Booming 2015 Spring Art Sales


Phillips Contemporary evening sale.

This year Christie’s have set the bar high. By hosting both its Impressionist and Modern Art and Post-War contemporary art New York sales in one week and also introducing their themed sale ‘Looking forward to the past’ in the same week, they have brought in $1.726 billion, making it the highest single week total in Auction history. In the space of five days 147 lots sold for above $1 million at Christie’s.

But if you ignore the themed sale and compare the figures of the classic New York spring sales, things look different. While Christie’s did have a strong lead on the contemporary market, Sotheby’s had higher overall totals for both their April Old Masters sales and their Impressionist and Modern art sales.

Monet, Van Gogh and Mondrian

Monet kept popping up at the Impressionist and Modern art sales this spring. Christie’s offered Monet’s ‘Les Meules à Giverny’ in their evening sale, which sold for $16,405,000 as a settlement between the consignor and the heirs of French art dealer René Gimpel. The Sotheby’s sale included six works by Monet, five of the lots on offer sold totalling $115.4 million and were led by ‘Nymphéas’, an example of his waterlilies series, which sold for $54 million to a private collector.

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The Christie’s Impressionist and Modern art sale was led by the sale of Mondrian’s ‘Composition No. III (composition with red, blue, black and yellow)’ which sold for $50,565,000 to a buyer in the room after ten minutes of biding from six international collectors. The final sale price landed at double the original high estimate of $25,000,000, setting a world record for the artist.

Brooke Lampley, head of impressionist and modern art, Americas Christie’s, says: “The success of tonight’s sale is the result of presenting a carefully edited grouping of works to the marketplace. We strategically selected the best examples from the markets most sought after artists.”

This adds to the success Christie’s received earlier in the week with in their ‘Looking forward to the past’ sale which saw Impressionist and Modern art sell alongside Post-War and Contemporary items, notably, the Picasso painting ‘Les femmes d’Alger’, which became the most expensive painting ever sold at auction.

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The highlight of the Sotheby’s Impressionist and Modern art sale was Van Gogh’s ‘L’allée des Alycamps’ which sold for $66.3 million, after five bidders competed for it. The work was last sold at auction in 2003 and when it achieved a final sale price of $11.8 million.

All together Sotheby’s saw a large presence of private Asian collectors at the sales with three of the top five lots of the evening sale each of which sold for over $20 million, contributing to more than 30% of the auction total. The evening sale totalled $368.3 million against its low estimate of $257.6 million, this is the second highest result in the company’s history, for any auction of Impressionist and Modern art.

Patti Wong, chairman of Sotheby’s Asia said “So many of the bidders from Asia who are active in our global sales of Impressionist, Modern and Contemporary Art are longtime, established collectors who have spent years and indeed decades focused on categories closer to home, but who are not reacting with great enthusiasm to an ever-broader range of Western art offered in our sales.”

Warhol wonders

Christie’s led the Post-War and Contemporary sales this spring totalling $984,480,750, this included the evening sale total which was $658,532,000 as well as their two day sales and Post-War and contemporary works from the ‘Looking forward to the past’ auction.

The Christie’s post-war and contemporary evening sale had a sell-through rate of 88% by lot and 94% by value. The most expensive painting was Rothko’s 1958 painting ‘No 10’ which sold for $81,925,000. Overall, eight world records were set for artists and 27% of the works sold above their estimate.

‘Benefits Supervisor Resting’ by Lucian Freud was expected to do well and in the end went for $56,165,000, selling to a bidder present in the sale room. The painting which depicts a nude woman reclining, surpassed its expectation as well as both the estimate and the previous record for the artist which was $33.6 million.

Sotheby’s total for Contemporary sales this May has totalled $472,486,775. The auction house has seen seven new artists’ records and brought in $379,676,000 in their evening sale setting the second highest record for a Sotheby’s contemporary art evening sale. There was a sell through rate of 87.3%, the 13th evening sale in a row at over 80% and 94% of works sold for either estimate price or more. Works within the sale had been consigned from 11 different countries and bidders took part from 40 different countries including a strong participation from Latin America and Asia.

An anonymous buyer purchased the most expensive work at the sale which was Rothko’s ‘Untitled (Yellow and Blue)’ selling for $46,450,000. The second most expensive work was Lichtenstein’s ‘The Ring (Engagement)’ which successfully sold for $41,690,000, almost 20 times what it sold for when it was last at auction in 1997, when it achieved a sale price of $2,202,500.

Phillips also did well in their May contemporary sales. The highlight of their evening sale was a Bacon portrait, ‘Seated Woman’ which went for the hammer price of $28,165,000 to an anonymous phone bidder. All together the Phillips evening and day sales brought in $112,075,500, last year the same sales brought in a total $145,574,250.

The battle for old masters

At the end of April the Old Master and British paintings sales took place in London. Both Christie’s and Sotheby’s offered a large selection of works, the Sotheby’s sale of 233 lots was predominately made of corporate collection whilst the Christie’s sale featured 119 paintings ranging from the 16th to 18th century.

Bartolomé Esteban Murillo, ‘Ecce Homo; Mater Dolorosa’ led the sale at Sotheby’s with the final hammer price of £112,500 ($175,000) including buyer’s premium. In total the sale at Sotheby’s reached £4.75 million which was well above the £3.8 million high estimate for the auction. Within the day sale, 15 new artists records were set including the sale of Bartolo di Fredi’s ‘Saint Anthony Abbot’ which sold for £287,000 after being estimated to sell for between £40,000 to £60,000.

The Christie’s sale reached £2.7 million. The highlight of the sale was ‘Portrait of Nicholas Rockox’ by a follower of Sir Anthony van Dyck which sold for £104,500 over ten times its high estimate of £5,000.

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Impressionist & Modern Art - May 2015

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Post-War & Contemporary - May 2015

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