Sarah P. Hanson has an excellent recap of this week’s Old Masters auctions and dealer exhibitions of drawings. She points out that David Tunick’s show of Gustav Klimt drawings that, she says, have not been seen for 37 years scored a sale to a new client who fell for a portrait of a woman done in blue pencil.
On the auction side, Hanson explains that Christie’s new drawing team was able to nearly double the dollar volume of their sale from $3.2m to $6.2m with nearly the same number of lots. That’s either an impressive commentary on the team or the market or both.
Hanson also points out that the top lot was Rubens study that had been re-attributed and cleaned to show the “sketchy oil on canvas, evidence of Rubens’s famously quick hand.” Considering the popularity of unfinished works in both the Met’s recent show and Otto Naumann’s TEFAF sales, Sotheby’s was touting in its catalogue the ‘aesthetic of the unfinished.’ It seemed to work—mostly.
Here’s Hanson’s take:
“We didn’t move everything I would have liked to”, says Christopher Apostle, Sotheby’s head of the Old Master Paintings department. “Buyers are showing a real selectivity”. But, he adds, “As long as [a picture] is very, very good, the name becomes less important”.
Or does it? During the week, dealers, specialists, and curators all underscored the importance of the buzz generated by a new discovery or reattribution. With Sotheby’s recent acquisition of forensic analysis firm Orion Analytical, the pace of these discoveries—or downgrades in attribution—in the Old Master category could change dramatically.
Old Masters collectors chase new discoveries at New York sales (The Art Newspaper)