Monday, November 19, 2007

The State of the Art Market – Auction Week 2007

Whew, I was paying attention, and auction week felt like a ride on the Cyclone, the anticipation, then that awful sinking feeling in the pit of your stomach, and finally the exhilaration at the end.

11/6/2007 - Christie's evening sale of Impressionist and Modern Art came in at $395 million, nicely between the pre-sale estimates of $348 million to $486 million. Henri Matisse’s 1937 painting "L'odalisque, harmonie bleue" led the list, selling for $33,641,000, well above the high estimate of $20 million. Close behind were Modigliani and Picasso, also with paintings coming in above $30 million. The top ten sales totaled out at $204 million, the ride was a bit slow but the view seemed great.

Henri Matisse "L'odalisque, harmonie bleue," 1937,
Oil on canvas, 23.7 x 19.5 in. / 60.3 x 49.5 cm.
Sale Of: Christie's New York: 11/6/ [Lot 24]
Estimate 15,000,000 - 20,000,000 US$
Sold For 33,641,000 US$
11/7/2007 - Sotheby's evening sale of Impressionist & Modern Art didn’t fare so well. The sale totaled $269.7 million, falling 24% shy of the low end of pre-sale estimates of $355 million to $494 million. The top ten sales totaled out at $165 million. More significantly, 25% of the artworks offered failed to sell compared to 17% for Christie’s on the previous evening.

11/8/2007 – Sotheby’s stock (NYSE:BID) is downgraded by two analysts citing the poor results from the prior nights sale and market risk. Sotheby’s stock closes at $35.84, down 28.4% from the previous days price of $50.04.

11/8/2007 – Caught up in the dour psychology of a 500 point swoon in the Dow, Sotheby's day sale of Impressionist & Modern Art fares a bit better than its stock, but 32% of the lots still failed to find buyers, in comparison to 17% for the Christie’s day sale.

Joan Miró
"Le fermier et son épouse," 1936,
Gouache on card, 22.8 x 16.7 in. / 58 x 42.5 cm.
Sale Of Sotheby's New York: 11/7/07 [Lot 24]
Estimate 9,000,000 - 12,000,000 US$
Sold For 10,401,000 US$
The results from the November Impressionist and Modern Art sales indicate that the auction market is becoming a bit more cautious. Some of this may be directly a result of the negative psychology in the US financial markets.

It also appears to me that Sotheby’s was a bit aggressive in their pre-sale estimates. While the estimates might have been reasonable last year, the current financial climate has become significantly more negative and the estimates seemed overly optimistic by about 15%, or just enough to stifle the initial flow of the bidding process.

With that sinking feeling in the pit of their stomach, that nausea of the Cyclone’s free fall, the players all begin to put their hopes on the Contemporary sales the following week.

11/12/2007 - Christie's Selections From the Allan Stone Collection fared fairly well, bringing in $52.4 million, just shy of the pre-sale high estimate of $59.7 million. Hey, what’s a few million between friends, everyone could breathe again.
Joseph Cornell "Untitled – Aviary" 1950 - 1952
Glass, gouache, wood, mirror, metal, and printed paper collage in wood box
20 x 12.2 x 5.7 in. / 50.8 x 31.1 x 14.6 cm.
Sale of Christie's New York: 11/12/07 [Lot 616]
Estimate 800,000 - 1,200,000 US$
Sold For 1,217,000 US$
11/13/2007 - Christie's evening sale of Post War and Contemporary Art came in at $325 million, nicely between the pre-sale estimates of $271 million to $373 million. The top ten sales totaled out at $177 million which is impressive. Breathing a sigh of relief, in jubilation the players shouted whee!

Ok, so they didn’t, but I bet they applauded. I am quite sure that Hugh Grant is happy he was able to sell his Andy Warhol portrait of Elizabeth Taylor, "Liz," for $23.5 million. It seems that there was a bit of newbie resentment going on in the press prior to the auction, Mr. Grant bought the Warhol for $3.5 million in 2001, it was a nice flip for a five bagger, good for him.

Jean-Michel Basquiat, "Untitled - Black figure," 1982
Oilstick and acrylic on paper collage laid on canvas
74 x 96.1 in. / 188 x 244 cm.
Sale of Christie's New York: 11/13/07 [Lot 47]
Estimate 8,000,000 - 12,000,000 US$
Sold For 9,897,000 US$
11/14/2007 - Sotheby's evening sale of Post War and Contemporary Art came in at $315.9 million, nicely over the high pre-sale estimates of $283 million. The top ten sales totaled out at $173 million, or about 80% of the pre-sale low estimate for the entire auction.

The highest price realized was for the Francis Bacon painting, "Second Version of Study for Bullfight No. 1," which sold for $45.9 million. In the second slot was a 1969 Bacon Self portrait which went for $33.1 million , combined the two paintings totaled out at $79 million, that’s bring home the bacon. (couldn’t resist)
Francis Bacon, "Second Version of study for bullfight no. 1," 1969, Oil on canvas,
78.7 x 58.1 in. / 200 x 147.7 cm.
Sale of Sotheby's New York: 11/14/07 [Lot 29]
Sold For 45,961,000 US$
11/15/2007 - Phillips de Pury evening sale of Post War and Contemporary Art came in at $42.3 million, with 85% of the lots finding buyers, respectable.

In addition to the New York auctions, results from other venues also appear strong indicating the market if firmer than its detractore would have you believe.

Coming next: What does it all mean? Is the party over?

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