The first week of May saw some pretty big sales (big in number of works offered). After viewing them I wondered if they were going to pull it off since my overall impression was that while there were some interesting works, there was also a good deal of filler … but as you will see, the market is so starved that they were able to make a go of it. I will also add that while their top offerings did well, they were not the most expensive work of art sold during that week — that came from the 19th Century Sale … yes, in the 19th Century Sale!
Sotheby’s began the week with their evening sale on May 3rd and taking the number one slot here was our old friend Picasso whose Femmes lisant brought $21.4M (falling far short of its $25-$35M est.). Coming in second was Jawlensky’s Frau Mit Grünem Fächer at $11.3M (est. $8-$12M) and in third was a Gauguin sculpture Jeune Tahitienne at $11.3M (est. $10-$15M) – the only issue was that the Gauguin had no bidders … it sold at the reserve to someone who had offered an irrevocable bid before the sale. Bringing up the top five were another Picasso at $9.6M (est. $10-$15M) and a Paul Delvaux at $9.05M (est. $3-$5M).
I know some of our readers are interested in knowing how the values of the Impressionist/Modern artists have held up over the years, so here are a few examples from this sale: Renoir’s Portrait of Claude Monet (a drawing est. at $300-$500K) sold for $1.02M – the sellers bought it in 1996 for $171K; Magritte’s La Condition Humaine also brought $1.02M ($400-$600K est.) and was last sold in the public forum in 1989 for $374K; Rodin’s Le Penseur was last on the market in 2001 and sold for $446K; 10 years later if carried an estimate of $1.5-$2M and sold for $4M (wow!); Picasso’s Pivoine made $728K in 1997 and this time made $3.6M (est. $2-$3M); Monet’s La Seine a Argenteuil brought $2.9M in 2004, 7 years later it made $6.2M (est. $6-$8M); Lhote’s Les Joueurs de Rugby made $98K in 1988 and 23 years later sold for $2.5M; and finally here is one with a number of results: Chagall’s La Ferme was sold in 1988 for $462K, then again in 1998 for $717K, in 2008 it made $1.1M and finally in 2011 it made $1.7M.
Now I do not want you to think that every work offered increased, there were offerings that brought less and others that were recently acquired and failed to find buyers: Giacometti’s Portrait of Maurice Lefebvre-Foint sold in 2009 for $3.9M and failed to sell; Degas’ Danseuses au Foyer (an odd looking piece) sold in 1993 for $2.6M and failed in both 2009 and 2011 and Renoir’s Baigneuses sold in 1990 (height of the market at that time) for $6.8M, then in 1998 it sold for $3.4M, in 2009 it failed to sell and in 2011 it made $3.4M (so after deducting the seller’s commissions, it was a loss). Even in this market, you still need to buy right!
When the evening’s festivities ended, of the 59 works offered 44 found buyers and 15 were returned to their owners for a sell-through rate of 74.6% and a total take of $170.5M (presale est. range was $159M-$230M) – so they made the range after the buyer’s commissions were added in.
The next morning Sotheby’s presented their day sale and this, as usual, contained a mixed bag of interesting and not-so-interesting works. As we have seen in the past, fresh works, with attractive subjects, in nice condition and appropriately estimated performed well and the top five here were works by Giacometti ($962K), Le Sidaner ($873K) and Lipchitz ($843K), Gonzales ($813K) and Rodin ($813K) – all meeting, or exceeding, their estimates. When this session ended, of the 278 works offer 195 found buyers and 83 were bought-in for a sell-through rate of 70.1% and a total take of $39M.
So, their grand total for this set of sales was: 337 offered, 239 sold, 98 unsold, sell-through rate of 70.9% and a total take of $209.4M. 2010’s corresponding sale saw 304 works offered, 238 sold, sell-through rate of 78.2% and a total take of $233.2M.
On the evening of May 4th Christie’s presented its ‘important’ offerings and to be honest, I did like a few of them – especially a Monet, Vlaminck, Tanguy and De Chirico. Taking the top slot here were two works: Monet’s Les Peupliers (est. $20-$30M) and Steve Cohen’s Vlaminck (est. $18-$25M) each made $22.5M. Both works were rather impressive pieces and definitely show what can happen when you buy right. The seller of the Monet purchased the piece in 2000 for $7M and the Vlaminck was last on the public market in 1994 where it made $6.8M. Rounding out the top five were Picasso’s Les femmes d’Alger at $21.4M (est. $20-$30M); Matisse’s La fenêtre ouverte at $15.8M (est. $8-$12M) and Picasso’s Homme au mouton at $7.1M (est. $4-$6M). Oh, the de Chirico I liked made $4.8M (est. $5-$7M) and the Tanguy brought $2.1M (est. $1-$1.5M).
As with the Sotheby’s sale there were a number of offerings whose price changes we could track – here a few of the good and bad: Dali’s Trio fêminin was bought in 1999 for $63K and made $663K this time; Schiele’s Liegender Akt made $138K in 1989 and $1M this time; Rodin’s Eternel Printemps made $758K in 2002 and $2.8M now; Caillebotte’s Villas a Villers-sur-Mer made $646K in 1998, did not sell in 2003, made $554K in 2006 and now brought $902K; Leger’s Le Compotier was bought in 1999 for $751K and sold now for $5.1M; and Monet’s Iris Mauves brought $3.5M in 1997 and this time it failed to sell (now to be fair, it had a $15-$20M est., which may have been just a little too aggressive).
When the evening ended, of the 57 works offered 47 sold for a sell-through rate of 82% and a total take of $156M – the low end of their estimate range was $162.5M … so even with the buyer’s commissions added in, they fell far short.
On the 5th they offered the general works and taking the top three positions were a Lebasque at $1M; Magritte at $903K and a Tanguy at $819K. Of the 259 items offered, 216 sold for an 83% sell-through rate and a total take of $33.5M
When their sales had ended, the total take was $189.5M from 263 sold works (they offered 316) and a sell through rate of 83.2%. Last year’s corresponding sale saw 348 offered with 289 selling for a sell-through rate of 83% and a total take of $360M. Now you might be wondering, why such a drop in the total, well last year they had a Picasso that brought over $106M and a Giacometti that made over $53M (like I always say: what a difference a painting or two can make).
When the two auction rooms totals are combined 653 works were offered, 502 found new homes (76.9%) for a total take of $399M.