Stuart Waltzer’s learned and bitchy commentary on the New York sales is one of the best editorial features on Artnet.com. Here are the highlights from his report on Sotheby’s Imp/Mod sale on Monday night:
Lot 9, Alfred Sisley, Le chemin dans la campagne, 1876, est. $1.5 million-$2 million. If T-bills represent the flight to safety, these pictures are their Impressionist equivalent. They are well made, enduring and unexciting. Inevitably, they are estimated at $800,000-$1.2 million or $1.5 million-$2 million, and haven’t changed in value in the past 20 years. Enfants jouant dans la prairie, a picture similar in every aspect to the current example, sold in 2004 for $1.2 million. Not tonight. Passed.
(More after the jump.)
Lot 11, Claude Monet, Paysage à Port Villez, 1885, est. $3.5 million-$5 million. See the entry for the above lot, in a higher denomination. Not the most exciting Monet, but one filled with odd contrasts, a flourish of brushwork Monet seemed to enjoy, and a clunky spot within it that makes the picture but was the signal for the fun to stop. He painted essentially the same scene three days running. Bord de la Seine a Port Villez, the second in the series, sold for $4.6 million in May 2007. Paysage à Port Villez sold for $3 million ($3,442,500) tonight as three bidders each made one bid. The winner was New York dealer Jack Tilton, according to the Baer Faxt.
Lot 12, Camille Pissarro, Ferme à Montfoucault, niege, 1874, est. $1.5 million-$2 million. Same as above with a lower rating and higher volatility. It is hard to imagine the romance of painting in the snow; perhaps the love of one’s art keeps one warm. A beautifully made, unexciting painting of a farmyard in winter, horse tethered and ducks marching in a row. Canards sur l’etang de monfoucault, smaller, from the spring of that year, sold at Christie’s London in 2007 for $1 million. Ferme à Montfoucault, niege sold at $1 million ($1,202,500), cheap.
Lot 17, Degas, Le ballet, 1885, est. $7.5 million-$10 million. The prime work in a group of three pastels distinguished by their level of abstraction, tactility and color. This is the most volumetric, hence accessible, and Degas’ touch and color are overwhelming. Not tonight. Passed.
To its credit, Sotheby controlled the clientele and thus the market. There was no morbid sensation of free fall as lots collapsed one atop the other unexpectedly. It was not unexpected and Mr. Meyer manifested no pique or dismay. Sotheby’s made money though arguably not very much. The last time there was a sale like this was when George Herbert Walker Bush was about to leave the White House. Let us hope for a better day tomorrow.
Art Market Watch by Stuart Waltzer (Artnet)