This round-up of the reporting on the November Impressionist and Modern Evening sales is available to AMMpro subscribers. The first month of a monthly subscription is free which makes it easy to subscribe and cancel before you pay.
There’s a market impression forming that the combination of high expectations and the armature of third-party guarantees is creating a successful but muted art market. With so much effort going into pre-selling works at auction to meet the estimate demands of sellers, the auctions this week themselves have begun to feel anti-climactic.
The Ebsworth sale at Christie’s is a case in point. The $317m total made the sale a solid success but the room felt muted with a fair number of empty seats, hardly the gala evening event befitting a collection of Ebsworth’s reputation. Maybe it was the shadow of the Rockefeller sale or the market hangover or simply the spreading presumption of a tougher macroeconomic environment in the future. Whatever the underlying cause, the numbers told a different story from the bidding where most works sold without excitement.
The New York Times’s Scott Reyburn got this quote from one dealer who has been on both sides of the equation:
“It didn’t fly, but it was pretty solid,” said Philippe Ségalot, a private art dealer based in New York, referring to the auction.
The Wall Street Journal had a different take that might need a grain of salt to be taken with it:
“The fact that so many of these evening-sale lots are now guaranteed gives people the misleading impression that big auctions are riskless propositions, but that’s clearly not the case,” said art lawyer Thomas Danziger.
It’s hard to believe anyone thinks auctions are riskless. But a single-owner collection with a global guarantee is a substantially different market proposition than individually guaranteed lots.