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Displaying items by tag: Low Estimate

Sales of Old Masters got off to a slow start as about $42 million of art from the 15th to 19th century was auctioned in New York.

Christie’s sold $36.6 million, missing its low estimate of $54 million in three sales yesterday. Of the 54 lots in its paintings sale, only 22 were sold. Sotheby’s drawings sale totaled $5.3 million, within its estimate of $4.2 million to $5.9 million.

The auctions, which continue through Jan. 30, are offering about $200 million of paintings, drawings and sculptures. The auction houses are trying to revive interest in what had been the most popular category until the 1980s, when other groups such as modern and contemporary art gained favor.

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Thursday, 29 November 2012 18:26

New York Hosts Two Major American Art Auctions

The back-to-back American art auctions that took place at Christie’s and Sotheby’s this week both garnered impressive numbers. The auction at Christie’s on November 28 set the bar high when it reached $38,469,650 in sales. However, Sotheby’s followed up strong and achieved a total sale of $27,608,500, exceeding the high estimate of $24,158,000. Franklin Riehlman, owner of Franklin Riehlman Fine Art in New York City said, “Prices at Sotheby’s were nice and strong. Christie’s had a phenomenal sale and Liz Sterling has done a wonderful job reconstructing the department.” Elizabeth Sterling was appointed the head of American art at Christie’s earlier this year.

The top lot at Christie’s was Edward Hopper’s October on Cape Cod (1946), which went for $9.6 million and set a new record for the most expensive item sold to an online bidder. The oil painting, which features a house and small barn from a distance, is one of the last works by Hopper remaining in private hands. Other solid sales were Charles Burchfield’s Golden Dream (1959), which brought $1,202,500; Stuart Davis’ City Snow Scene (1911), which also reached $1,202,500; and Martin John Heade’s Hummingbird Perched on the Orchid Plant (1901), which brought $1,802,500.

Georgia O’Keeffe fared well at both auctions and took the top two lots at Sotheby’s; both plant paintings, Autumn Leaf II (1927) realized $4,282,500 and A White Camellia (1938) brought $3,218,500. “O’Keeffe did very well,” said Riehlman. “There was a lot of bidding.” An O’Keeffe painting titled Sun Water Maine (1922) also reached the second highest price at Christie’s when it realized $2,210,500, exceeding the high estimate of $1,500,000.

Norman Rockwell continued to perform well at Sotheby’s and two paintings exceeded their high estimates when The Muscleman (1941) sold for $2,210,500 (high estimate: $800,000) and Doctor and Doll (1942) reached $1,874,500 (high estimate: $700,000). Other impressive sales included Alfred Jacob Miller’s Caravan En Route [Sir William Drummond Stewart’s Caravan] (circa 1850), which went for $1,762,500 and Arthur Dove’s Town Scraper (circa 1933), which realized $1,258,500.

“The market for early modernists seems very strong,” said Riehlman. “Older works didn’t do as well. Cassatt and Prendergast are spotty, but 15 years ago every Cassatt would have sold.” Out of the one Mary Cassatt work offered at Sotheby’s and two present at Christie’s, not a single piece sold. Similarly, Maurice Prendergast’s one painting offered by Sotheby’s, Park Street Church, Boston (circa 1905-07), failed to sell and at Sotheby’s, Picnic Party (circa 1900-03) didn’t quite reach its low estimate of $300,000 when it sold for $290,500 and New Hampshire (circa 1910-13) just broke its low estimate of $40,000 when it realized $43,750.

“Both houses are being very selective in terms of traditional 18th and 19th century materials,” said Riehlman. Buyers are much more likely to make significant purchases when the majority of works are top-quality. Despite the declining interest in older works, there was a lot of action at both sales. Riehlman was planning on buying Marvin Cone’s Stone City Landscape (1936), which realized $752,500, a record for the artist. “It went like a freight train right by me,” he said, a testament to just how eager buyers were this week.  

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Phillips de Pury & Company’s Contemporary art auction took place on November 15 in New York and garnered $79,904,500, a seemingly humble amount compared to the $887.5 million auction powerhouses Sotheby’s and Christie’s collectively raked in just days earlier.

A smaller scale auction house than its counterparts, Phillips de Pury offered 37 works, many of which were by younger emerging artists. Dan Colen, Tauba Auerbach, Rashid Johnson, and Sterling Ruby all hit record prices, but the top lot of the night was Andy Warhol’s portrait of Mao Zedong (1973) that sold for its low estimate of $12 million. Another Warhol portrait, this time of Jacqueline Kennedy from 1964, was being sold by Eli Broad and reached $11 million; it was expected to bring $10 million to $15 million. Jean-Michel Basquiat’s Humidity (1982) sold for $9 million, falling considerably behind its low estimate of $12 million. Another Basquiat, Self-Portrait (1982) fared better and brought $4 million, breaking its high estimate of $3.5 million despite having its authenticity questioned earlier in the day.

The auction total landed in the middle of its pre-sale estimate of $73,620,000-$110,730,000. While the edgier offerings from Phillips continued to sell well, works by more established artists brought less impressive prices. While this could be the result of mediocre quality, it is important to remember that tying up a $1 billion auction week is no easy feat.

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Perhaps it was the wobbly economy or high estimates, or it could just have been that collectors were saving up for the next two nights, when the auction giants Sotheby’s and Christie’s hold their fancier postwar and contemporary art sales.

Whatever the reason, Phillips de Pury & Company’s auction of contemporary art — which started this week’s back-to-back big-money auctions — was a tepid affair, with price resistance on everything from paintings by Warhol and Lichtenstein to sculptures by Jeff Koons and Maurizio Cattelan.

It was the first time that Phillips led off the week’s lineup, but whether this new position helped or hurt sales was impossible to gauge. The auction brought $71.2 million, just above its low $66.1 million estimate but nowhere near its optimistic $97.3 million high. Of the 44 works on offer, 7 failed to sell.

Ever since the Russian-owned retail giant Mercury Group bought it three years ago, Phillips has enjoyed an infusion of cash, enabling experts there to at least try to compete with the bigger auction houses by offering sellers guarantees — the undisclosed amounts that the houses sometimes promise to sellers regardless of the outcome of a sale.

Although Phillips officials said that the guarantees on Monday night were given by “a number of third parties,” people familiar with the auction house said they believed some of the guarantees were furnished by the Mercury Group itself or by a subsidiary.

Of the lots that made up Monday night’s sale, 18, or about 40 percent, had some kind of financing, according to the catalog. A large number of these works, several dealers in the contemporary art world said, were being sold by Jose Mugrabi, the New York dealer, who has done a lot of business with Phillips in the past. Most were bought by auction house representatives bidding on behalf of telephone bidders.

The evening’s most expensive painting was an untitled canvas from 2006 by Cy Twombly, who died in July at 83. Despite the artist’s loyal following, the $8 million to $12 million estimate for the vertical canvas, filled with large, almost script-like crimson loops of color, was considered high. Only one person tried to buy the painting, which brought its low $8 million estimate, or $9 million with fees. (Final prices include the buyer’s commission to Phillips: 25 percent of the first $50,000; 20 percent of the next $50,000 to $1 million and 12 percent of the rest. Estimates do not reflect commissions.)

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