Tonight’s Impressionist and Modern sale brought in $61 million with 80% of the lots sold. The star lot of the evening had to be the black-and-white Mondrian that sold for $9.26 million following on the substantial success of the artist’s work in the YSL/Berge sale. The surprise of the evening was seeing the Picasso portrait of his daughter pull a $12m bid before being bought in.
The often derided de Lempicka paintings performed well as a group and the Portrait de Marjorie Ferry made a record price for the artist at $4.45 million. The three Havemeyer works–two Pissarros and a Monet–all sold very well above their estimate range and each finding a spot in the top ten lots. Pissarro, Renoir and Rodin also opened the sale well with prices above the estimates.
Of the sale’s 36 lots, 11 were sold for hammer prices above the high estimates. That’s 30% of the lots.
Sotheby’s head of the Impressionist and Modern department was instructed to point out that the sale was the auction house’s most profitable Impressionist and Modern sale since last May, a too-clever-by-half allusion to the complicated issue of guarantees. Sotheby’s went back on its own stated desire to rein in guarantees in 2008 causing the firm a great deal of financial damage when the game of musical chair stopped in the Fall.
Sotheby’s combined commission on the sale was somewhere in the range of $10 million dollars. Considering the costs involved in the sale, that number surely did not filter its way down to the profit line substantially intact.