London’s Print and Editions sales come in with remarkably even market share; Michel Cohen is still out there; Modigliani on paper stars in Artcurial’s Altounian sale.
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Sotheby’s All Set to Close
Sotheby’s says it has cleared the regulatory hurtles necessary to set an October 3rd closing date.
Sotheby’s (NYSE: BID) announced today that all regulatory approvals required for the acquisition of the Company by BidFair USA, an entity wholly owned by Patrick Drahi, have been obtained.
Meanwhile, Bloomberg reported this week that Patrick Drahi’s vehicle for acquiring the auction house, Bidfair, is raising $1.1bn through debt sales:
Sotheby’s is taking out $1.1 billion of debt to help finance its $2.7 billion acquisition by French billionaire and art collector Patrick Drahi. The auction house is selling $550 million of bonds through its BidFair MergeRight Inc. subsidiary, according to a person with knowledge of the matter. The eight-year notes, which can’t be bought back for three years, are expected to price Friday, said the person, who asked not to be identified as the details are private.
Michel Cohen Surfaces After 17 Years
The Guardian has a bit of a silly story about a new documentary that will air on the BBC next week. The film is about the former art world runner, Michel Cohen, who sold multiple conflicting shares in paintings by Picasso and others to try to cover his mounting commodities-trading losses before disappearing in 2001. The initial scandal features Bill Acquavella, Paul Kantor and, briefly in this Anthony Haden-Guest piece in New York Magazine from the time, Andrew Fabricant.
Cohen was eventually found and imprisoned in Brasil before escaping in 2003. Since then he has disappeared. The problem with all art world stories is that no matter how interesting they may be in truth, there’s always someone seeking to sensationalize them further. For example, here’s Vanessa Engle, the filmmaker, musing on where Michel Cohen might be today.
She had heard rumours there were people who wanted to have Cohen assassinated. “There are people in the art world who have mafia connections, laundering money,” says Engle. “It’s actually quite a dirty business. In the end, I was convinced there are people who would know where to get a hitman.” Or he might just be dead; he would be in his mid-60s.
It turns out the truth is a little less racy than the fantasy. It turns out Engle found her man while interviewing his wife who had agreed to an off-camera interview. Nonetheless, Engle was able to capture some video of the meeting. In the process, she discovered that her international man of mystery, Michel Cohen, had dodged the assassin’s bullet:
“A small man shuffled up to the table, unshaven, his hair was quite long, wearing a scruffy sweatshirt,” says Engle. “I thought: is that the guy I’ve been looking for for 17 years?” And it was.
Modigliani Drawings Drive €2.7m Altounian Sale
Modigliani’s drawing Tête (lot 1) achieved the highest price € 753.000 ($ 828.300) twice the high estimate of €350.000.
Five other Modigliani drawings doubled their estimate such as Jeune Homme assis au chapeau (lot 2) sold for €207,400 ($ 228,140) and the portrait of Joseph Altounian (lot 6) which sold for €104,000 ($114,400).
Christie’s London Prints = £3.6m
Christie’s Prints & Multiples sale on September 18 made £3,614,125, with 81% of lots sold. The top lot was Keith Haring’s Retrospect made £225,000. STIK’s Liberty, made a record £200,000, and Couple sold for £68,750 against a pre-sale estimate of £6,000-8,000. Other works that performed well against pre-sale estimate include Paravent by Marc Chagall £100,000 (£30-50k) and Feeding the Ducks by Mary Cassatt £87,500 (£20-30k).
Sotheby’s London Prints = £3.8m
The top lot was a rare complete portfolio of prints by various artists commissioned by Ambrose Vollard. It made a disappointing £543k over a £500k low estimate. Stronger results relative to estimates came from works by Roy Lichtenstein and this Andy Warhol portrait of Queen Elizabeth II
Phillips London Editions = £3.56m
It’s worth pausing to acknowledge that at this end of the market, Phillips is performing on par with Christie’s and Sotheby’s, not just relative to its size as an auction house. The London multiples sale at Phillips was driven by Picasso, Lichtenstein, Hockney and Warhol at the very top along with a few strong performances for works by Jonas Wood, Damien Hirst and a unique work by Mel Bochner from his collaboration with Two Palms Press that made £90k.