This analysis of the September Mid-Season sales at Christie's, Sotheby's and Phillips in New York and London is available to AMMpro subscribers. The first month is free with every subscription. Feel free to subscribe and cancel before the first month is up.
September's sales of Contemporary and 20th Century art held in New York and London, including Sotheby's sale of the estate of playwright Edward Albee and Mario Testino's collection, offer an interesting window into the middle market. Normally, these sales do not include high value, seven-figure works of art but this September—because of the Albee sale which had a Milton Avery, Marc Chagall and Jean Arp work each estimated above $1m and a Joan Mitchell in Sotheby's Contemporary Curated sale—the market was able to absorb a handful quite easily.
Before we delve into the details of these auctions and what their results might reveal about specific artists' markets, let's take a moment to observe the curious results of the Albee sale. At the top end of the estimate range, Edward Albee's provenance seemed to add little to the works on offer. Albee's Milton Avery, Meditation, sold quite well slightly above the $3m high estimate. But his Chagall, Kandinsky and Arp works were all sold at disappointing prices in view of their estimates. Nonetheless, the Albee sale saw remarkable bidding for a range of works that produced impressive results.
John McLaughlin had three works among the Albee lots. All sold at prices that were multiples of the high estimate. The cheapest of the works had a $20k high estimate and a $43k premium price. Above that there was a 1960 work that nearly tripled the $90k high estimate to make $262k and a 1957 abstract that made $516k or more than four times the $120k high estimate. Lee Krasner, Kurt Schwitters, Medardo Rosso, Walt Kuhn, Jacques Lipschitz, Theodoros Stamos and Charles Green Shaw all saw sales that have provoked a great deal of conversation for their strong to exceptionally strong prices. As famous as Albee was, no one seems to believe the buyers were paying for the playwright's provenance. There continues to be a hunt throughout the art market for under-valued works by over-looked or under-appreciated historical masters. The $3.3m paid for Joan Mitchell's Parasol (above) over a $2m high estimate seems to be of a piece with that trend.
Taken together, these sales yielded $74.5m with a 79.5% sell-through rate on 1437 lots offered in both cities.
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