This analysis the past 10 years of Second Quarter sales at the three main auction houses—Christie’s, Sotheby’s and Phillips—was made possible with data from our friends at Pi-eX. It is available to AMMpro subscribers. Subscriptions begin with a free month for the curious.
Without the Rockefeller collection that added so much volume to the Impressionist and Modern category last year at this time, there was a huge drop in volume and sell-through rates this Spring. Average prices also dropped significantly. But in other ways the category remained consistent. Half the value of the Evening sales (and slightly more for the overall sales) volume was contained within the top ten lots.
The top lot, Claude Monet’s grainstacks which sold for $110m, was able to drive the market share for Monet to the top spot over traditional market-share leader Pablo Picasso. That’s a fairly big deal given the way Picasso dominates the Imp-Mod market.
Some of the other surprises in this Spring’s Imp-Mod market were the strong market dynamics among the top lots which may have been a product of there being so much estate material offered. Estimates clearly were pushed too hard. Buyers were selective but aggressive for the works they really wanted.
The statistics for the Imp-Mod market were quite strong. Along the lines just cited, the hammer ratio (the aggregate hammer price over the aggregate low estimate) was up this year to 1.13 from 1.059 the year before despite the lower sell-through rate.
The sell-through for Imp-Mod was 74%, down from 84% the previous year when the near white glove Rockefeller sale boosted those numbers. 29% of the sold lots went above estimates. 36% sold within estimates; 35% were sold for compromise prices.
The average price for an Evening sale Imp-Mod lot was $7.2m down from $10.5m last year. The overall average price was $1.28m down from $2.11m. These numbers continue to underscore the top-heavy nature of value in the category. A few works in Imp-Mod are very valuable. The rest don’t come even close.
The market share table is striking. Monet’s $168m sales total accounted for 20% of the market. Picasso sold $149m in work that was just under 18% of the market. Cézanne’s $70m in sales was next making up half of Picasso’s market share or 8.38%. Modigliani and van Gogh followed. A single work from Drue Heinz’s estate pushed Pierre Bonnard to three and a quarter percent. Some artists who appeared this year but not last year were Chaim Soutine, Jean Arp, André Derain, Rufino Tamayo, Max Beckmann and Joaquin Garcia-Torres.
The top 39 lots by premium price were dominated by the Monet grainstacks which sold for almost twice the Cézanne just below it on the table. Only 8 or 20% of the top works sold for compromise prices. Slightly more than a third had competitive bidding that drove the price above estimates. That includes five of the top ten lots.
Turning to the list of most dynamic lots, we can see a few of the big names like Pablo Picasso who saw a number of bidding wars break out over lower value works ranging from $10,000 to $1,000,000 (and, yes, $1m is a low price for Picasso.)
A handful of seven-figure works saw aggressive bidding including Drue Heinz’s Bonnard, Picasso’s Carnet Dinard work, a Nicolas de Staël and Giorgio Morandi.
Other works by Cézanne, Miró, Gabriele Munter and Émile Bernard were bid well above their low estimates to much higher values. The top lot for dynamic bidding started at $6000 and finished at $140,075.