Katya Kazakina caught the dual mood at Christie’s last night as the big buyers seemed to go on strike:
“There wasn’t a lot of enthusiasm out there,” said Tom Elghanayan, a New York developer who collects German expressionism. “You could feel it in the room.” […]
Last night’s sale “also suffered from overestimation on several of the top lots,” said art adviser Mary Hoeveler. “Buyers don’t need to be told when something is a ‘masterpiece.’” “People are extremely selective,” Hoeveler said. “Unless the material is exceptional and fresh, they are just going to sit and watch.”
Kazakina also details the depth of Asian buying:
Chie Banta, Christie’s specialist for Impressionist and modern art in Japan, picked up at least three paintings by Marc Chagall for her telephone clients. The priciest, “Le Rappel,” fetched $4.4 million, exceeding the high estimate.
Rebecca Wei, managing director of Christie’s Asia, snagged a small Van Gogh drawing for $1.4 million, a Monet view of Giverny in winter for $5.2 million and a Picasso for $2.7 million. She also underbid Chagall’s “Au Cirque” painting.
The night before, Wei placed the winning bid on behalf of China’s richest man, Wang Jianlin, who bought Picasso’s painting of his young children, Claude and Paloma, for $28.2 million, according to Christie’s. It was the Krugier collection’s top lot.
Last night’s Picasso, the 1965 “Tete de Femme au Chapeau” was also bought by Wang to join the corporate collection of Dalian Wanda Group, the real-estate conglomerate where he serves as chairman and president.
“Chinese collectors only want A-list artists, the names they don’t have to explain to their friends,” said Wei.
Kelly Crow got a good explanation of the thinking behind some stalwart consignors, especially the seller of a Picasso who would not compromise on $25m as a price even though the bidding matched a similar work from two years ago:
The seller of Picasso’s 1963 “Painter and His Model in a Landscape,” wanted at least $25 million for his scene of a couple in the grass. Before the sale, specialist Brooke Lampley said the seller took his pricing cue from a November 2011 sale of a similar Picasso from 1967 that sold for $23 million. But on Tuesday, bidders at Christie’s turned up their noses at the comparison and the “Painter” failed to sell without a single bid.
The Nahmad family bought some of the better contested works last night. That opportunism suggests the market is slightly out of balance, at least according to this anecdote from Carol Vogel:
A 1923 colorful painting by Kandinsky, “Schwarz und Violett,” that had been estimated at $4.5 million to $7.5 million, sold to David Nahmad, the Manhattan dealer, for nearly $12.6 million.
“The estimate was low,” Mr. Nahmad said after the sale. “When have you seen a Kandinsky of that quality at auction?”
Asked if he thought he got a bargain, he added, “Absolutely.”
Vogel also continued the Times’s surveillance of everything related to Steven Cohen’s art sales:
“Mann und Frau (Umarmung),” a gouache by Egon Schiele from 1917 depicting a naked couple in a hot embrace, went unsold without a bid. It was another bit of bad news for the anonymous seller, said to be the hedge fund billionaire Steven A. Cohen, whose firm, SAC Capital Advisors, agreed earlier this week to plead guilty to insider trading violations and pay a record $1.2 billion penalty. The estimate — $5 million to $7 million — seemed sensible since the gouache had been on the auction block at Christie’s three years ago, selling for $7.3 million.
Dan Duray followed this theme, after a fashion, by marveling at the varied valuations the market seems to place on works that transacted early in the last decade:
A Fernand Léger still life from 1924 failed to sell at $4.75 million, even though that appreciation would seem reasonable since it had only gone for $2.1 million at Sotheby’s fall sale in New York in 2004. A Degas sculpture, on the other hand, sold for $725,000 with premium to a phone bidder, nearly the same price it’d sold for in 2005, $744,000.
Finally, the Master, Judd Tully had these astute points to make:
Though quieter both in number and price points, a handful of Impressionist and post-Impressionist works found new homes. Claude Monet’s misty early-morning haiku, “L’ile aux Orties” (1897), painted about a mile from his home in Giverney, sold to London dealer Jonathan Green of Richard Green Gallery for $8,117,000 (est. $6 million-$9 million). Another Monet from the same year, yet greatly different in location and atmosphere, “La maison du Douanier, effet rose,” depicting a customs house perched above the sea, made $4,421,000, selling to another anonymous telephone bidder. (est. $4 million-$6 million). And Paul Signac’s Pontillist “Les Allees, Cannes” (1918-1920) elicited strong bidding, selling for $3,749,00 (est. $2-3 million).
Perhaps the most intriguing battle of the evening was the long fight over a postcard Vincent van Gogh sent to his brother Theo with a message on the back and drawing of his home on the front. It sold for more than $5m and showed there was dogged determination in the market for interesting objects:
the stunning pen-and-ink “La maison de Vincent à Arles (La maison jaune) (recto); page of a letter from Vincent to his brother Theo (verso)” (1888), brought $5,485,000, more than double the low estimate (est. $2.5 million-$3.5 million). […] “Maison,” originally in the collection of Theo van Gogh, going for £845,258 ($1,406,874) at Christie’s London in June 2003. On Tuesday, both went to anonymous Asian telephone bidders.
Collectors Turn Picky at Christie’s Limp Sale (Wall Street Journal)