Contemporary sales were where the fireworks continued … well, let’s say that it was more like a Fourth of July display! Here again the catalogs were enormous – weighing in at a robust 12.21 lbs. I also viewed both sales and while I enjoyed many of the more important / celebrated works … there were many pieces by more ‘minor’ artists that left me saying … come on!
Look, I do enjoy and appreciate Contemporary art, but, in my opinion, some of it is nothing more than superbly hyped ‘stuff’ and it appears we are back to the days when — if he has one, then I need one. So sad! But let’s get on with the show:
First up was the Christie’s evening sale which included some fabulous works from the Michael Crichton collection (all of the Crichton works sold). Top honors from this sale were Jasper Johns’ Flag at $28.6M (est. $10M – $15M); Warhol’s Silver Liz at $18.3M (est. $10M-$15M) and Yves Klein’s Anthropométrie… at $12.4M (est. $8M-$12M). Of the 79 works offered, 74 found buyers for a sell-through rate of 94% and a total take of $231.9M – which works out to about $3.1M per work sold.
The next evening the action continued at Sotheby’s where the top two prices for the week were realized: Warhol’s Self Portrait (being sold by Tom Ford) brought an impressive $32.6M (est. $10M – $15M) and Rothko’s Untitled (being sold by David Martinez) commanded $31.4M (est. $18M-$25M) – the sale of this work has resulted in a nice little lawsuit concerning confidentiality. In addition, there was an interesting work by Maurizio Cattelan, Untitled, which made $7.9M (it was sold by William Acquavella who bought it in 2004 for $2M – nice profit). This sale was smaller than Christie’s: 53 works of which 50 sold (94% sell-through rate) for a total take of $190M – that works out to $3.8M per work.
When added together the evening sales offered 132 works, sold 124 (94%) and took in $421.9M. This crushed the 2009 results when 88 of the 102 works offered sold for $140.8M; but pales in comparison to the 2008 sales when 140 works were offered, 127 sold and the total take was $710M … yes, $710M for just the evening sale! From the numbers you would have to say that this market still has some room for growth!! But in my opinion, the air is pretty thin at its current level.
And now for the day sales … sales where many of the uneducated, uninitiated, unimpressed and just uninterested would easily say … I could do that! And in many cases you are right.
Sotheby’s was the first to post their detailed numbers. Of the 377 works offered, 295 found buyers for a sell-through rate of 78.2% and a total take of $53.4M. Top sellers were works by Calder ($1.53M); Warhol ($1.4M) and Diebenkorn ($1.16M). I did find it interesting that all of their top 10 were listed in their press release as being bought by the same mysterious individual … Anonymous! I want to meet this elusive Mr. or Mrs. Anonymous.
Christie’s day sale total was $60.1M with 389 works offered and 333 works selling – a sell-through rate of almost 86%. Among the top earners were Lichtenstein’s Two Apples – $2.2M; Calder’s Untitled $1.3M and two additional Calders each selling for $962,500.
When all tallied the two main rooms offer 858 works; of those, 752 found buyers (a sell-through rate of 87.6%) for a total take of $535.4M. These were far better numbers than the 2009 take of $201M, but a far cry from 2008’s $900M!
And now for some interesting ‘investment’ numbers: Warhol’s Self Portrait was bought in 2002 for $2.65M, in 2010 it made $5.68M; Joan Mitchell’s River III was last on the market in 2003 and was bought for $455,500, this time around it made $2.54M; Rothko’s Untitled last appeared on the public market in 1997 and sold for $1.87M – after changing hands two times it sold in 2010 for $31.4M; Warhol’s Flowers was bought for $220,000 in 1987, it now sold for $7.6M; and again, just so you do not think that everything goes up, de Kooning’s Sagamore was bought for $5.39M in 2006 … this time around it made just $3.44M.
After reading these results I am sure many of you are thinking, where is all of this money coming from? Well, I wish I could give you the specifics, but much of the information is never disclosed. What I do know is that wealthy people from across the globe – Americans, Asians, Europeans, etc. – consider art to be a viable and fairly safe place to ‘invest’ some of their money. And let’s face it, with the current uncertainty in the stock market and the fabulous interest rates the banks are paying, who can argue with them? To me it seems far nicer to have some of your assets hanging on the walls, rather than sitting in the stock market where they gyrate like a 1960s go-go dancer!