James Tarmy spoke to advisor Patrick Legant about the market. One thing that might have a bearing on this story, as Tarmy points to the auction houses trying to reduce their guarantee exposure, is the role of estimates.
A major hurdle this week was the estimate level. Without a guarantee, auction houses are even more susceptible to giving into consignors’ ambitions when it comes to estimates.
Any specialist will tell you they prefer to put a low estimate on a work that can attract more potential bidders and create a greater positive feedback loop through crowded bidding. Consignors, on the other hand, often give into pride and human nature by insisting on a higher estimate range especially if they do not have a guarantee to fall back on:
“Overall it’s obviously a very sobering week,” said Patrick Legant, a London-based art adviser who was in New York for the sales. “It’s also reassuring, though, because you still had bidders out there, and a lot of people who are still interested in buying art. It’s just that they’re a bit more selective.”
“At the moment, auctions don’t seem to be the place where you can take your best picture and get a good price,” said Legant. “We’re going through a period where if someone wants to sell an important work, they go through the more private route.”