The auction market doesn’t quite experience the kind of rotation that one sees in the financial markets where money flows from one sector to another seeking return. But market leadership can shift from one category to another as collectors seek value or opportunities.
Old Master paintings are beginning to look like the new art market’s new hot category. At least, that’s what Reuters thinks:
But encouraged by Old Master auctions in London in December — where Sotheby’s hit high expectations with a $20 million sale and Christie’s fell shy of low estimates, reaping $30 million — the auctioneers hope the genre will remain stable.
Sotheby’s Vice Chairman George Wachter told Reuters that by early October he knew he would have to cut as much mediocrity as possible from the January 29-30 New York sale, so 291 lots are on offer, about 120 less than last year.
“We cut out a tremendous amount of stuff and … wherever I felt it was appropriate, I lowered estimates,” Wachter said. He predicted the sale could earn about $75 million.
Wachter said a painting that might have been estimated to sell for $2 million to $3 million was lowered to $1.5-2.5 million, and art valued at $400,000 to $600,000 might be forecast to fetch $350,000 to $450,000.
At Christie’s, which is holding it’s New York Old Masters sale on January 28-29, Nicholas Hall, international department head for Old Masters, said several lots will have no reserve price.
“I think that will generate considerable excitement,” he told Reuters. Hall said Christie’s has about 300 lots for auction and hopes to sell between $25 million and $35 million.
The two sales together have the potential to bring in $100 million or more combined. Here are some of the highlights:
Sotheby’s sale includes Joseph Mallord William Turner’s “The Temple of Jupiter Panellenius,” estimated to sell for $12 million to $16 million and a pair of paintings by Dutch master Frans Hals, “The Portrait of a Man Holding Gloves,” ($8 million to $12 million), and “The Portrait of a Woman Holding a Handkerchief” ($7 million and $9 million).
Christie’s also has a Turner painting for sale, “The Brunig Pass from Meiringen, Switzerland,” ($1.5 million to $2.5 million), along with The Master of Memphis’ “The Holy Family with the Infant Saint John the Baptist and two shepherds” ($500,000 to $800,000) and Jean Simeon Chardin’s “Still life with a copper pot, a pitcher, fish, a glass, two nuts and an onion” ($1.2 million to $1.8 million).
“I predict that we will have a sell through (lot) rate here above 65 percent and maybe above 70 percent,” Hall said, which compares with last year’s rate of about 55 percent.