Christie’s sale of of the exceptional Monet grainstack began with a tense moment as auctioneer Andreas Rumbler called out a series of un-answered chandelier bids up through the $30+m range. At one point, exasperated with the standoff between bidders, Rumbler let out a cry of frustration: “Someone will buy this picture.”
Someone did … after a sustained bidding war the painting was bid well above the estimate range. So why the slow start? The answer seems to be emblematic of the entire week.
After seven years of rising, prices seem to have reached a plateau. Sales volumes reached a similar plateau two years ago. Now, on most lots, the buyers and sellers all have a strong grasp of where the pricing should lie.
Throughout the week, across auction houses, bidding has been subdued and sales seem to have taken place more often near or slightly below the low estimate than not. But this isn’t one of those desperate, frustrating sales weeks where the auctioneers are stranded in the box calling out starter bids then trying to move on and not let the tension show.
The buyers are there. In the Imp-Mod sale at Christie’s the buyers were still buying even without third-party guarantees. There were only two guaranteed works in Christie’s evening sale. But the results were quite similar to the Postwar and Contemporary sale.