barker of the audacious doubling of the opening bid. “It was as if someone just wanted to come in and land a sucker blow.”
Barker can be excused for trying to play up the excitement in the market. That’s his job. But the truth of the matter is that the jumped bid was more comic than effective as bidders piled in faster than it could register that someone had bid the high estimate. Nonetheless, the fact that several bidders were willing to try the ploy of scaring off the competition suggests there continues to be a lot of money on the sidelines looking for art.
Warhol Sale Gives Brush-Off to Art Downturn (Financial Times)