Hyped as a select group of Victorian and Edwardian Masterpieces one would have expected big things from this Sotheby’s sale … but that was not the case; the works (and their estimates) just did not live up to the hype. It was interesting to read their presale press release since they used the off-the-charts price for the Alam-Tadema (Finding of Moses – sold in NY for $35.9M) as a springboard for this sale, but I think we all know that the Tadema was a one-off event.
The release also stated that the sale would begin with 14 carefully selected works from private collections with a combined estimated value of about £3M. Well, by the time they hit lot 14, only 7 had sold; leaving a combined total of £1.56M ($2.5M) – not a very good start. In addition the most expensive work, a Tissot (£800-£1.2M), found no takers – it was last on the market in 1996 and sold for £440,000; and Godward’s A Tryst failed to meet its reserve – it was last on the market in 1999 when it made £275,000. Both were strong prices when they were originally bought at auction and the owners will have to wait a little longer for the market to reach the levels they now want.
Oh, they did offer an Alma-Tadema which was estimated at £200-£300K and failed to find a buyer; to be honest, the woman featured in the painting was not very attractive. The seller bought the work in 1996 for $195,000, then tried to sell it in 2008 with an estimate of $700-$900K (come on) and now tried it at less than half that range … still no takers. Remember, just because one painting by an artist does exceptionally well does not mean the next one will … it all comes down to what is on the canvas.
Of the 90 lots offered only 44 sold (48.8% sell-through rate) for a grand total of £3.3M ($5.24) – about what the first 14 lots were supposed to bring. Not very good!