The Master, Judd Tully, gets the mood of the saleroom from Jose Mugrabi after Sotheby’s well-managed 93% sell-through London Contemporary art sale that grossed £17m
“Art is better than ever,” said the ecstatic dealer moments after the sale. “Is it better to give money to Madoff to disappear or give money to banks that close?”
By Tully’s count, Mugrabi was the most consistent underbidder of the night who eventually paid £600,000 for a Zeng Fanzhi. Mugrabi, who already owns a mountain of art, wasn’t the only art engrosser in the room:
Throughout the evening, it was clear that bidders in the salesroom were looking for bargains, as was evident when, for example, Bridget Riley’s stunning and relatively rare, optically vibrating Gala, in acrylic on canvas from 1974, went to a telephone bidder for £735,650 (est. £600–800,000).
The underbidder was Philip Hoffman, chief executive of the London-based Fine Art Fund, who noted, “We’re trying to buy bargains and thought the Riley was good value and could be a very expensive piece in five years’ time.” Several market sources said that Sotheby’s had guaranteed the piece at £1 million before the global economic wipeout in September. The house obviously lost money on the painting, but that was the only financial guarantee in the sale.
There’s more good news in Tully’s wrap-up but this may be the most encouraging news for Contemporary art market:
Still, the average lot price was a respectable £715,170, much higher than, for example, the equivalent sale in February 2005, which earned £15.3 million with 54 lots.