You’d have thought that after last year’s disaster, Sotheby’s would have learned their lesson; but NO … they did it again.
On July 13th their Victorian and Edwardian Art auction took place and all I can say to the auctioneers is — this is the wrong time of year for this type of sale. Give the art market a summer vacation; and in case you have not realized this, most people are more concerned about enjoying the outdoors than they are about the interiors of their homes. If you really need to have auctions over the summer, maybe you should think about more summer related themes like: “antique suntan lotion bottles”, “rare cruise ship deck chairs” or “historic air conditioning units” — things people might have interest in during the summer!!
I know we need to cover this sale; but it is really going to hurt, so be prepared – and keep in mind that last year (2009) I stated that their sale had: an embarrassing sell-through rate of just 48.8% and a total take of £3M ($4.92M) and this year’s was worse!
As with any sale, there are always some highlights and in this sale they were few … but only a few. Top honors went to John A. Grimshaw’s Evening Shadows, an 18 x 13 inch canvas that brought £181,250 ($275K) and in second place we had a three-way tie: J.W. Waterhouse’s drawing titled Flora, Marie Stillman’s The Childhood of St. Cecily and Alma-Tadema’s Returning from the Market each brought £145,250 ($220K). And other than a few additional high points, this sale went to the dogs.
The auction included 15 lots whose estimate range was £80K plus and of those 11 did not sell – these included works by Flint, Grimshaw, G.D. Leslie, Munnings, Leighton, etc. In addition, the three most highly estimated works – William Logsdail’s Bank and the Royal Exchange (£600-£800K), George E. Hicks’ Infant Orphan Election… (£500-£700k) and Grimshaw’s Autumn Gold (£300-£500K) were among the casualties … a real disaster.
As we saw with the Old Master Day Sale, there were no post-sale press releases; and the reason was quite apparent: of the 157 works offered 62 sold and 95 failed to find buyers giving a sell-through rate of just 39.5% – Yikes! – and a total take of only £2.08M ($3.2M) – double YIKES! The people I really feel badly for are the owners of the works which failed to sell.
I do hope that the salerooms are learning something from these results and that maybe they will consider revising their summer schedules … at least until we see a strong economic recovery and the art market returns to the absurd levels of 2007.