Sotheby’s Mellon Sale = $158,737,250

103N09245_4CF46SALE TOTAL: $158,737,250

100% SOLD
Selections from the Collection of Mrs. Paul Mellon totaled $158,737,250, exceeding its high estimate of $121 million

  • Global bidding from 32 countries spanning 4 continents

The auction was led by two paintings by Mark Rothko that both exceeded expectations: Untitled from 1970, which achieved $39,925,000 (est. $15/20 million), and Untitled (Yellow, Orange, Yellow, Light Orange) from 1955, which fetched $36,565,000 (est. $20/30 million)Continue Reading

Sotheby’s Paid $20m to Settle Loeb War

Daniel LoebRobert Frank discovers that the Sotheby’s board fight was substantially more expensive for the auction house than previously revealed:

The auction company said during a conference call last week that took a special charge of $20.1 million in the first nine months of 2014 for fees associated with its defensive campaign against Loeb, founder of hedge fund Third Point. That equals nearly half of Sotheby’s net income for during that period.

In May, Sotheby’s put the cost at $15.7 million.

Sotheby’s spent $20 million to wage war against Dan Loeb (CNBC)

How Detroit’s Art Saved the City


The Detroit Free Press has an epic behind-the-scenes story of Detroit’s Grand Bargain. Starting from Gerald Rosen’s doodle, the reporters follow every major player in the story. They show how Kevyn Orr and his colleagues put the art in play. Then they give us details on how Judge Gerald Rosen corralled a group of foundations to cement the deal.

Here’s how Alberto Ibargüen, president and CEO of the John S. Knight Foundation, and Darren Walker, president of the Ford Foundation, reacted to Rosen’s overture in a car ride back to their hotels:

“Alberto,” Walker said, “this is going to be a hundred-million-dollar taxi ride.”

“Well, if you’re putting in a hundred million, then I have to put in twenty,” Ibargüen said. “And by the way, on an asset basis, you’re getting away with murder because you should be putting in more.”

Walker smiled. “I think my board will be excited by this.”

It turns out the Knight Foundation board was even more excited:Continue Reading

How Private Sales Conquered Auction Houses

Private Sales at ASuciton Houses 2003-2013

The Wall Street Journal has a story on where to sell your work of art. The story tries to make the point that selling at auction only benefits those with works that have a visible price momentum for similar works. That’s true enough. But running along with the story is a chart of Christie’s and Sotheby’s private sales over the last decade. It certainly isn’t news that private sales have been on the rise. Both auction houses built their post-credit crisis strategies around increasing private sales among their clients.

Christie’s has just opened a new set of galleries and viewing rooms for private transactions on the ground floor of its Rockefeller Center sale rooms. That’s expensive real estate which shows the power of private transactions for the firm. Herewith another demonstration as we can see Christie’s come from behind in the private treaty sale space to match or lead Sotheby’s.

Perhaps of greater interest is the column running next to the sale totals in the Journal’s chart. It shows the increasing percentage of sales that private transactions represent. There Sotheby’s is approaching one-fifth of its revenue:Continue Reading

The Art Was the Deal … in Detroit

Kevyn Orr

Politicians can posture all they like but the Wall Street Journal settles once and for all that the Detroit Institute of Arts was the key to resolving the city’s bankruptcy. Today, Judge Rhodes approved the bankruptcy plan.

Essentially, Kevyn Orr, the Emergency Manager, put the museum collection in play to motivate the state, unions and surrounding counties to collaborate and resolve the fiscal crisis:

“I made it clear that the state bailing out Detroit would not be appropriate and I still live by that. I don’t view the grand bargain as a bailout,” said Michigan Republican Gov. Rick Snyder, who authorized the city’s bankruptcy filing and endorsed its settlement. […]

The idea to rescue a bankrupt American city started with a doodle on a legal pad.

U.S. District Judge Gerald Rosen, who had been appointed as the chief federal mediator in the nation’s largest municipal-bankruptcy case, wrote the word “art” on the pad and drew a box around it. Then he drew an arrow from the box to where he had written the word “pensions.”

That concept forged in the summer and fall of 2013—to monetize Detroit’s world-class art collection to help shore up the city’s underfunded pensions with help from some of the nation’s largest foundations—turned out to be the linchpin deal in Detroit’s Chapter 9 case that effectively ended Friday.

In Detroit Bankruptcy, Art Was Key to the Deal  (WSJ)

Christie’s New York Imp Mod Day = $36.5m

Powerful Women Exerting More Influence at the Very Top of the Art Market

Xin Li and Diana Widmaier Picasso
Xin Li and Diana Widmaier Picasso

Christie’s Chinese client-relationship superstar, Xin Li, is the center of yet another profile as anticipation builds for a serious week of Contemporary art sales. But buried within Kelly Crow’s profile is an observation that deserves a bit more attention.

Although the very top of the art market is often lampooned as a product of overly competitive masculine egos, two of the highest prices ever paid for works of art in the last five years are rumored to have been paid by women. Lily Safra bought Giacometti’s Walking Man 1 and Elaine Wynn is said to have paid more than $140m for Francis Bacon’s triptych featuring Lucian Freud.

Here Crow says the majority of Xin’s most valuable clients are women:

Currently, Ms. Xin focuses most of her attention on about five major Asian collectors who can each spend $100 million in a season on art. Most are women working as entrepreneurs or self-made billionaires in the fields of technology and banking. One of them said Ms. Xin often encourages her to rifle through auction catalogs and earmark any pieces that intrigued her. Ms. Xin follows up with candid opinions.

The Art World’s High-Roller Specialist (WSJ)