Review of the London IMP/MOD Sales

The Wall Street Journal has run a good article reviewing the past weeks Impressionist and Modern sales held in London.  As you know from my recent posts, the main sales were very mixed, with good quality art selling well at Christie's and the next day some poor showings at the Sotheby's sale.

The comments to the WSJ reveal the market is still unpredictable, especially for items with unrealistic expectations or reserves.

The WSJ reports on the sales

Earlier this week, collectors from around the world descended on London for major auctions of Impressionist and modern art. Bidders got off to a giddy start at Christie's on Tuesday. A 1951 bronze sculpture by Henry Moore, the British sculptor known for his large-sale, semiabstract human figures, sold for $30.1 million—a record price for the artist—to Cologne-based dealer Alex Lachmann. The sale also set a record for Joan MirĂ³, whose 1925 work "Painting-Poem" sold for $26.6 million.

Yet a Sotheby's auction the next day was marred by some high-profile disappointments. Another MirĂ³ painting from 1933, priced to sell for at least $10.9 million, failed to find a buyer. In another blow, a recently rediscovered scene by Gustav Klimt, "Lakeshore With Birches," which was priced at $9.3 million or more, didn't sell. After the sale, Sotheby's specialist Helena Newman said a longtime collector watching the auction stepped up with a subsequent offer to buy the Klimt privately for $8.9 million, which the seller promptly accepted. Sotheby's also got $13 million for Claude Monet's "The Entrance to Giverny in Winter."

The upshot: Dealers say that while the art market has bounced back from the days of recession, collectors are still unpredictable and can be easily spooked, particularly if they think a top-billed work doesn't merit its blockbuster asking price.

Next week's round of sales of postwar and contemporary art could prove even more of a roller-coaster: The segment sits at the most speculative end of the marketplace, where many of the works are only a few years old and prices often swing wildly on the whims of fashion. British artists tend to fare well in their homeland, so art-market watchers will be keeping a close eye on Francis Bacon's "Portrait of Henrietta Moraes" at Christie's on Tuesday. The valentine-hued work from 1963 is priced at around $28.4 million. Both houses are also offering drawings by Lucian Freud, including a pensive drawing of London lawyer "Lord Goodman," which Freud drew in charcoal in 1985. It's estimated to sell Feb. 15 for at least $400,000 at Sotheby's.
Source: The Wall Street Journal 

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