The catalogs arrived at the gallery and I was amazed at their size … so I placed them on the scale — 13 lbs! Now keep in mind that last year’s set of catalogs weighed in at just 7.17 lbs, while 2008s were a whopping 16.56 lbs — and you probably thought that lugging around a 7 lb. laptop was annoying!
After looking through the catalogs one was pretty confident that the really good material was going to sell … but the real question was: how high is up? Well, the answer to that question came pretty quickly during the two evening sales: grabbing the number one spot was Picasso’s Nude, Green Leaves and Bust (painted on March 9, 1932) – breaking the record for a work sold at auction when it hit $106.48M; coming in second was Giacometti’s Grande tête mince (est. $25M – $35M) at $53.3M; and taking the third spot was Matisse’s Bouquet de Fleurs… at $28.6M (est. $18M-$25M). Rounding out the top 5 were two more Giacometti sculptures La Main at $25.8M and La Chat at $20.8M. It now appears that Picasso and Giacometti are the flavors of the day (8 of the top 20 works were either by Picasso or Giacometti).
On a side note: In addition to all the ‘big names’, Christie’s featured a fabulous J.F. Raffaelli titled Les buveurs d’absinthe. This particular work was exhibited in the Sixth Impressionist Group Exhibition, 1881, but the artist is usually associated with the more general 19th century painters due to his choice of subject matter and color palette. This large, wonderful, example carried an estimate of $400-$600,000 and ended up selling to The Fine Art Museum, San Francisco, for a record $2.99M! Great works are making great prices.
Now for the evening sale numbers: Christie’s offered 69 works, of which 56 sold for a sell-through rate of 81% and a total take of $335.5M. Sotheby’s offered 57 works, of which 50 sold for a sell-through rate of 87.7% and a total of $195.7M. Again, the results show: what a difference a painting or two can make – the addition of the Picasso and Giacometti works catapulted one room far above the other. When added together, the two rooms brought in $531.2M on 106 sold works (126 offered) and a sell-through rate of 84.1% … pretty hot!
Of course, we cannot forget about the two day sales: Here strong prices were seen for works by Marquet, van Dongen, Klee, Picasso,le Sidaner, Pissarro and many others. And, as with many of these day sales, there were a fair number of ‘not-so-good’ works that failed to find buyers. Here Sotheby’s edged out their competitor by selling 188 works (247 offered; sell-through rate of 76.1%) for $37.5M. Christie’s offered 279 works of which 233 sold for a sell-through rate of 84% and a total take of $24.5M.
When all tallied, the three days of sales offered 651 works; of those 527 sold (81% sell-through rate) for a grand total of $593.3M. These results were far better than 2009 when they could only muster $208M and pretty close to 2008s (height of the market) impressively strong $598M. Guess the Impressionist and Modern art markets are BACK!
Here are some interesting ‘investment’ facts about a few works. Noguchi’s Undine sculpture was bought at a sale in 2007 for $155,000 … it sold here for $4.2M; Rodin’s Le Penseur was bought by the seller in 2009 for $3.57M and was sold in 2010 for $11.8M; Juan Gris’ Verre et Carte à Jouer made $2.48M in 2005 – this time it brought $4.8M; and just to show you that not everything goes up, Chagall’s Roses et Mimosas made $3.6M in June of 2008 (height of the market) and now it sold for $3.1M – that seller should have held on a little longer.