Judd Tully sums up the mood of the major players at the Krugier sale that went down with a whimper last night:
“A great man, a great eye,” said New York dealer Dominique Levy as she charged out of the salesroom. “But these were not his best pieces.”
“I think it shows you can’t sell things at any price,” said New York private dealer Emmanuel Benador, a former longtime employee Krugier, where he was head of its graphic division. “It was a connoisseur’s sale but unfortunately, people want decorative pieces.”
Katya Kazakina got a similar vibe from her sources:
“It’s not really a collection, it’s Krugier’s inventory,” said Paul Gray, director of Richard Gray Gallery in Chicago and New York. “Most of the things that didn’t sell were way over-estimated.”
Gray also commented on the maquette for Picasso’s Chicago sculpture that found no bidders:
“It’s a great piece, but it’s been in several art fairs in the past five years,” Gray said.
Finally, Kazakiba slips into her story the fact that some of the most contested lots of the evening went to Asia:
The top lot was “Claude et Paloma,” Picasso’s somber portrait of his two young children. Estimated at $9 million to $12 million, it sold for $28.2 million to a telephone client of Rebecca Wei, managing director of Christie’s Asia. Domenico Gnoli’s 1968 painting depicting a 5-foot-tall close-up of a pocket was chased by Daniella Luxembourg, whose New York gallery had the artist’s exhibition last year, and Xin Li, Christie’s deputy chairman of Asian business development. Li won the bidding war, getting the piece for $2.3 million, above the high estimate of $1.8 million.
Carol Vogel pointed to these wins for the estate and a museum:
A 1937 wooden chessboard made by Duchamp — bought by Krugier in 2006 for $582,820 — sold for $2.5 million.
The Museum of Fine Arts Houston walked away with an 1844 watercolor, Delacroix’s “Lion dévorant un cheval,” of two beasts locked in combat. The watercolor was expected to sell for $300,000 to $500,000. The museum paid $260,000, or $317,000 with fees.
Kelly Crow got a different take from Thaddeus Ropac who thought Christie’s could have done a better job of getting the word out about the Basquiats and other Contemporary works:
Thaddeus Ropac, a contemporary-art dealer based outside Paris, said he only learned a few days ago that Mr. Krugier’s estate sale was speckled with contemporary pieces by artists like Jean-Michel Basquiat and Anselm Kiefer—artists who would more typically turn up in a contemporary art sale. One of the Basquiats, “Crisis X,” sold for $2.8 million, under its low estimate. Mr. Ropac, who represents Mr. Kiefer, won the artist’s 1980-81 “Ways of Worldly Wisdom” for $509,000, just over its low estimate. Mr. Ropac said similar examples from the same series have topped $1 million, so he deemed his buy a bargain. “It was a terrible sale, but it was good for me,” he added. “If they had offered it in a contemporary sale, I would have paid a lot more.”