There’s an inexhaustible fascination with the Lehman Brothers connection to the Neuberger Berman Collection sale. Here, the Master, Judd Tully, offers a cogent explanation for why some works were allowed to sell well below their estimate range
Most likely, the reserves were pegged to a “global reserve” formula, so one over-achieving lot could compensate for an underperforming one, like the Currin. That formula also saved Richard Prince’s untitled 2003 joke painting, acquired in the year it was made from Barbara Gladstone Gallery, that sold to a telephone bidder for just $212,500 on a $300-400,000 estimate. […] John Currin’s dour “Shakespeare Actress” from 1991 (est. $500-700,000), sold for a scant $362,500. […]
Still, that global formula could not save every underperforming lot. Damien Hirst’s uncharacteristic 1993 steel cupboard of ceramic pots, “We’ve got Style (The Vessel Collection-Blue /Green),” estimated at $800,000 to $1.2 million, died without a single bid. The sculpture was acquired from London’s White Cube gallery in 1994.
PBS’s Paul Solman is fixated on the every dollar and dumbfounded by fluctuating prices in this series of pre- and post-sale reports: