This recap of the coverage of Sotheby'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.
One of the key complaints that led to the activist investment in Sotheby's was that the auction house had fallen behind its rival Christie's in putting on the all-important Contemporary art auctions. This week, coming off last season's surprise triumph with the Wilkes Basquiat and a year after the equally defiant success with the Ames estate, Sotheby's finally posted a Contemporary Art Evening sale total that was only 10% behind Christie's.
Nate Freeman of Artnews picked up on this statistic given out at Sotheby's post-sale press conference by auctioneer Oliver Barker.
If you compare contemporary to contemporary and remove the $450 million from the total, Christie’s totaled $338.6 million, just a bit higher than the total at arch-rival Sotheby’s tonight.
To be fair to both sides, Sotheby's posted $302.7m without the Ferrari Formula 1 car bringing it just into the same 3-handle as Christie's. But considering this season was dominated by estates which Christie's outbid the competition for, Sotheby's sales total is a validating triumph for the entire team.
It sure didn't feel like that during any of the week's Contemporary auctions. Across the board, the sales were characterized more by the monotony of a highly managed sale where works mostly get gaveled to a pre-arranged bidder. Sotheby's Gregoire Billault acknowledged this when he pointed out that Sotheby's had achieved a remarkable four New York Contemporary Evening sales in a row with a 90% sell-through rate. Billault is responsible for that hawk-eyed management but he certainly had help from Sotheby's COO Adam Chinn and the ever-watchful Amy Cappellazzo. All four of whom have been running the shop these last four sales cycles.
With the close sale management comes some risks. Art auctions share a bit with fashion shows.
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