This report on the results of Christie’s October 2020 Impressionist and Modern Day sale 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.)
Last week, Christie’s impressionist and modern art day sale brought in $9.7 million with buyer’s fee across 72 lots. Hammering at $7.8 million, the sale result landed 30% below its pre-sale low expectation of $11.2 million and realized a subpar sell-through rate of just 66 percent.
21 percent of lots sold above the high estimate, 22 percent placed within their estimate ranges and 24 percent failed to reach their low expectation. 37 lots went unsold.
The category is experiencing the impact of a secular move away from impressionist and modern works—a market that is narrowing as buyer interest in the highest caliber works increases. The disruption of the pandemic may be exacerbating the drop in demand.
The highest selling lot in the sale’s offerings was Henri Matisse’s 1922 painting, Jeune fille assise, robe jaune, depicting dancer and recurring muse, Henriette Darricarrère, which sold for $1.1 million with buyer’s fees. Its low estimate was $700,000. The work was sold from the Indianapolis Museum of Art at Newfields, with proceeds from the sale going to the museum’s art acquisitions fund. The work remained in the museum’s collection for six decades, originally gifted by Indianapolis philanthropist and art collector Caroline Marmon Fesler in 1961.
The next highest selling lot was Renoir’s portrait of a young girl dated 1905. It sold for $870,000 with buyer’s fee, making times the low estimate of $400,000. It last sold at Sotheby’s in the Murray and Irene Pergament estate sale in 2007 for $611,200. That is a modest 42% percent increase in value over 13 years. Fernand Leger’s Pienture murale sur fond jaune (1952) hammered at its low estimate of $300,000, selling for $375,000 total. It has had only one previous owner, who acquired it from the artist’s estate sale in November 2001 at Christie’s New York where it made $204,000. The current sale marks an 84 percent increase in the work’s value in nearly two decades.
Louis Valtat’s Jardin fleuri a Choisel (circa 1930) sold for $187,500, making more than four times the low estimate of $40,000. A comparable by the artist from 1932 with the same title sold at Paris auction house Artcurial in 2011 for $126,898. In nearly a decade, the value of the Valtat landscape has increased by around 48 percent. Eugene Boudin’s landscape from 1890 previously in the Rothschild collection sold for $225,000 against an estimate of $80,000.
At other points in the sale, some works coming to auction again yielded losses in value. Edgar Degas’s portrait of a man dated 1864 formerly owned by Barney Ebsworth sold for $187,500, against an estimate of $50,000. Ebsworth acquired the work at Sotheby’s New York in 2014 for $425,000. This sale marks a 56 percent decrease in value in six years and an inexplicable $300,000 drop in the pre-sale low estimated value from $350,000 in 2014 to $50,000 in the present sale.
Among the several lots that failed to reach the low estimated value was Maurice de Vlaminck’s still life, Nature morte au compotier (1906-7). It sold for $687,500 with buyer’s fees, coming up short of its $700,000 expectation. One explanation for the low result is that the painting was acquired by the seller in 1968 from New York dealer Stephen Hahn. Hahn has been the subject of two lawsuits in recent years involving the sales of Nazi-looted art. Another Vlaminck painted landscape titled Pont de Nogent (1911) sold for $250,000, well above the high estimate of $150,000. The seller acquired it at Christie’s New York in 2007 for $541,000. That is a 54% decrease in value since its last sale.
Paul Signac’s watercolor on paper Ciboure from 1929 sold for $102,500 with buyer’s premium against an estimate of $50,000. It was acquired by the seller at Christie’s New York in 2007 for $133,000. That shows a 23 percent decrease in value over the 13 years holding period.