A marathon week of auctions in New York is now underway, but not quite off to a roaring start, as Sotheby’s capped an unsteady and often struggling auction this evening at its uptown location. Led by a strong performance by an Amedeo Modigliani masterpiece, the sale failed to achieve much beyond its marquee lots, ultimately capping the sale with 13 unsold works that brought the sale to a final tally of $318,313,600.
The sale got off to a mixed start, doubling estimate on a Marc Chagall piece for $2,535,000 before an early Miró failed to find a buyer, while a Schiele work topped estimate to a final of $2,055,000, beating estimate. Yet the first major lot of the sale, Picasso’s Le Repos did not disappoint, starting at $18 million and climbing steadily to finish at $36,920,500, just above the high estimate. Another strong lot came in the next few minutes, as a Georgia O’Keefe work doubled estimate to $11,292,200. The sale fell back on its heels in the next lot, a Tamara de Lempicka, failed to sell. A Mary Cassatt in the following lot finished for $4,518,200, quadrupling the estimate and finishing at a new auction record for the artist.
Sales progressed steadily over the following lots, winding through a series of even-handed sales that brought the sale to a series of marquee lots, beginning with a Claude Monet that took some coaxing to its low estimate, where it sold for a final of $20,550,000, while a Fernand Léger quickly sold at a $5,873,000 final. The sales brought the evening to its climax, the record-setting Amedeo Modigliani work. Already carrying guaranteed bids, the work sold with little competition, achieving a final of $157,159,000.
A string of Picasso works sought to carry the momentum on from this point but struggled, as one lot sold just below estimate for $11,518,000, and a second failed to sell. This set the pace for the rest of the sale, as a series of works passed, bringing the sale past its halfway point. Another Picasso stopped the skid, selling at estimate for $5,308,500, while a landscape by the artist continued a choppy night, ultimately going unsold. Another strong lot came with an Edvard Munch canvas at lot 37, selling for a final of $11,292,200, but it wasn’t enough to stave off a weak finish, as more passes brought the evening to a quick close.
— D. Creahan
Sotheby’s Impressionist and Modern Art Evening Sale [Sotheby's]