The Orientalist art market has been a consistent bright spot even as other genres crashed back to earth. Not that it was immune to overselling and volatility. But demand from North Africa and the Gulf seemed to be steady and secular–meaning part of a longer term shift toward regional interest in having their history and landmarks depicted in 19th Century painting. Economist.com drills down into the July 9th sale at Christie’s where there was bad news but also some good:
Christie’s Orientalist sale in London on July 9th did not go well. Of the 59 lots on offer, 27 failed to sell despite every effort by the auctioneer, Alexandra McMorrow, to squeeze bids out of those attending. It was an afternoon of thin trading, with reluctant bidders and bargain-hunting buyers. The entire sale was despatched to just 14 purchasers.
This past April an 1858 oil painting by Lewis of a kibab shop in Scutari sold for $3m at Sotheby’s in New York. This must have tempted the owner of a meticulous little watercolour study of the same subject (pictured above) to try his luck. Although the picture was the cover lot on the catalogue, Christie’s cheeky estimate of £600,000-800,000 was well above what the market could bear. Bidding opened at £300,000 but petered out at £500,000.
Consignments from the Canton Museum of Art suffered a worse fate. The Ohio-based museum offered two paintings, including a saucy view of a harem bath by Jean-Léon Gérôme. Both are returning, unsold, from whence they came.
On the good news side, there was plenty of buying from from two anonymous figures. Between them they bagged 11 works for £500,000 each. So someone is looking to press their advantage in Orientalist art and feels the buying trend will continue in the future.
Bidding Rewards the Brave (Economist.com)