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How to characterize Christie's long $277m Postwar and Contemporary Evening sale? Was it a success? Surely. A handful of lots, two of the top lots and at least one obscure lot from a well-regarded Italian collection, saw the kind of bidding that marks a vibrant, aggressive art market. Although it was only a year ago, it seems like a long time since we've seen that kind of bidding.
For most of the sale, the steady work of achieving prices at or near the low estimate aided on nearly one-third of the lots by some sort of a guarantee gave the impression of a market caught between moderate demand and immoderate expectations.
On the issue of guarantees, Christie's said that 17 of the 54 lots that sold were guaranteed either by the house or third parties. Only two of the reported lots in the sale were reported with fixed-fee guarantees. Those two works were a Christopher Wool Untitled for $5.5m and an Agnes Martin Untitled #9 for $4.28m.
Christie's used those guarantees to good effect to provide a reassuring sell-through rate and a solid total sale. But astute observers with a good feel for markets sensed the signals.
Here's the New York Times gathering comments on the sale:
“It was slow and sobering,” the Los Angeles collector Eli Broad said. “The market is tired.”
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