Georgina Adam does a quick wind up of the New York Impressionist and Modern sales in her FT column this weekend. There she points out that a Degas at Christie’s is being sold as part of a restitution claim and that the Giacometti falling man at Sotheby’s is said to be S.I. Newhouse Jr.’s and was on offer at Gagosian for $20m before being consigned to auction. Adam adds this zinger at the end of the piece:
Sotheby’s hasn’t entirely abandoned guarantees: Picasso’s 1949 portrait of his son “Claude à deux ans” carries both a guarantee and an “irrevocable bid” symbol, meaning that someone has agreed to buy at a secret amount, and share in the upside should it sell for more to another party (est. $5m-$7m). Old habits die hard.
But it’s misleading to suggest that Sotheby’s is guaranteeing the Picasso or that they’re up to their old tricks. An irrevocable bid is a third party guarantee, not the auction house’s. It more rightly should be considered a floor offer, a price for which the consignor is willing to sell if no other bidders appear. Among the pressures the irrevocable bid adds is the fear that a dealer or buyer won’t be able to make a post-sale deal for the work should it fail to sell. In other words, the irrevocable bid makes it clear that the work will be sold and potential bidders are unlikely to get a second chance.