This recap of Sotheby's Impressionist-Modern and Surrealist Evening sale in London is available to AMMpro subscribers. Monthly subscriptions begin with the first month free. Feel free to subscribe and cancel before you are billed.
Helena Newman finally lost her patience during Sotheby's Evening sale of Impressionist, Modern and Surrealist art last night. Earlier in the evening, the top lot, a Picasso, was sold in a grueling bidding war that saw bids chopped so fine they amounted to 3/4 of a percent rise in price. The winning bidder even took the strange precaution of moving from bidding on the floor to bidding by telephone midway through the sale. The persistent reluctance of Sotheby's Asia head Patti Wong to spend a pound more than necessary so flustered Newman that on several occasions, clearly hoping for a move that would break the logjam of split bids, she mistook yet another fractional bid for a jumped bid well above the expected next bid. Then, near the end of the sale, as the featured Salvador Dalí works were being sold, Newman cried out as Wong tried to chop yet another bid:
“Oh come on Patti, we will be here all night!”
As trying as the bidding was, it was worth it in the end for Sotheby's. The entire sale made £136m with nearly a 77% sell-through rate confirming Christie's decision to let the category settle where it may instead of trying to project confidence through higher sell-through rates as both houses have come to do with Contemporary art.
Sotheby's held a much smaller sale than Christie's but wound up in nearly the same place with the sale buy-in rates. The Master, Judd Tully, confirmed the feelings of the market with this quote:
“What did we learn from this week?” queried Guy Jennings, managing director of the London based Fine Art Group, “nothing flew away and tonight it was like pulling teeth. It was painful to behold. The market is pretty solid without being crazy and it’s tough to get the really good things.”
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