Results: Christie's NY

The compressed sales schedules of Imp/Mod and contemporary art in NYC were a mixed bag. The sales started slow, then picked up and then went out with a whimper. According to Christie's, the Thursday evening Imp.Modern sale totaled $141.5 million including buyer's premiums. The sale had a respectable sell-through rate of 86% by lot and sold 89% by value.

The Wall Street Journal stated "Works by Monet, Picasso sold at ‘bargain’ prices".

The Wall Street Journal reported on the sale
Claude Monet’s 1919 painting of a water lily pond could be described as calm to the point of stagnation. The same could be said of the Christie’s auction that sold the work on Thursday to a London art dealer who only had to lob a single bid to win it for $27 million.

Granted, dealer Glenn Fuller, sitting in the front row, sported a curly faux-hawk, a teal velvet jacket and jeans—but even his presence couldn’t pump much more life into a $141.5 million sale of impressionist and modern art that fell shy of Sotheby’s $145 million sale of similar art on Monday, which was deemed a disaster.

Christie’s sale did edge past its $134.3 million low expectations, but seven pieces failed to find buyers and five of the top 10 priciest works only met their asking prices after Christie’s tacked on its commission. These included Monet’s “Water Lily Pond” as well as his 1874 river scene, “At Little Gennevilliers,” which sold following a single bid from an Asian collector for $11.4 million, below its $12 million low estimate. Dealers expected it to fare better since it was being sold by heirs of sugar baron H.O. Havemeyer, a coveted pedigree in art circles.

Pablo Picasso also had a so-so night: His 1969 “Seated Man” sold for its low estimate of $8 million with fees even though it hailed from the estate of Philadelphia real-estate developer Kenneth Kaiserman and his wife, Susan. Collectors wary of overpaying appeared willing to sit tight rather than pounce on estate material. (Typically, estates serve as auction catnip.)

And Picasso’s “Weeping Woman” print from 1937 depicting a sobbing woman—a poignant reminder of the artist’s sorrowful reaction to the start of World War II—sold for a “bargain” at $1.7 million, said New York private dealer Meredith Palmer after the sale. “It’s one of Picasso’s best prints, ever,” she said, adding that the reputation of its seller, Chicago developer and financier Martin Gecht, should have drawn more bids. Christie’s expected the “Woman” to sell for at least $1.8 million.

A few pieces in Christie’s sale performed above expectations, though. Frida Kahlo’s placemat-size scene of two women sitting at the edge of a dense jungle, “Two Nudes in the Forest (The Land Itself),” sold to a telephone bidder for $8 million, establishing a new auction high for the artist and for any Latin American artist to date.

And Barbara Hepworth’s 1946 egg-shape sculpture with hollowed-out portions painted gray and blue, “Sculpture with Color (Eos),” drew at least seven bidders, including the winner who paid $5.4 million, well over its $1.8 million high estimate.

Despite the thin bidding for its priciest pieces, Christie’s sale managed to find buyers for enough of its offerings to help the sale achieve a solid 89% of its total potential value. “This business looks glamorous, but some nights, it’s work,” auctioneer Andreas Rumbler said after the sale. “But you only need two bidders to sell a picture, and sometimes that’s all we got.”

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