Christie's NYC Sales & Guarantees

As I posted the other evening, on Monday Christie's held its Artist's Muse Evening Sale with 24 of 34 lots selling for $491.34 million including buyers premiums. The sale sold 71% by lot which is a little low, but sold 87% by value, meaning the works that did sell, sold very well. This is the sale which included the $170.4 million Amedo Modigliani portrait.

Then on Tuesday Christie's held its Post War and Contemporary Evening Sale. The sale offered 66 lots with 53 selling for a sell through rate of 80%. The Tuesday evening sale totaled $331.8 million including buyers premium with an 86% sold by value.

The top selling lot was an Andy Warhol (1928-1987), Four Marilyns, acrylic, silkscreen ink and graphite on canvas, Painted in 1962. It sold for $36 million including buyers premium.

Now, the interesting part of this is how Christie's fared after guarantees, and it appears not to well.  According to the Wall Street Journal there was a $40 million guarantee on the Warhol. Additionally, the WSJ reports a Jasper Johns abstract with a guarantee of $7 million failed to sell and a Joan Mitchell abstract with a guarantee of $6 million also failed to sell.  Christie's will now try to find private buyers for the works.

Overall a very interesting couple of days in the art market.

The Wall Street Journal reports on the Christie's Post War and Contemporary sale
One night after Christie’s International sold an Amedeo Modigliani portrait for $170.4 million, the auction house doubled down by selling an additional group of contemporary artworks for $331.8 million combined.

The sale was led by an Andy Warhol quadruple portrait of Hollywood star Marilyn Monroe that an Asian telephone bidder won for $32 million, or $36 million with Christie’s added commission.

The catch? Before the auction, Christie’s agreed to give the seller of “Four Marilyns,” Turkish financier Kemal Cingillioglu, a $40 million house guarantee, which means the house promised to pay him up to $40 million no matter how the silkscreen fared. Since it sold for less, the house could now need to pay him the difference. Christie’s declined to discuss the terms of the deal.

That’s how auction houses can still manage to lose millions despite the staggering sums being paid for blue-chip art, and it is a situation that repeated itself several times during Christie’s sale on Tuesday. A gray Jasper Johns abstract that the house guaranteed to sell for $7 million failed to sell, as did a Joan Mitchell abstract that it guaranteed to sell for at least $6 million.

The house can now seek private buyers for these works, but such losses marred what was otherwise a solid result, with 80% of the total lots finding buyers. Highlights included Lucian Freud’s 2003-2004 “The Brigadier,” which sold to a phone bidder for $31 million, or $34.9 million with Christie’s fees. Freud’s portrait of Camilla Parker Bowles’s ex-husband, Parker Bowles, dressed in his military uniform was estimated to sell for $30 million.

A Chinese telephone bidder took home Lucio Fontana’s yellow, egg-shape “Spatial Concept, The End of God” painting from 1964 for $25.9 million, or $29.2 million with fees. The work was estimated to sell for $25 million. (Estimates, unlike final sale prices, don’t reflect commissions.)

Another Chinese bidder paid Christie’s $9.5 million for Alexander Calder’s hanging mobile, “Vertical out of Horizontal,” one of a group of Calders being sold by the estate of Arthur and Anita Kahn that proved a hit with bidders. Overall, the Kahn estate sold $47 million combined, tripling its presale estimate.

The record for French-American sculptor Louise Bourgeois was also reset when her camper-size bronze “Spider” from 1997 sold for $28.2 million with fees, establishing a new auction high for the artist. Elsewhere in the sale, six other record prices were smashed for artists like conceptual artist Felix Gonzalez-Torres, whose row of refillable green candy, “Untitled (L.A.),” sold to a phone bidder for $7.7 million with fees.

Sotheby’s counters with its own sale of contemporary art on Wednesday.
Source: The Wall Street Journal 

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