Colin Gleadell was the first to point out Sotheby’s experiment with day sale lots that had no reserve price. Today he follows up on the sales and tells us what they mean for the Contemporary art market and the price structure going forward:
Prices for Andy Warhol were conspicuously lower. A 14in painting of flowers at Sotheby’s was estimated at $400,000 to $600,000 and sold for $410,000 to dealer Tony Shafrazi, even though a near-identical work had fetched more than $1 million last year. A billboard-style painting by Warhol which reads “Somebody Wants to Buy Your Apartment Building!” had sold in 2007 for $964,000 against a $750,000 estimate. Last week it was estimated at $400,000 and sold for $458,000.
This was one of several works that Sotheby’s had offered without reserve, meaning that they would be sold to the highest bidder, regardless of how low the price was.
In fairness, most made their estimates, but often at some cost to the owners. Also sold without reserve was a small spot painting by Damien Hirst at $52,500, compared with its 2007 price of $72,000. A painting by Jean-Michel Basquiat, estimated at $160,000 and selling for $258,000 in 2007, returned with a $60,000 estimate and sold to one of the biggest Basquiat traders, Jose Mugrabi, for $110,500 – that’s more than a 50 per cent reduction in estimate and price.