All eyes will be on lot number 9 tonight at Christie’s to see if one of the many potential buyers will meet consignor Joe Lewis’s $100m price ambition. With the no reserve announced, the real question is where the bidding opens. Will there be bids in the book? At what level? Could the painting possibly start at $1?
There’s no denying the artist’s work had a strong night at Sotheby’s last night with two later works—the domestic Montcalm Interior with 2 Dogs and the landscape Moving Wisp—performing near or above the high estimates to make $12.7m and $8.5m respectively. Sotheby’s has been leading the way in the Hockney market lately with strong sales for the later works. In May, the firm pulled off a major sale with the Piscine de Medianoche (Paper Pool 30) making nearly $12m over a $5-7m estimate range.
No matter what happens with Hockney’s Portrait of an Artist (Pool with Two Figures)—and AMMpro subscribers can read our data analysis on the Hockney market here—Christie’s has a paper pool from the same year, 1978, with an estimate almost as low, $6-8m, and a massive provenance. Hunk and Moo Anderson built a legendary collection of 20th Century art. The masterpieces went to found a museum at Stanford University but Moo and her daughter are selling their equally impressive collection of works on paper at Christie’s.
Add to this the sunnier composition on Sprungbrett mit Schatten (Paper Pool 14) and the work’s position in Christie’s sale five lots after Lewis’s lot. Whether bidders take the bait and drive the big lot to $80 or $100m or someone gets it at a steal of $40 or $50m, the paper pool is positioned to benefit.
In other words, no matter what happens to Portrait of an Artist (Pool with Two Figures), the Hockney market remains strong and the paper pool offers one of the artist’s best images at a price most collectors can swallow.