The first batch of sales for New York’s bustling auction week have come to a close, as Christie’s and Sotheby’s capped their Impressionist and Modern Evening Sales in New York. Both sales seemed to rock back and forth between major milestones and less impressive results, as buyers seemed tentative to pursue large trophy works or pieces boasting higher estimates.
The Christie’s sale was a somewhat tepid outing, stringing together a few impressive runs of works while seeing other major struggles, ultimately reaching a final tally of $279,253,500 while seeing 9 of the 61 lots go unsold.
It began with a Pablo Picasso work from 1953 blowing out of the gates, finishing at double estimate for a final of $2,892,500, followed by a second Picasso a few lots later that also topped estimates to a final of $6,387,500. The following lot, a striking Alberto Giacometti started well below estimate, and crept up towards the $14 million low mark, finishing at $13,812,500. Another major lot, a Pablo Picasso also performed well, selling at a final of $12,125,000, as did a striking Camille Pissarro, which sold at a $12,350,000 final. An early auction record also cane with a Jean Arp sculpture, Demeter, which sold for a final of $5,825,000.
The sale wound quickly through the following lots, with little turbulence save a René Magritte which passed at lot 14. A Claude Monet followed up and sold easily at $16,062,500, while a Monet passed, failing to meet a $12 million high estimate. A Tamara de Lempicka topped the artist’s auction record shortly after, finishing at $9,087,500, while the Picasso cover lot made good, finishing at $29,562,500. The sale seemed to lose some momentum as it moved into the middle lots, as a high-profile Picasso went unsold and other lots struggled to hit estimate. Another Claude Monet also met estimate, selling at $31,812,500, while a pair of works passed shortly after. Another deflating moment came after the sale’s star Van Gogh started at $30 million and fell flat, failing to secure bids to sell. A late Magritte also fell to the same fate, bringing up a series of small bronzes that sold steadily at lower price tags.
The following evening, Sotheby’s capped its offering with an equally unpredictable sale, matching a number of adjustments and reset auction records while also seeing some of its star works go unsold, including the Marsden Hartley, bringing its unsold tally to 16 of 65 lots and its final total to $315,478,500.
The sale opened evenly, with works selling quickly and at estimate, including a star Kandinsky that stalled at its low estimate to sell at a final of $20,621,000. A second Kandinsky followed close behind, sliding up to estimate on minor increments but managing to push upwards beyond estimate to reach a final of $24,233,800. Artist Maurice de Vlaminck had a more unbalanced evening, selling works for $16,669,500 (at estimate) and $7,637,500 (below estimate). Yet the sale’s marquee works did little to disappoint. A staid cityscape by Egon Schiele beat estimate to reach a final of $24,572,500, followed by an Oskar Kokoschka that beat his previous auction record five times over, ultimately selling to a $20,395,200 final. A Kirchener in the next lot hit $21,975,800, above estimate, while a Ludwig Meidner work also met estimate to sell at $14,072,800, smashign the artist’s auction record.
These sales brought up Marsden Hartley’s impressive work, but a buyer was not in the cards, as scant interest failed to buoy the work’s $30 million price tag, going unsold. This aborted lot took some of the wind out of the sale as it moved into the later stages, but a René Magritte lit up the room for a few moments, as a gleaming surrealist piece smashed the artist’s auction record to sell at $26,830,500. The sale wound steadily to the close following this lot, closing on a number of even handed sales with an increasing number of passes as the sale drew to a close, ultimately bringing a weak finish to an initially strong outing.
The sales now turn to the Contemporary Market, and begin tomorrow night at Christie’s.
— D. Creahan