Christie's no-reserve Hockney; Visible consignors; Sotheby's new exhibition spaces
This commentary by Marion Maneker is available to AMMpro subscribers. (The first month of AMMpro is free and subscribers are welcome to sign up for the first month and cancel before they are billed.)
— Christie's (@ChristiesInc) November 9, 2018
Late last week, as the auction house previews were in full swing, talk turned (as it always does) toward predictions for the coming week. How will it go? What’s the mood? The remarkable consensus brought about by the quality of the material on offer, the armature of third-party deals and guarantees, the absence of either market over-confidence or external macro-economic euphoria (let alone immediate threats) and the curious alignment of each auction house within its preferred lane was that the market had appeared to have achieved that rare Goldilocks moment where conditions are neither too hot or too cold but seem to be just right.
Into this porridge of perfection, Christie’s dropped a dollop of doubt when it announced—first through Josh Baer’s email and then on Twitter—that David Hockney’s Portrait of an Artist (Pool with Two Figures) would be auctioned on Thursday without a reserve.
The announcement has transfixed the art market. It brings out into the open a story that has mostly been playing out behind the scenes for some time. It also raises questions about the consignor’s goals and introduces a new element into the public’s perception of the art market that could easily overshadow the market’s current equilibrium.
Based upon little more than what has transpired semi-publicly, we’re going to take a very speculative stab at working out why Christie’s took this step.
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