Jan Six seeks a new Rembrandt, or two; After the Boomers, who will buy million-dollar cars? Did we mention Magritte is the new Warhol?
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Sotheby’s London Cont Evening Sale = £93.3m ($123m)
The low estimate was £76.9m and Sotheby’s was able to clear a hammer total of £77.925m just above that number. The problem wasn’t sell-through with only six of the 66 lots getting bought in. Instead, the room was anything but lively with most lots struggling against their estimates and many selling on a single bid.
A small Lucio Fontana work made of lacerated brass that was bought in late 2012 for $1.4m sparked a bidding war that ran the final tally to £2.65m or $3.44m.
Demand for Adrian Ghenie’s work continues with Duchamp’s Funeral I painted a decade ago sold for nearly £4.3m with fees or a tick over the high estimate of £3.5m.
Throughout the night, Jean-Michel Basquiat did a particularly well suggesting there is more demand for the artist’s work at lower price points than above the $10m mark. One of the five works on offer was bought in but the other four works all performed well with works on paper from the J.C. Tan collection were the subject of aggressive bidding by the Nahmad family as Joe Nahmad lost the first Tan work which also had a lower estimate to a rival who bid £925k hammer and won the second for £825k hammer. The guarantee Apex got pushed well beyond the £5m whisper estimate eventually selling to a French-speaking specialist on a telephone who paid £8.22m with fees.
Also from the Tan collection was Chris Ofili’s Afro Love and Envy which sold to an American institution for £915,000 / $1.2 million over a £700k high estimate.
Jan Six’s Two Rembrandts
Russell Shorto wrote a long profile of Jan Six XI for the New York Times Magazine who bought a painting in Christie’s day sale in 2016 that he believed was an early Rembrandt that was mis-attributed. Along the way, it is revealed that Six discovered another even earlier Rembrandt and gotten himself entangled in what passes for a scandal in the Old Master market. One hopeful dealer tried to get Six to collude on the bidding so as not to increase the price. Six seems to have allowed him to believe they had a pact so he could outbid the dealer (who, according to the story, Six believes only learned of the painting because of someone else’s indiscretion.)
The irony here is that Shorto quotes one Old Master dealer as saying that leading on a competitor is something “that’s not done in our business.” Meanwhile, the collusion passes unremarked upon.
Be that as it may, Shorto is a fantastic writer and well worth reading on any subject. But here, forget the attraction is some of Shorto’s acute observations like these:
- “Six was particularly drawn to the lace on the collar. Lace was a signifier of status throughout the 17th century, and Six believes Rembrandt had a signature way of depicting this variety, which is called bobbin lace. Other artists of the period painstakingly executed its intricacies in white paint on top of the jacket. Rembrandt did something like the opposite. He first painted the jacket, then over it the collar area in white, then used black paint to create the negative spaces in the collar. And where other painters were careful to create repeating patterns in the lacework, Rembrandt wove a freestyle design. For viewers standing a few inches away from such a painting, the collar appears as a hieroglyphic jumble; step back a pace, and it coheres. Six believes this was one aspect of Rembrandt’s genius. ‘He realized that a painted copy of a repetitive pattern, even if it followed the original, actually looked artificial.’”
- “Six invited me [to his studio after he bought the painting] and conducted a remarkable little demonstration. He turned off the lights and lit candles, and in an instant the paintings were transformed. They took on new energy; the golds and reds and flesh tones became warmer. The flicker of the flames seemed to breathe life into the two-dimensional figures. Six’s eyes gleamed as he saw that I had registered the point: These paintings were made for candlelight.”
After the Boomers Pass, Will Millenials Learn to Drive Stick?
The New York Times is trying to get a grip on the Classic Car market which has seen a rising buy-in rate for cars above $1m or pretty much at the top of the market. Classic cars are a long way from crashing but there is a set of concerns that make those deeply involved in the market worry. They range from changes in the tax laws that eliminate the benefit of 1031 exchanges for collectors with a lot of cars who want to defer taxes on their gains to a worry that Gen Xers and Millenials never learned to drive stick. So the Times talked to Michael Sheehan, a classic Ferrari broker in Southern California:
- “Every day, I get the same calls: Guy dies, his kids don’t want the cars, and they want me to sell them. Or it’s knee surgery, hip surgery or prostate cancer and the owner simply can’t enjoy the car anymore,” Mr. Sheehan said.What Mr. Sheehan describes is most likely the vanguard of a wave of baby boomers getting out of the market, and nobody seems to have a clear idea of what comes next.
The Classic Car market is driven by fantasy and nostalgia. Do Gen Xers and Millenials want to be like Steve McQueen or will the transition to electric cars make classic car racing like playing polo, a sport only for those who can truly afford it.
Magritte is the New Warhol
Colin Gleadell jumps on the Magritte is the New Warhol bandwagon in his Telegraph column illustrating the idea with some numbers. The ten works that sold last week in London totaled about £40m. And Gleadell thinks there’s a chance this momentum might bring more works to market:
- “Although Sotheby’s holds Magritte’s auction record, Christie’s long-standing surrealist expert, Olivier Camu, claims that they have sold 17 of the 20 most expensive Magritte paintings. Some, Camu adds, are in private hands and are now valued at up to $100 million, so the present record is not likely to last for long.”
**Btw, Magritte isn’t the new Warhol. There’s just not enough material