Artprice: Monday’s New York sale could secure Christie’s lead


Detail of Pablo Picasso, 'Les Femme D’Algers'.Les femmes d'Alger (Version "O") oil on canvas 44.7/8 x 57.5/8in. (114 x 146.4cm.) Painted on February 14, 1955 © 2015 Estate of Pablo Picasso / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York. Image courtesy of Christie's.

Despite a successful sale at Sotheby’s New York yesterday, Christie’s May 11 New York sale could boost its growing lead over its rival and may prove to be the most impressive art sale ever held, according to art price and index databank provider Artprice.

“As the years go by, Christie’s seems to be gaining a significant lead over its rival, succeeding better than Sotheby’s in obtaining exceptional pieces,” said an Artprice spokesperson. “Presenting an unprecedented collection of fabulous treasures, next Monday’s 11 May sale, Looking Forward To The Past, could substantially consolidate the art market hegemony of the London auction house; a sale that should prove difficult for Sotheby’s 5 May sale to stay level with.

“The sales like that of yesterday, although it commanded a total of $368.4 million (including buyer’s premium) and listed a mere 6 unsold lots out of the 69 on offer, remain in the shadow of the prestige sale organized by its rival.”

Yesterday Sotheby’s New York sold L’Allée des Alyscamps (1888) by Vincent van Gogh for $66.33 million (including buyer’s premium), much higher than the presale estimate. Other top lots included Monet’s ultra-famous Nympheas, painted in 1905 and estimated between $30 million and $45 million. The version on offer yesterday sold for $54 million (including buyer’s premium).

On 11 May, Christie’s also has an important work by Claude Monet: Le Parlement, Soleil Couchant, painted between 1900 and 1901. The work is expected to fetch as much as the best Monet offered by its rival.

The Artprice spokesperson said: “Christie’s has managed to build an exceptional list of even rarer masterpieces, including some particularly sought-after works. It is clear that the London-based auctioneer wanted to impress and innovate for its first big spring sale in New York.

“Although a week behind the sale organized by its direct competitor, rarely in the history of the art market have so many important masterpieces been brought together in a single session.  The most iconic of all is one of the 15 versions of Pablo Picasso’s Les Femmes d’Alger (1955), with an estimate of $140 million.”

The Christie’s sale could well produce a new world record for an artwork sold at auction, according to Artprice. The current record was set by the same auctioneer (Christie’s New York) on 12 November 2013 when it hammered $127 million (excluding fees) for Francis Bacon’s triptych Three Studies of Lucian Freud (1969): $142.4 million (including buyer’s premium).

“Looking Forward to the Past contains only 35 lots (versus 69 at Sotheby’s 5 May sale), including five for which the estimates are only provided on request. These are obviously the most important works of the sale,” said the Artprice spokesperson.

Les Femmes d’Alger (Version ‘O’) was acquired in November 1997 for a hammer price of $32 million. Seventeen and a half years later, the work appears to have quadrupled in value.  Artprice notes that it could become the Spanish painter’s most expensive work ever sold if it exceeds the $106.5 million (including buyer’s premium) generated by Nude, Green Leaves and Bust (1932) on 4 May 2010 at Christie’s New York, and perhaps even the most expensive artwork in the world. In 2014, Picasso came second in Artprice’s 18 year-old global ranking of artists by auction revenue. His price index increased 132% between 2000 and 2015.

However, Artprice notes that Giacometti’s L’Homme au Doigt (1947) could steal the spotlight from Picasso’s Les Femmes d’Alger.  L’Homme au Doigt has been estimated at $130 million, which would be a new record for the Italian-born artist, who came eighth in the last Artprice global ranking. Giacometti’s price index rose 386% between 2000 and 2015. His current auction record stands at $103.6 million (including buyer’s premium) for L’homme qui marche.

The Christie’s sale also includes a major painting by George Dubuffet: Paris Polka, estimated at $25 million. The current auction record for the French artist is $7.4 million (including buyer’s premium) hammered on 11 November 2014 at Sotheby’s New York. Between 2000 and 2015, his price index rose 171%.

“Looking Forward to the Past aims to be innovative by including works produced in different periods, from the late 19th century to the early 21st century,” said the Artprice spokesperson.  “It therefore contains some of the major signatures of the second half of the 20th century, including two paintings by Warhol and two by Jean-Michel Basquiat. However what really makes the sale stand out is the presence of artists considered ‘Ultra-Contemporaries’.

“These include Scottish painter Peter Doig (b. 1959) whose work Swamped (1990) is now carrying an estimate of $20 million; on 7 February 2002, the same work fetched $410,000, implying an exponential value increase of 4,800% over 13 years: Peter Doig was 33rd in Artprice’s 2014 ranking and his price index rose 838% between 2000 and 2015.”

At only 42, Swiss artist Urs Fischer also has a place in the Christie’s sale. His paraffin-based candle sculpture, Untitled (2011), is expected to sell for between $1.2 million and $1.8 million.

“All in all, Looking Forward to the Past could generate the second best performance of all time from a single session,” said the Artprice spokesperson. “It might even exceed the historic sale of 12 November 2014 at which Christie’s totalled more than $751 million (excluding fees). However, that sale had 82 lots, whereas next Monday’s sale has only 35 lots, all of them extremely top quality works.

“Of course, it all depends on Christie’s estimates not being overvalued and on its ability to sell so many masterpieces in just a few hours.”