Sotheby's Taubman Sale Recap

The Wall Street Journal is reporting on the Wednesday sale of the estate sale for past Sotheby's owner A. Alfred Taubman. This portion of the sale was expected to bring between $375 million and $537 million.  Sotheby's has guaranteed the estate about $500 million.

The Wed evening Taubman Masterworks sale brought only $377 million including buyer premiums.  77 lots were offered with 69 selling for a sell through rate of  89.6% and 91.5% by value.

According to the WSJ it was not an exciting sale and actually appeared slow with mixed bidding.  Sotheby's still has more Taubman estate collection works to sell and claim to be on track to cover the guarantee.

The Wall Street Journal reports
Sotheby’s kicked off a major round of fall sales in New York Wednesday by auctioning a $377 million portion of the estate of its former owner, Michigan shopping-mall magnate A. Alfred Taubman.

Sotheby’s fought hard to win the consignment—guaranteeing the estate for a little over $500 million—and it heavily marketed the sale, the first of four to feature his holdings, as a memorial to Mr. Taubman’s artistic taste. But spotty bidding and a few unsold pieces damped the mood in Sotheby’s York Avenue saleroom, turning the night into a dogged jog more than a victory lap.

The sale eked past the low bar of Sotheby’s $375 million and $537 million expectations, but its total includes its fees, unlike its presale estimates. It remains to be seen whether the house will break even on its deal with Mr. Taubman’s heirs, but Chief Executive Tad Smith said, “We remain on track to cover most of the total guarantee.”

The star of the sale was “Paulette Jourdain,” Amedeo Modigliani’s demure portrait of his dealer’s housemaid and girlfriend, which sold to an Asian telephone bidder for $42.8 million, well over its $25 million estimate. Before the sale, dealer Helly Nahmad said the 1919 portrait looked like a bargain compared with some of the Italian modernist’s other portraits that have sold for as much as $69 million. (Rival Christie’s plans to ask $100 million for a Modigliani nude next Monday.)

Sotheby’s also sold a chartreuse-and-cherry-colored abstract by Willem de Kooning for $25 million, its low estimate. Mr. Taubman bought the work from a gallery a year after the artist painted it in 1976. Sotheby’s also reset the auction high bar for Frank Stella when it sold his red geometric abstract, “Delaware Crossing,” for $13.7 million, over its $12 million high estimate.

But a gray-black Jasper Johns abstract, “Disappearance I,” estimated to sell for $15 million didn’t garner any bids, and no one wanted Edgar Degas’s sensuous portrait of a nude woman brushing her red hair after taking a bath, “Nude Woman, Back.” It also carried $15 million estimate.

Elsewhere in the sale, a pair of Mark Rothko abstracts met with so-so results: “No. 6/Sienna, Orange on Wine” selling for $17.6 million and “Untitled (Lavender and Green)” selling for $20.4 million. Both were estimated to sell for at least $20 million.

What does Mr. Taubman’s sale portend for the art market overall? Collectors and dealers will likely wait to see how Sotheby’s fares Thursday with its impressionist and modern art sale before making any lasting rulings.

But auction houses typically salivate over estates because bidders, ever seeking that tucked-away treasure, tend to pay premiums for masterpieces they haven’t seen in decades. Mr. Taubman’s holdings included pieces he bought—at Sotheby’s, of course—in recent years, so they were not super fresh to the marketplace, said dealer Richard Feigen after the sale.

“He bought auction leavings, and the market knew it,” Mr. Feigen said.

Collectors did reward plenty of pieces that Mr. Taubman bought early in his collecting, like the Modigliani, which he bought in 1983, and the Stella, which he bought in 1982. Designer Valentino Garavani tried to win a 1938 Pablo Picasso portrait of the artist’s lover Dora Maar, “Woman Sitting on a Chair,” that Mr. Taubman bought from the estate of designer Gianni Versace for $5.3 million in 1999. This time around, a phone bidder outbid Mr. Garavani and won it for $20.1 million.

Other highlights included Clyfford Still’s “PH-218,” a jagged abstract from 1947 that sold for $14.8 million, and Henri Matisse’s brightly patterned painting of his only daughter, Marguerite, sitting bundled in a coat, “Miss Matisse in a Plaid Coat,” which sold for $13.7 million.
Source: The Wall Street Journal 

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