This recap of the coverage of Christie's Impressionist and Modern Art Evening sale is available to AMMpro subscribers. Subscribers get the first month free of charge. Feel free to subscribe and cancel before you are billed.
The record for the highest dollar volume evening sale of Impressionist and Modern art was set in 2007 with a sale that brought in what seemed like an unsurpassable $491m. That year was thought to be the apex of the art market boom and a break-through moment in the public's consciousness that art was becoming extraordinarily valuable.
After the global financial crisis, the Impressionist and Modern category has witnessed the punctuated success of individual lots. The sales haven't quite dominated the way Contemporary art does. Last night at Christie's, due to the presence of several estates, the long evening of labored bidding with a few moments of spirited competition distracted from the fact that Christie's had assembled and executed a substantial achievement. Let's remember that Christie's has had a bumpy decade in this category where its greatest successes seemed to take place in curated sales.
Artnews's Nate Freeman notes that the two sales preceding this one hardly hinted at what might be coming for the category with the estate windfall:
In May of this year, the total was a respectable $289 million, but the same sale a year ago netted just $165 million
Last night, Christie's came terribly close to matching that record sale mostly without the kind of tense bidding that has punctuated some of it's bigger successes. The Bass van Gogh, like the sale itself, came close to matching the record price paid for a van Gogh 30 years ago. (Adjusting for inflation means the two sales are hardly comparable.) But everything about Christie's sale was quieter, more business-like and efficiently buttoned up.
This is what at least one dealer told Robin Pogrebin and Scott Reyburn of the New York Times:
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