Sotheby’s had a weak Italian sale and well-managed Contemporary sale last night that may tell us something about the state of the art market but we won’t know more until after this Evening and weekend’s action is all toted up. In the meantime, there’s some initial reactions that are worth gathering. The Art Newspaper’s Anny Shaw spoke to one dealer who has begun to lose patience with the idea of a separate Italian sale.
Indeed, the weakness of the Italian sale may be as much a result of the success of Italian artists in the Contemporary market where many of the same names are mainstays:
“There’s no point when they are including lots like Agnetti and other third tier Italian artists just for the sake of it,” the London dealer Omer Tiroche said afterwards, adding that Sotheby’s staffers had told him “no one is looking at Fontana”.
Artnews’s Nate Freeman spoke to Inigo Philbrick as he flew out of the Sotheby’s sale rooms:
“These October auctions, there’s too much going on, and I don’t think the market can handle it. But there’s value for the buyer, and perhaps a bit disappointment for the seller.”
If Philbrick is right, Sotheby’s was smart to save its powder for the traditional sales calendar. Though the firm did something untraditional with one of its more recognizable lots. An Andy Warholwas offered with a £2.2m low estimate but sold for £800k on the hammer, a rare discount. The deep red work might have simply been too dark to attract buyers at the same level as other examples of the work. Nate Freeman got this from Oliver Barker:
“The owner was happy to give us a low threshold,” Barker told me after the sale. “They were keen to sell the painting.”
Overall, the story of the sale was its management. For that, we have to turn back to Colin Gleadell who took detailed notes:
The sale was marked by comparatively few guarantees—just nine works with a combined low estimate of £11.7 million—and they rarely paid off for the guarantors. Third-party guarantors appeared to end up with two spin paintings by Damien Hirst and Basquiat’s Remote Commander (1984) when there was no other bidding, but another guarantor did well from the upside on Antony Gormley‘s Sublimate V1,which doubled its estimate to sell for £758,750.
Sotheby’s did not do so well. A guarantee on Andreas Gursky’s Stateville Illinois appeared to be coming adrift until it was rescued by Gagosian Gallery, which paid a below estimate £308,750 for it. And on top of the loss of the Basquiat, they also guaranteed Gursky’s Bahrain 11, with a £550,000 low estimate that failed to sell.