As the fall season moves towards December, the last major auction week of the year is set to kick off in New York, with a series of sales set to take place that will offer the last major barometer for the auction market’s health in a turbulent, and often unpredictable, year. Beginning Monday, a series of both Impressionist/Modern and Contemporary Evening auctions will bring the last set of major works to the auction block in the U.S. before the market prepares for the holiday months.
There’s been much in the way of forecasts and predictions for the current market situation, with analysts pointing to raised fee limits, restructured third party financing, and other measures taken by the major houses as attempts to sustain buying interest. Yet previous weeks at the top sales have managed to attain some substantive figures, with premiere works still managing to command strong interest and equally strong price tags. While one may consider looking for broader buying trends for a more complete picture of the current market, the evening sales will certainly do their part to assure buyers that all is well, particularly in consideration of the sales’ often impressive offerings.
The sales begin at Sotheby’s on Monday, where a 43-lot Impressionist and Modern Evening Sale is set to kick off the week. The offering is particularly well-appointed, with over three-quarters of the works on view estimated to beat $1,000,000 as its sales price. The sale is led by a lush Edvard Munch painting, Girls on the Bridge, which could top a sales price of $20 million. It’s joined by a colorful, gesturally vivid Picasso from 1963, which carries a $12,000,000 to $18,000,000 estimate. A Maurice de Vlaminck also rounds out the top end of the sale with an estimate of $7,000,000 to $10,000,000.
Sales continue the following evening at Christie’s, where the first of the evening’s Post-War and Contemporary Evening Sales are set to begin. The 65-lot sale has an equally strong offering on hand, with consistently competitive lots promising what could be an evening of competitive bidding. The sale is led by a powerful Willem de Kooning piece from the late 70’s, billowing clouds of color that could see a price upwards of $25 million, while a Jean Dubuffet work is not far behind, priced at $15,000,000 to $20,000,000. A Gerhard Richter piece from his Abstraktes Bild series is also offered at $18,000,000 to $25,000,000, a price that could see a new record for the artist should eager bidding follow.
The following evening will see a pair of sales, filling the evening calendar with both a competitive 20th Century Sale at Phillips, and Christie’s entry into the market action for Impressionist and Modernist works. At Phillips, a 37-lot offering will start off the evening at 5PM, led by a striking early Gerhard Richter, Dϋsenjäger, which is carrying a particularly competitive estimate of $25,000,000 to $35,000,000. A Clyfford Still work from 1948 also leads the sale, carrying an estimate of $12,000,000 to $18,000,000, figures that underscore Phillips continued emphasis on competing at the highest levels with its larger rivals.
The sales that evening continue at Christie’s, where the auction house’s Impressionist and Modern Sale will look to maintain momentum. The sale is notably less packed with high-priced lots in comparison with Sotheby’s fall offering, but a number of highlights remain, including an Henri Matisse portrait, L’Italienne (Lorette) near the top of the sale, which carries an estimate of $2,500,000 to $3,500,000, while a Fernand Léger still life carries an estimate of $2,000,000 to $3,000,000.
Sales conclude on Friday with Sotheby’s Contemporary and Post-War sale, a 41-lot evening sale that sees the auction house looking to make up the ground lost during a weak third quarter. Considering the early estimates and works on sale, a decisive evening by Sotheby’s may manage to allay early concerns, particularly at the top end of the sale. Another Gerhard Richter work tops the sale, carrying an initial estimate of $20,000,000 to $30,000,000, while an Andy Warhol “fright wig” follows close behind at the same price range. Also of note is a stretched out Jean-Michel Basquiat composition, Brother’s Sausage (1983), priced at $15,000,000 to $20,000,000.
The last sales of the season should offer a last glimpse at the year’s often unpredictable market path, and hopefully some perspective on the months to come. Art Observed will be covering the auctions live on both Twitter and Instagram.
— D. Creahan
Sotheby’s Impressionist and Modern Evening Sale [Sotheby's]
Christie’s Post-War and Contemporary Evening Sale [Christie's]
Phillips 20th Century Evening Sale [Phillips]
Christie’s Impressionist and Modern Evening Sale [Christie's]
Sotheby’s Post-War and Contemporary Evening Sale [Sotheby's]