Colin Gleadell goes to Christie's series of three Modern British Art sales, which totaled nearly £15m, and discovers a market still healthy and strong.
This report on the three sales of Modern British Art Christie's held last week is available to AMMpro subscribers. The sales brought in almost £15m with strong prices for L.S. Lowry, Ben Nicholson and John Piper. A Henry Moore that didn’t look much like a Henry Moore was a big disappointment when it didn’t sell despite (or, perhaps, because of) a £3m low estimate, Colin Gleadell tells us. But the news in these sales wasn’t in the headline works. The day sale saw a 90% sell-through rate, numbers usually only seen in Evening sales managed with guarantees. Allen & Beryl Freer’s collection also sold well-above the high estimate. (The first month of AMMpro is free and subscribers are welcome to sign up for the first month and cancel before they are billed.)
After a slip in sales volume and prices last year the Modern British art market appeared to pick up steam this January with three sales at Christie’s. Voluntary consignments had been difficult to tie down because the sale closed only three days after an election which had caused British art dealers some concern. Daniel Katz, the leading sculpture dealer and collector of Modern British art (he paid a record £531,000 ($697,751) for 1911 painting of a horse and cab by Camden Town Group artist Robert Bevan at Sotheby’s in November), said he would have closed down if the Labour party’s Jeremy Corbyn had won because of the proposed tax increases. “We were all very, very nervous in the art trade about a Corbyn victory”, he said. “Thousands of families had registered to leave the country. The English market would have collapsed.”
The sales benefitted from a number of goods consigned by collectors’ estates with attractive estimates, and, against a background of restored confidence in the property market, realized £14.9 million – safely within the £11/17 million pre-sale estimate. (Prices realized include the buyer’s premium, estimates do not).
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