Colin Gleadell gets granular on the British paintings market. His revelation that Sotheby’s has guaranteed a lead work for this sale in London shows that while guarantees seem to be pulling back from the top end of the market, they are increasingly (this is anecdotal) appearing in middle-market sales which may or may not be a good thing:
At Sotheby’s, it was L.S Lowry who captured the headlines with a record £1.6 million for a portrait by the artist. Father and Two Sons was a grim image quite unlike his matchstick-men northern industrial landscapes, which Manchester collector Frank Cohen had bought in 1999 when it failed to sell at Christie’s with a £400,000 estimate. There wasn’t much bidding this time round either but Cohen didn’t need to worry because Sotheby’s had given him a guarantee before the sale somewhere in the region of its new £1.5 million estimate.
Gleadell also noticed that one bidder was very active in the market:
At the sale, there appeared to be only one bidder prepared to beat the guarantee, so not much profit for Sotheby’s compared to Cohen. The private buyer was unfamiliar to dealers in the room, some of whom believed he was from Greece. But Sotheby’s said he was British and was known to them as a Lowry collector. He was certainly very popular with the auctioneers as he bid up on a spiky 1950s iron sculpture by Lynn Chadwick, forcing the anonymous buyer to pay well over the estimate at £749,000; outbid the New Art Centre, which represents the estate of Barbara Hepworth, paying a more than double estimate £377,000 for a chunky bronze torso by the artist; and paid an above-estimate £173,000 for an unremarkable small woman and child sculpture by Henry Moore.
Art Sales: taking the Modern British temperature (Telegraph)