Combined sales; press coverage; pre-sale previews; critical assessements
–all on one post!
Jed Perl offers an essay on La Surprise in conjunction with his new book on Watteau that comes out soon:
So when the real painting, which had been lost for 160 years, turned up–as the Times reported, “in the corner of a small sitting room in an English country house”–I felt as if I were in a story, perhaps by Calvino or Nabokov, and could not quite tell what was fantasy, what actuality. The very idea that this little masterpiece–a tiny thing, not much more than a foot high–was discovered in a dusty corner of a minor English country house is the stuff of fiction, at least of a Sherlock Holmes story, or perhaps one of Henry James’s dark tales of art and inheritance.
Reuters previewed the sale:
“The most exciting things are very often the re-discovered ones,” said Alex Bell, head of Sotheby’s old master paintings in London. He added that the thriving market for other sectors was boosting interest in old masters. “I’ve felt more interest in this sale than for a while,” he told Reuters.
The New York Sun focused on Gustav Rau’s collection:
“Rau bought what he truly loved,” the co-chairman of the Old Master Paintings department at Sotheby’s, Alexander Bell, said. “It’s probably not how most buyers of Contemporary art approach collecting today.” . . . “The strength of this man’s collection rests with the fact that he bought the best picture of the second and third best painter in any particular school,” Mr. Bell said. “It’s a strategy that worked; he didn’t try to buy the lesser works of better artists.”
Scott Reyburn at Bloomberg.com doesn’t find much to get excited about in Christie’s Old Master’s sale but he does like the Pieter Breughel’s The Bad Shepherd:
“It’s got a modern feel,” said the London-based Old Masters dealer Johnny van Haeften, who underbid the painting, in a telephone interview on the morning of the sale. “I saw Lucian Freud looking at it the other day.”
Souren Melikian sums up the week in the International Herald Tribune:
Even more than the auction records, the high prices achieved by a great many works, often as a result of intense bidding by dealers, bore witness to the remarkable bullishness of the market.
If confirmation was needed that the patchy Old Masters sale a day earlier at Christie’s was due to the uneven quality of the offerings, not to any market weakness, Sotheby’s delivered it with brio. As they walked out of the auction room, dealers smiled broadly. For them, the evening could not have gone much better.