The Imp-Mod market shines when Asian bidders show up. At Christie's, that meant $399m last night in the Evening sale.
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Christie’s $399m Evening sale of Impressionist and Modern art builds upon the house’s success a year before assembling a strong Imp-Mod Evening sale in the shadow of David Rockefeller’s Impressionist-and-Modern heavy art collection. The two sales together gave us something of a different view of the Imp-Mod market than has previously been held. Namely, a market that many viewed as stale and lacking the best works, a market that was regularly compared to the Old Master market for its supply constraints, was suddenly re-invigorated with fresh material from an estate.
This season, Christie’s was able to nearly match the regular Imp-Mod Evening sale with works from several estates. The results were not always a ravenous reaction from bidders. Both Fernand Léger and Henri Matisse had a painting that was sold well below the low estimate and a work that was bought in; a Vuillard that failed to appreciate in value over a meaningful period. Those stood alongside some surprises for works by Pierre Bonnard, Balthus and even the night’s top lots by Cézanne and van Gogh from Si Newhouse’s collection.
Almost to give us a broad gauge of the uncertainty of the Imp-Mod market, the Newhouse collection which was being managed by as seasoned an auction hand as Tobias Meyer took third-party guarantees on the Cézanne and van Gogh in the few weeks between catalogues closing and the sale’s opening minutes. Presumably, the decision to take those guarantees was made by Meyer in consultation with Christie’s management. Neither foresaw the probability that both works would exceed the low estimates on the night. They did. The five Newhouse works sold last night brought in just under $101m.
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