Tuesday, February 3, 2009

The Sotheby's Sale Dances To A Bit Of A Happy Tune

From ARTINFO: BY Judd Tully:, "LONDON—A nervous art market survived its season-opening hurdle this evening as Sotheby’s slim sale of Impressionist and Modern earned a total of ₤32,564,300 ($46,238,050), a result that came within range of the pre-sale low estimate of ₤40.6 million but still lagged far behind the high estimate of ₤55.6 million.

Twenty-two of the 29 lots found buyers for respectable (and even encouraging) buy-in rates of 24 percent and 32 percent by value.

“You either had works that were very sought after, or they didn’t go,” said Melanie Clore, Sotheby’s co-chairman of Impressionist and Modern art worldwide. “For the right works, there’s really a lot of demand.”

While only six of the 22 sold lots made over £1 million, the evening’s top earner shot to a hammer price of £11.8 million, drawing a round of applause.

Edgar Degas’s posthumous bronze Petite Danseuse de Quatorze Ans, complete with raggedy muslin skirt and satin hair tie, was cast in 1922 from an edition of 28 based on the wax original from circa 1879–81. The final sale price (with buyer’s premium) was an impressive £13,257,250 (est. £9-12 million), a result that easily beat the $12,377,500 earned by another work in the edition at Sotheby’s New York in November 1999. Tonight’s version, which went to a Japanese collector bidding by telephone, last sold at Sotheby’s London in February 2004 for £5,045,600.

The Degas consignor, Sir John Madejski, may have made a handsome return on his investment, but others didn’t fare nearly as well. A striking Francis Picabia, Lunis from 1929-30, in oil and mixed media from his “Transparences” series, went to a telephone bidder for £529,250 (est. £450,000-650,000). Although well within the estimate range, the work last sold at Sotheby’s London in February 2006 for £1,072,000, or about double tonight’s result.

If that was a glaring example of what a price correction looks like in the current market, elsewhere strong works continued to perform surprisingly well. Take, for instance, the small but power-packed cover lot, Ernst Ludwig Kirchner’s hallucinatory Strassenszene (Street Scene) from 1913, which went to a lone telephone bidder for £5,417,250 (est. £5-7 million). The painting last sold at Sotheby’s London in June 1997 for £1,981,500. It's a work that comes with a built-in bonus in that the verso of the canvas contains an eerie portrait from 1914 of Botho Graff, an archeology professor and art historian who admired Kirchner's work.

The Kirchner was not the only German and Austrian work in healthy demand. A recently restituted Oskar Kokoschka city view, Istanbul l from June 1929, earned £1,497,250 (est. £1.2-1.8 million), going to a phone bidder speaking to none other than Sotheby’s CEO William Ruprecht. The sale benefited the heirs of former owner Oskar Federer some 70 years after the work was seized from him by the Nazis.

Overall, the evening produced mixed results. On the one hand, there were casualties, like the rare and impressive, but pricey, Amedeo Modigliani oil, Cariatide from 1913, which died after a lone bid of £4.7 million (est. £6-8 million). On the other hand, you had the large and late Joan Miró abstraction, Femmes et Oiseaux dans la Nuit, which drew interest from at least half a dozen bidders before selling to international art trader David Nahmad for a robust £2,001,250 (est. £750,000–1 million). The underbidders included two New York dealers, Jose Mugrabi and David Benrimon.

Rene Magritte’s small and stunning Souvenir de Voyage from 1958, depicting the Leaning Tower of Pisa being propped up by a feather, sold to Abigail Asher of the New York/L.A. art advisory group Guggenheim Asher for £746,850 (£400,000-600,000).

“With the weak pound and the nervousness of certain buyers, there are opportunities in the market for longtime and savvy collectors who haven’t enjoyed the frenzy of the past few years to step back in and get great things,” said Asher moments after the sale

No comments: