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The return of flipping has been greatly exaggerated. It was perhaps too easy to look at this week's auctions with top lots returning to market after not-too-long and conclude that flippers were again ascendant. The results of the last two night's auctions have shown that, at least at the very top of the market, we've reached stable price level.
Don't take our word for it. Here's former Christie's frontman and now private dealer and gallerist Brett Gorvy talking to the dean of art market journalists, Judd Tully:
“I don’t think there’s any progression in the market,” said Gorvy, who also noted that price is strictly governed by quality as buyers have become more discerning. “Anything not quite there, the prices are affected.”
In other words, although Sotheby's was able to post a strong evening sale of £109.3m with 95% of the lots sold (21% of them above the high estimate, according to our friends at Live Auction Art,) where most of the pre-sale top lots were sold to guarantors which, Colin Gleadell explains, made up substantial portion of the pre-sale low estimate:
Taking some drama out of the proceedings, 21 of the lots were guaranteed either by Sotheby’s or a third party, with a combined low estimate of £48.5 million ($67.4 million)—more than half the value of the sale. Eleven of them were last-minute third-party guarantees, arranged in the 48 hours before the sale.
Deflating the expectations that flipping would produce excitement was Sotheby's top lot, a much-traded Peter Doig painting which Gleadell speculates still made a profit for its consignor even at the £14.3m selling price:
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