Christie’s antiquities sale makes $19.3m; Colin Gleadell fingers the owner of Sotheby’s Monet grainstacks; Etel Adnan and other modern Middle Eastern painters perform well in London.
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.)
They Should Get It
The Tribune de l’Art’s Didier Rykner has a passion for outrage. He reveals that the owners of Rembrandt’s The Standard Bearer, probably the greatest Rembrandt work still in private hands, had approached the French government requesting an export certificate nine months before it was announced that French government would invoke a 30 month waiting period to try to raise the €165m asking price.
- “Since we announced the refusal of the export certificate, we learned that the Ministry of Culture (not Franck Riester who was not yet in office) and the Elysee are since July 2018 aware that the owners wanted sell this painting. They came to announce it directly to the ministry, accompanied by the Rijksmuseum’s lawyer. The Dutch museum is indeed decided to buy the work if France could not, for the sum requested which amounts to 165 million euros.”
To Rykner it is a scandal that the government didn’t act quickly, before the Yellow Vest protests and Notre Dame fire made any government action politically impossible. To the rest of us it might be more of a scandal that the government is delaying the sale by two and a half years when there is little to no chance of raising the money domestically and a top-ranked European museum (with a superior claim to cultural heritage) being kept waiting.
Christie’s Antiquities Make $19.3m
Led by the Sangiorgi Collection that was 100% sold for $10.64m, including A Roman Black Chalcedony Intaglio Portrait of Antinous, which sold for $2,115,000 against a high estimate of $500,000 after a three-minute battle between two determined bidders.
Also worth noting were A Roman Amethyst Ringstone With A Portrait of Demonsthenes with a high estimate of $300k that ultimately sold for $1,575,000, and A Greek Mottled Red Jasper Scaraboid with Perseus priced at $80-120k that made $855,000.
The various-owners sale made $8.66m of which the bulk of the total came from a Roman Marble Portrait Bust of Emperor Didius Julianus circa 193 A.D., which sold for $4,815,000, against a high estimate of $1,800,000. In addition, an Egyptian Blue Chalcedony Horus-Behdet Amulet achieved $759,000 (high estimate of $70k), and a European Gold Bracelet from the Late Bronze Age, circa 1390-1000 B.C., sold in the estimate range for $519,000.
Estates Fuel the Market—and Re-Shape the Business
Colin Gleadell makes the astute point in the Telegraph that this season’s sales in New York are dominated by estate material, much of which has not been on the market for a generation or more. Among the estates feeding the market are Si Newhouse, Gerald Lennard, Richard Lang, Robert Meyer, Drue Heinz, Princess “Titi” von Fürstenberg, Matt Dike and one undisclosed estate at Sotheby’s that accounts for $69m in pre-sales estimates. Gleadell has a good guess on who the owner was:
- “Though the seller’s identity has not been revealed, the collection is thought to have been assembled by Thomas Beck, a Hungarian-born Canadian engineer who is credited with designing bulbs for Christmas tree lights. It includes the highest estimated lot of the week – $55 million for one of Monet’s paintings of haystacks (1890). Beck, who died aged 90 in 2016, bought the painting in 1986 for $2.53 million, and the proceeds, say Sotheby’s, will go towards not-for-profit institutions in science and music. Beck was a Life Member of the Board of the Weizmann Institute of Science and chairman of the Toronto Symphony Orchestra.”
The passing of this generation of collectors has also allowed the auction houses to abruptly shift their focus from constructing deals that might pry works from collectors walls to constructing deals around estate material. Thus, there has been fair amount of movement within the auction industry and many former auction house specialists and business getters are now acting as advisors to the legal and financial representatives of these estates. Their fees, structured as a percentage of sales, have even caused the auction houses to increase the buyer’s premium for works above the $3m mark.
Sotheby’s 20th Century Art/Middle East = £3.5m
Sotheby’s sale of 20th Century Middle Eastern art in London made £3.45m but was striking for the number of works that sold well above the estimates, including this Etel Adnan work, above, that made £131k over a £45k high estimate. Other strong performances were for Marwan, Abdulrahman al Soliman, Manoucher Yektai and Mamoud Sabri.