Bendor Grosvenor makes a good case for the surprising strength of December’s Old Master sale in London. He asks, quite rightly, for some recognition in the press that the Old Master category continues to see real activity and interest.
This seems especially true when one goes through the results from Christie’s and Sotheby’s where many lots sold above estimates and the active buying was for six-figure works of many types. (Take a moment to go through the top ten lists from the Evening sales. At Sotheby’s there are four works estimated in the five figures that sold well into the six-figures. The day sale results had many more examples.)
Sotheby’s sold £14.8m in their evening sale and £5m in the day; Christie’s hit 12.24m in the evening and a little less than 5m for the day.
Here’s Grosvenor’s comment:
I think (even though as an Old Master dealer I am of course open to accusations of bias) that this is the year we can put ‘the Old Master market is dying’ story to bed. Last year’s sale totals, gleefully seized on by those who wanted to herald the demise of Old Masters, were indeed down on previous years. But as I and many others explained this was due to vagaries of supply, and the unusual absence last year of a single mega picture selling for big money. This year we’ve had two; the Rubens of Lot and his Daughters at Christie’s, and the Orazia Gentileschi at Sotheby’s. This year, Christie’s have sold £152m of Old Master pictures. That’s about £100m more than last year.
Of course, we mustn’t expect the New York Times to run an ‘Old Masters are back’ story. But an acknowledgement that Old Masters never really went away might be nice.