Sotheby’s Evening sale is another chance for dealers to stock up; Did Tom Hill buy the Caravaggio for the Met?; Sneakers lead the way for art; Shake Shack started as a public art project.
This commentary by Marion Maneker is available to AMMpro subscribers. (The first month of AMMpro is free and subscribers are welcome to sign up for the first month and cancel before they are billed.)
In a Buyer’s Market, Treading Water Can Be a Success
The dealer buying continued in London last night at Sotheby’s where Per Skarstedt bought an important Albert Oehlen self portrait for £6.2m; Andrew Fabricant bought a Christopher Wool and two Stingels (one at Sotheby’s and a second today at Phillips); Timothy Taylor bought a Jenny Saville painting. That last one might have been for a client but the overall tenor of the sales was the trade taking advantage of opportunities.
Colin Gleadell (whom we failed to give credit to last week for identifying Robert Wylde as the Surrealist collector featured at Christie’s) makes the point that the swing bidding with the biggest effect was from collectors from the Middle East. He also points out the Oehlen market has finally broken open after several years of dealers promoting his work:
a 1998 self-portrait by Albert Oehlen from the extensive collection assembled by the writer and art theory professor Harald Falckenberg, […] carried a £4 million–£6 million estimate. The previous Oehlen record was £3.6 million set last October, when the artist’s two representatives, Gagosian and Max Hetzler, slugged it out over a large 1984 painting of a cow with a hole in it. Sotheby’s confidence in guaranteeing the self-portrait in-house was duly justified when bidding between different rival dealers, Per Skarstedt and David Zwirner, raised the artist’s record to £6.2 million ($7.87 million) after a winning bid from Skarstedt. (This figure also exceeds the list price on the 1988 Albert Oehlen sold with great fanfare via Gagosian’s online viewing room in March.)
With the Oehlen market seemingly ripe, two other examples were also sent for sale. One, a splashy 2006 abstract from the collection of the late radio and cable investor James Rich, attracted bidding from a Middle Eastern phone bidder as well as Turkish collector Halit Cingillioglu before selling to a Swiss bidder for £1.8 million ($2.29 million), well above the £800,000 high estimate.
There were a few other isolated instances of works doing well generally reflecting the interest in discovering new artists or the rare opportunity for a historically important artist like Wols to take a star turn. Beyond that we’ve seen a trend this week of low estimates becoming aspirational. That fits with the overall tone of the market where sellers are reluctant and buyers are too.
That sets up an opportunity for dealers who are willing to step in to buy works that must be sold. Except, some times those forced sales don’t end up with buyers getting great deals. Take, for example, the small Robert Ryman offered at Sotheby’s with a very low estimate. Sharp observers noticed that the work had been included in a show at Lévy Gorvy and displayed on the main selling floor in that show where it was priced at $1.8m. If you missed that show, Bloomberg’s Katya Kazakina didn’t and The Art Newspaper summarized her Tweet:
- “Profits were slim where Robert Ryman [was] concerned, as Bloomberg’s Katya Kazakina pointed out. The seller of Ryman’s 1963 oil on a scrap canvas, Untitled #32, paid $1.1m at Christie’s Paris in 2017, but sold it for $1.08m last night, after trying to offload it at Lévy Gorvy last summer for $1.8m.”
The seller wasn’t looking for profits. By many accounts, it was a sophisticated art market participant who is caught in a cash crunch. The Ryman was being offered up at a very attractive estimate to ensure it would well without stigma. Sure enough, the work came out a wash rather than being burned. In this market, that’s a success.
Did the Met’s Keith Christensen Get the Caravaggio?
The Gazette Druout published an intriguing idea that the buyer of the Toulouse Caravaggio might be J. Tomilson Hill, the former Blackstone hedge fund guru and current advisor to Two Sigma. Hill is known for his eclectic art collection and recently launched art foundation in Chelsea. Gazette Druout suggests Hill might have bought the painting for the Met but it is worth remembering that Hill never leaves an opportunity to make money unexplored.
The space Hill bought for his foundation is structured to allow Hill to take advantage of real estate trends. So Hill might have been happy to work with the Met’s Keith Christensen on establishing the painting’s attribution and ultimately benefiting from the appreciation.
Then, again, Hill did spend the bulk of Tuesday at Christie’s Art + Tech conference without much of a care in the world. A few hours later, the pre-emptive deal was announced. Draw your own conclusions.
Sneaker Sites Offer Hints About Online Art Sales
The New York Times has a story about StockX, the Dan Gilbert-backed resale site for collectible sneakers, which raised another $110m and has a new CEO. More to the point, the resale market is growing and increasingly becoming a marketing venue for manufacturers.
The fervor for sneakers has been fueled by “sneakerheads” and others who regard the shoes as investment assets. All told, the market for resale sneakers and streetwear in North America is projected to reach $6 billion by 2025 from $2 billion today, according to Cowen, an investment bank.
“The internet and eBay made reselling into a cottage industry,” said Matt Powell, an analyst at NPD Group. “Platforms like StockX made it into a business.”
The site has no direct connection to the art market but the growing appetite for collectibles is part of the same broader trend that drives art market growth.
Shake Shack Was Born Out of Public Art
Danny Meyer’s $2.6bn fast food empire was born out of a hot dog cart in Madison Square park first done in the Summer of 2001. What few people remember is that the hot dog cart was an integral part of a public art project. This point is made in the Public Art Fund’s Public Artworks podcast which spoke to Meyer:
- “the idea was proposed that there was this artist from Thailand and he had this idea called I Heart Taxi, I Love Taxi, with these cartoon-like taxi cabs on stilts and he wanted to have a working hot dog cart that he would design that would accompany them. And we had a kitchen that was not being used that much upstairs at Eleven Madison Park at that time, and we said, well we’ll make the hot dogs. I was trying to convince my team at that point that hospitality was not just for fancy restaurants but could actually be expressed as something that you see everyday called a hot dog cart. The artist was trying to convince the world that, I think, […] everyone in the world has either been able to afford being driven in a taxi or had to be the guy driving it. And everyone else in the world could either afford to buy a hot dog or had to be the guy selling it. Why, I was eager to sign up was I wanted to prove that we could make people feel just as seen and recognized and happy in a hot dog cart as we could at a restaurant like Eleven Madison Park or Gramercy Tavern.”