In addition to Sotheby’s sale last week, Christie’s also took it’s shot at the Impressionist and Modern market over in London… the results were a stark contrast from the evening prior… while both sales had similar pre-sale estimates, Sotheby’s realized its lowest total of the category since 2012, whereas Christie’s had its second-highest total of the category since 2012.
Much of the criticism aimed at the two houses had to do with the material on the block… an offering that failed to impress many as there were very few museum-quality works.
The top lot of the evening was one of those museum-quality works… Monet’s La Gare Saint-Lazare, vue exterieure, found a buyer right in the middle of its (unpublished) £22-28M estimate at £24.9M ($32.8M). Work from this series rarely comes to market… of the 12 train station paintings by Monet, 9 are currently in museum collections. This particular work has been held in a private collection in Texas since 1985, when it was purchased through Acquavella Galleries. Given the quality and scarcity, I think many believed the work would sell above the estimate, making this result less than impressive… That said, another one of these “rare” Paris railway station paintings was included in the Rockefeller offerings last month and made just about the same – $32.9M. Taking second on the evening was Picasso’s Femme dans un fauteuil (Dora Maar), which too had an unpublished estimate… this one, expected to sell between £18-25M, found a buyer at £19.3. The work was fairly fresh to the market as it was acquired by the current owner back in 1990… that was after the work failed to sell at auction on a £3-3.5M estimate. Interestingly enough, the work didn’t attract much interest and if not for the work being guaranteed prior to the sale, it may not have found a buyer this time around either. Rounding out the top three was the surprise of the night… Franz Marc’s Drei Pferde, sold for an impressive £15.4M ($20.2M) on just a £2.5-3.5M estimate!
There were a few other apparent differences between the two sales… Christie’s, riding a wave of momentum from the Rockefeller sales, had a reasonably easy time securing material … of the 44 works offered, just two carried guarantees, and they were both passed on to third parties – removing the risk from Christie’s itself. The night prior at Sotheby’s, most of the work was guaranteed by third parties or Sotheby’s itself, which did not turn out well in the end… three of the works that Sotheby’s had guaranteed failed to sell, one of which was a Monet – the three left Sotheby’s on the hook for £6M.
Another clear disparity was bidding from Asian buyers… while both houses featured highlights from the sale at their Honk Kong location, Christie’s was able to attract significant interest as Asian buyers accounted for 32% of the lots from their evening sale. While similar figures were not released by Sotheby’s, multiple media outlets reported that staff members for the Asian markets were noticeably less active on the phones compared to Christie’s.
In the end, the evening totaled £128M ($168M), which was towards the upper end of the £96.4-134.5M presale estimate range and 37 of the 44 works offered found buyers (84%)… that said, 30 of the 37 (81%) works achieved a hammer price within or above their estimate… another clear difference is at Sotheby’s just 19 of the 28 (67%) sold works were within or above the estimate.