This report on the Christie's October 6th sale by Colin Gleadell features important details on impressive annual returns and unsold Picassos that you won't find anywhere else. The report 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.)
First reports of Christie’s $342 million 20th century sale on Tuesday night gave a lot of space to the innovative technology, commentary and music which, in an effort to entertain, distracted from the focus required to really absorb the content of what was on offer and to follow the bidding process.
Guy Jennings of the Fine Art Group and a veteran former Sotheby’s/Christie’s modern art expert and auctioneer said he appreciated how difficult circumstances are but that “this is serious business and should not be trivialized.” Some of the trimmings, he thought, were “unhelpful.” The commentary that Joan Mitchell’s market was "on fire" just after her painting had sold below the low estimate, for instance, was clearly written in anticipation of a stronger result, and not a reaction to the actual result.
The reports also rightly focussed on the $31.8 million T. Rex and the minimal bidding for the top lots by de Kooning, Twombly and Rothko sold by Ron Perelman (prices include the buyer’s premium, estimates do not). It’s worth adding here that two of the withdrawn lots— a mediocre Matisse at $8-12 million (it cost $834,000 in 2002), and a standard Brice Marden at $12-18 million—were also from Perelman's collection, as reported by Bloomberg, and the two that Christie’s could not find a guarantor for.
With a rush of late third party guarantors (the sale took just six weeks to assemble, so a rush was to be expected) there were 16 works guaranteed to sell with a combined low estimate $165.5 million or a substantial 60% of the pre-sale low estimate of $277.250 million (excluding that dinosaur). Of the 14 third party guarantees, only half hit their estimates and none exceeded them.
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