Christie’s £128m Impressionist and Modern Evening sale in London, working off a similar estimate range as its rivals, was demonstration of the value of just getting things right. The two top lots, a Picasso and a rare example of Monet’s Gare Saint-Lazare series, sold without much excitement. But they sold at or around expectations which did no damage to the sale’s total. That opened the door for Christie’s to make great gains with two or three works that surprised to the upside.
The two most dynamic lots were a lifetime cast of Auguste Rodin’s Kiss which sold for £12.6m over a £7m high estimate and Franz Marc’s Drei Pferde sold for £15.4m over a £3.5m high estimate. The bidding battle on the Marc was as intense as it was unexpected topped only by the unusual fact that art dealer Jeffrey Loria took the additional step of having Christie’s inform the press that he had bought the work for his personal art collection (drawing a distinction from his other holdings that only raised more questions than it answered.)
The fact that outsized gains came from lots with more modest estimates further emphasizes that the top of the market is both fully priced and potentially spent out after the Rockefeller sale. The $700+m that was spent on Impressionist and Modern art in New York at the Rockefeller sale was effectively another major season of spending in the category inserted into the first half of the year.
The secret to Christie’s sale may have been Asian buyers who were mostly absent from Rockefeller but took up about a third of the London Evening sale, according to the auction house. Continue Reading