The analysis of the Fall 2020 Old Masters auctions at Christie's and Sotheby's 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.)
A host of museum-caliber names, Cranach, Gentileschi, Van Dyck changed hands at auction this fall. They were among more than 300 Old Master artworks traded at Christie's and Sotheby's this October. In total, the main sales of the Old Masters in New York generated $30.6 million. In recent years, the Old Masters market's figures have lagged compared to the Modern and Contemporary art categories. This shortfall has been attributed to a rarity of masterpieces. A few top works can have a substantial influence on overall totals. Following the financial strains of the coronavirus pandemic, the category got a boost this season with a surge of deaccessioned works from the Brooklyn Museum of Art sold at Christie's.
The top ten works sold across the October sales accounted for half of the total sales volume, this aligns with the trends seen at the top of the modern and contemporary auction as well. Regarding the overall performance, the total hammer price of the works sold was $24.8 million, falling just below the aggregate low estimated value of $25.8 million, a figure that betrays weak demand against ambitious estimates. 31 percent of the sold lots reached above the high expectation and 29 percent hammered within their estimates; the remaining 40% of lots sold for a price below the expected value—the last figure is almost double that of the modern and contemporary category. This number, and a low 67 percent sell-through rate indicates a high risk for some Old Masters consignors, as non-masterwork objects in the category become more challenging to place with buyers.
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