This report on the Sotheby's market re-opening Evening sale for June 2020 by Colin Gleadell 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.)
Sotheby’s breakthrough $363 million sale on Tuesday night sparked much immediate reporting (not least from AMM), but bears deeper inspection now that the rush to publish first is over and sleep deprivation has been put behind.
Starting with the Ginny Williams collection, it was significant on many different levels. It drew attention to this undoubtedly insightful collector/dealer who focussed on women artists – not at the time that they were making, but later in the 90s. So she was at the spearhead of revisionism. And she bought mostly from other dealers. The top lot, Lee Krasner’s Re-Echo, 1957, which sold for $9 million over a $4/6 m estimate, was bought from Robert Miller in 1991 when there was little resale market for her work. In that year, the market was in recession and only one painting of hers went to auction. That was also from 1957 but slightly smaller, and it sold below estimate for $71,500. Krasner has more recently been feted with museum exhibitions all over Europe and has been riding a crest of resurgent interest typified by the rehang at MoMA in favor of diverse artists.
In a similar category is Helen Frankenthaler who, since her estate was taken over by Gagosian in 2012, has been experiencing a price resurgence, most clearly in this sale with a painting Williams bought in 1993 for $818,500 (a record then) and which now sold for a new record $7.9 million . And then there is Joan Mitchell who is also benefitting from an uptake in Asia. At the Williams sale, where there were three examples, interest appeared to be all American, and not flying far over their quite reasonable estimates ($4/7 million compared to her record $16.6 million). With further examples coming up at Phillips tonight and Christie’s on July 10, there is no shortage of supply to excite demand.
It was also notable that Sotheby’s had guaranteed the whole Williams collection before the pandemic, so were confident they could sell with sensible estimates; and that ten of these lots attracted third party guarantees just before the sale – signifying a desire not to just want a painting, but a belief that a quick profit could be made in the middle of the worst health and economic crisis anyone living in the West, at least, has experienced. As even in times of war, some people just get richer—and these days it’s hedge funders and the new providers, like Jeff Bezos, who have an interest in art.
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