The comments and quotes on last night’s sale are beginning to filter in. The Wall Street Journal’s Kelly Crow asks Sotheby’s Head of Impressionist and Modern art, Simon Shaw, about the picture of Picasso’s daughter:
- “We’re obviously disappointed about the Picasso,” said Simon Shaw, head of Sotheby’s Impressionist and modern art department, “but it’s still difficult to calibrate art values right now.”
- After the sale, auction specialists said the Picasso portrait might have struggled to sell because it was a portrait of the artist’s child, not one of his larger-than-life mistresses.
Lindsay Pollock and Philip Boroff of Bloomberg got off the best line of the coverage–“The art market flunked a stress test last night”–before unleashing dealer anger with these comments from the crowd after the sale:
- “They took a big hit in terms of credibility by not selling those two pieces,” said Andrea Crane of Gagosian Gallery. “Those estimates were way too aggressive.”
- “It wasn’t a good thing for the auction houses,” said Paul Gray of Chicago’s Richard Gray Gallery. “It will make it more difficult to attract high-end pictures.”
Pollock offers a few additional dealer quotes this morning:
- “Nobody will voluntarily sell anything really important,” said dealer David Nisinson. “It’s amazing this sale did as well as it did.”
- “This is a smart market,” said dealer Nancy Whyte who bought an Egon Scheie drawing for $842,500 on behalf of a client. “The mid-range did OK. The money is there at a certain level.”
Sotheby’s Simon Shaw saw the whole thing differently. They top works may not have sold but the auction house was able to make a market in Impressionist pictures:
- “We re-priced our classic Impressionist work and the market responded,” said Shaw.
Which had art speculator David Nahmad excited about the possibilities: “Now we go back to reality,” Nahmad said. “No more speculation.”
The Master, Judd Tully, teased these observations out of James Roundell:
- “Tonight the strength was very much in the Impressionist area,” said London dealer James Roundell, one of the underbidders on the riverside Monet. Asked why he stopped bidding for his anonymous client, Roundell said, “It’s a question of value. We like low estimates, but we don’t like them too low,” indicating that his client wasn’t prepared to leapfrog pre-sale expectations, a strategy that would have been a given in the previous bull market.
- Several dealers criticized Sotheby’s for its overreaching estimates on the spurned top lots, especially the Giacometti cat. “There was nothing wrong with the piece,” said seasoned London dealer Thomas Gibson. “It was just too expensive. It should have been $8–12 million [not $16–24 million]. But the rest of the sale kicked the recession in the backside.”
Sotheby’s Impressionist Sale Hits 7-Year Low as Picasso Flops (Bloomberg)
Sotheby’s $61.3 Million Sale Disappoints; Picasso Goes Unsold (Wall Street Journal)
Top Lots Flop at Sotheby’s Imp/Mod Sales (ArtInfo.com)