The International Herald Tribune’s Souren Melikian is covering the YSL sale. Here he tries to explain its extraordinary success:
Otherwise, everything combined to make the sale unique. Some extremely important works were released on the Paris market for the first time in decades. They were enhanced by the aura surrounding the memory of one of France’s most famous couturiers, Saint Laurent, who died in 2008, and Bergé, renowned as an entrepreneur. The collection was formed over a period of 30 to 40 years by the two men, who were companions and business associates. [ . . . ]
Few, even among those who felt confident that Saint Laurent’s name and Bergé’s business acumen would guarantee a significant success, imagined that the sale would go so well.
It started off in a low-key fashion, with works that were neither spectacular, nor typical of their respective authors’ better known styles. The very first lot was a hilly landscape, seen by Edgar Degas through an open window from a room in Rome or Naples during the long trip he took to Italy between 1856 and 1859, in the Romantic naturalistic style of the time. It bears no relationship either to his very Spartan landscapes of the late 1860s or his Impressionist period, and yet it brought a healthy €457,000. [ . . . ]
Works of limited merit were competed over with an enthusiasm normally associated with periods of great optimism. A self-portrait by Vuillard, painted in 1888 in a realistic style that is far removed from the bold concise manner that he developed in the 1890s during his Nabi phase, went up to €517,000. This is a huge price for what is at best a work of documentary value. [ . . . ]
Awareness that large collections now hardly ever tumble on to the market and are even less likely to do so in the foreseeable future because art owners are scared of testing the waters in a deteriorating economic environment played a considerable part in the successful outcome of this sale.
Yves Saint Laurent Art Sells for €206 million (International Herald Tribune)