[private_subscriber][private_bundle]This week in New York, Impressionist and Modern (Imp/Mod) art takes the stage for its second appearance in 2010. Sotheby’s burst through the post-boom price ceiling in February when it sold Giacometti’s L’Homme qui marche I for $104,327,006. Now Christie’s is hoping for its own breakthrough:
In its May 4th session, the house offers a Picasso reportedly estimated in excess of $80 million that has us all wondering if we are about to see another Dora Maar moment.
However, it is more than just one highly estimated work that suggests confidence has returned to the market. The quality of the consignments on offer at both houses is reflected by the re-emergence of high estimates across the board: The average mid-estimate for an Imp/Mod work is up 32% over last May, and mid-estimates on evening sale lots are up by 38%. Of the 129 evening sale lots offered next week, 27 carry mid-estimates in excess of $5 million, and 12 have mid-estimates greater than $10 million. The last time the market saw this many high-end Imp/Mod works hit the block was in November 2008.
Sotheby’s Giacometti sale took the market by surprise in February, but this May’s confident estimates suggest that a surge is part of the forecast. So don’t forget an umbrella—because the houses are going to make it rain.
Lower to middle-value Imp/Mod works did not experience the same increase in average prices that their more expensive counterparts underwent during the boom. Although the average price for an Imp/Mod evening sale lot rose by 84% between 2005 and 2007, the average price for an Imp/Mod work sold at a day sale grew by only 22% (Fig. 1). And while average prices for evening sale lots were still increasing in 2008, prices for day sale lots had already begun to drop: In 2008, the average price for an evening sale lot was at a four year high of $3,075,423 while the price of a day sale lot fell to $123,686, down by 15% from 2007. The top of the market, however, lost steam in 2009. The high price for an Imp/Mod work fell by 76%, and the total sales of the top 10% of lots was down 12% from the average contribution of that segment of the market in 2006-2008 (Fig. 2). So far in 2010, the top of the market has resurged, yielding $336,964,145 in the first quarter, which is more than half of the total earned by the top 10% in all of 2009.