[intro]Dealer Howard Rehs Comments on the Auction House’s $3m Sale[/intro]
This week is traditionally 19th century week in New York with both Sotheby’s and Christie’s offering the best works they can source. As we all know, Christie’s decided to fold its 19th century department into the Old Master department and their sale will now take place in January — I am not a fan of this ‘merger’, but given the fact that the auction rooms are having a tough time finding quality material it was probably a wise move on their part.
Since Christie’s decided to abandon the individual 19th century market in October, Bonhams decided to throw their hat into the New York ring – offering an Old Master and 19th Century sale (what they call their European Paintings Sale) when Christie’s normally had one. While I commend them for the effort, many of the works really fell into the more ‘decorative’ range – under $10,000; and the sale was not very successful.
Like any auction, there were some stellar results and taking top honors was Giuseppe de Nittis’s A Ride Along the Avenue des Champs-Elysees which brought an impressive S1.33 million on a $200-$300,000 estimate (that seller is going to be very happy). Coming in a distant second was a very nice Eugen von Blaas titled The Love Letter at $242,000 and his painting Lovelorn captured third at $176,000. Rounding out the top five were an extremely late – I would swear the date read 12/23 (but it must be 1923) – and not very good Daniel Ridgway Knight that sold for $103,700 (my bet was that it would not find a buyer, but it did); and an Orientalist Charles Lenoir (whose condition was rather iffy) that made $73,200 (on a $20-$30,000 estimate). There were a few other mid five figure results, but in the end most of the sold works were in the $3,000 – $20,000 range – not what this market needs or wants right now.
As for the final results: Of the 196 lots offered 119 sold and 77 failed to find buyers for a sell-through rate of about 61% and a total take of $3.08 million — and keep in mind that the de Nittis sold for $1.33 million, almost half the sale’s total. Now, to give you a better picture of the works offered, of the 119 works sold, 78 brought less than $10,000 … and of those, 43 were under $5,000. If Bonhams really wants to be a serious contender in the New York 19th century market, they are going to have to do a lot better next time.
I have said this before and I will say it again: if you do not have the material for a really good sale, do not have a sale. Poor results, generated from poor offerings, are only going to hurt the overall market, especially in the current economic climate.