Having just announced a loss of over $25 million for the first quarter of 2016, Sotheby’s needed a strong performance this evening to alleviate concerns over its recent shakeups and acquisitions, but there were few reassurances in sight for the house’s New York Impressionist and Modern Evening Sale tonight, as it concluded a 62 lot outing with almost a third of the works going unsold, bringing a final sales tally of $144,434,000.
The sale began with the a sparse Rene Magritte work, which saw limited bids and ultimately sold just at the low estimate (fees included) for $514,000, followed by a Jean Arp piece that also limped to the low estimate for a final of $850,000. A second Magritte brightened the tune of the sale with a strong $2,170,000, above estimate, while a Jean Hélion in the fifth lot also creeped past its high for a final of $1,690,000. A Degas sculpture several lots later was an early surprise, climbing past its $800k high to a $1,510,000 final.
The next lot, Paul Signac’s Maisons du Port, Saint-Tropez, was the first of the evening’s star lots, and met, if not surpassed expectations, starting well below estimate and climbing steadily with coaxing from Oliver Barker, ultimately selling below the artist’s auction record at $10,666,000. A Maillol work in the next lot was the first of the evening to pass, while a glowing Léger work met estimates for a final of $4,170,000. Another pair of Magrittes also stuck in at estimate to sell in the range of $2 million each. The following lot, Maurice de Vlaminck’s swirling, pointillist landscape, cemented anticipations of a strong performance, reaching estimates for a $16,378,000 final price.
The sale continued its mixed showing with a Picasso bust selling within estimate for a $3,890,000, and the evening’s standout sculpture, Rodin’s L’Éternal Printemps, reaching a final price of $20,410,000. A large scale Miró sculpture passed shortly after, followed by a striking black and white Picasso piece, Paloma, that met estimates for a $4,506,000 final. A major disappointment followed close behind, after an Andre Derain canvas failed to find a buyer at its $15 million low estimate and went unsold. A Monet water lilies followed close behind, seeking to make up ground with one of the few breakaway lots of the evening. The sale saw rapid bids pushing the piece well past its $5 million high to settle at almost double its high estimate for $9,882,000, while a Marc Chagall chipped in shortly after with a respectable $3,370,000, just over estimate. A Pierre Bonnard work followed, topping estimates for a final of $4,730,000, while a second passed a few lots later, as did a Raoul Duffy in the following lot.
The sale moved into its late lots as a Picasso work came in below its $8 million estimate and went unsold. Another Monet priced at the top of the sale just managed to find a buyer shortly after, bringing a final price of $9,434,000, while a $5 million Picasso failed to sell. Following a series of Egon Schiele drawings, the sale saw a long series of passes, broken by only a handful of sales, among them another Rodin sculpture ($2,890,000 final), and a Giacometti work that brought a final of $3,250,000.
Sotheby’s will look to bounce back from this outing later in the week, when it hosts its Contemporary sale, but tomorrow will first see Christie’s offering its own set of Contemporary pieces.
Sotheby’s Impressionist and Modern Evening Sale [Sotheby's]